March 04, 2014
Shauna Niequest says, “When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”
So there I was. Three weeks after the release date. Watching the blockbuster of great acclaim that would go on to win 7 Oscars (including Best Director). I expected to meet entertainment. But what I encountered was theology. Of course, these days, theology is bleeding into everything in unexpected, sometimes difficult ways.
I’ve been thanking God lately for things that are hard.
For people that have hurt me being happy.
For learning Hebrew slowly but surely.
For injuring my knee a week before a half-marathon.
He’s been reminding me of gratitude again.
Even when things aren’t going the way I’d like.
Even when I can hardly see what’s in front of me.
Sometimes, I take off my glasses just to remind myself that I’m blind. And I did that a few times tonight as I sat in a movie theater watching Gravity.
What do we do when faced with the idea that we might not make it? What to we cling to when out of our grasp means floating out in space alone?
At a few points in the film, Sandra Bullock’s character loses it. She gives up. At one point, she is shouting and thrashing about and the camera shifts to a view from the silent void of space where you can see her through the window but you can’t hear her. I know that feeling. The keen sting of death. The pacing. The need to do something—anything—to get it out. But instead, it just keeps closing in.
“Nobody will mourn for me,” she whispers into the frigid cold. “Nobody will pray for my soul.” She is in tears. “I’ve never said a prayer in my life. No one taught me how to pray.”
And then it comes. In her last moment of desperation, or so it seems, when she has given up hope and oxygen is depleting and she closes her eyes, ready to fade into that permanent sleep, he comes to her. She sees a vision. And he speaks hope into her life and she wakes up with the will to survive a little longer.
And as she plummets, catching fire as she falls, she starts to pray. She talks to the vision.
Whatever saves us, we love. Whatever gives us hope, we cling to. Whatever meets us in our need, we pray to.
I resonate deeply with her desperation. As I plummet, catching fire as I fall, I start to pray. I talk to the Redeemer.
And like the woman on the screen, muscles too weak to easily stand, hope comes. Sand in her fists, she lets out a slight laugh and mumbles into the mud against her wounded cheek those two words.
The music swells. She fights to her feet. The word, “G R A V I T Y” comes across the screen.
I begin to weep.
For I’m not very different. I’m constantly fighting to my feet. Constantly clinging to His robe. Hoping for just a bit of miracle to rub off on me. Hoping that redemption comes swiftly to this broken, sad world. A world where people talk behind one another’s backs. Where marriages dissolve. Where children kill adults and adults murder children. Where, when we are being honest, we aren’t sure we want to be.
And then comes the Grace. With all the force of the Divine, it comes and gives us meaning and hope. The other day, I scribbled it down:
“I search for my purpose and the only thing I know is this: My purpose is to get to the bottom of it. To plunge my hands in and find myself up to my elbows in grace. To be consumed by Christ, Him in every step and each conversation. To let the gospel seep into my bones and find traces under my fingernails and tracked in like muddy boots whenever I journey. My purpose is union with Christ. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
May you, as you fight to your feet, feel the earth below and the sky above. May you survive to another heartbeat and not even be able to wait for the next before you utter those two words over and over and over again.
Melissa Zaldivar is an MATH student from California. She loves golf, theology, Jewish holidays, people falling in love, Jonathan Edwards, chocolate chip cookies, her adorable niece and telling stories. When she's not filming and photographing weddings, you can find her reading news articles, watching Parks and Recreation or playing Super Smash Bros.
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