I am the most ridiculous person to watch a movie with. I get so wrapped up in the character’s lives, I don’t even know where I am. I make friends with the hero and heroine. I laugh when they laugh. I cry when they cry. Their story is mine too.
When I was 16, my friend and I went to the second Scream movie in the theater. At some point, the bad guy crashes a police car in an alleyway, and our heroes have to climb over him to get out of the car.
They were doomed. Since I was now in the story too, we were doomed. I was frozen in fear. Well, almost frozen. In fact, I had lost myself so completely in the moment, I was getting out of my seat and starting to climb over the theater seat in front of me.
Somehow I reoriented myself to the moment, and there I was, standing and clutching the seat in front of me. Because as soon as Neve Campbell’s character climbed over the seat, it was my turn. Or so I thought.
Embarrassed, I slunk down into my chair, grateful to discover plush leather beneath my behind, and no murderers in sight.
Yes, it’s bad. My reality testing is nil in the midst of a good suspense flick. And as you might expect, I’ve completely nixed horror from my entertainment roster.
Getting involved with the lives of movie characters is easy for me. It’s easy to fear a terrible ending, even if someone already told me how the story goes.
Sometimes I watch a movie for the second or third time, and although I know what’s coming, the suspense always gets me for a little while. But that second time, I have the upper hand. I know something the characters don’t know. I know the end of the story.
I find myself in the character’s darkest hour, and I’m scared right with them. But I hunker on down and whisper to myself how the end really goes. That this moment of betrayal and death is not the end. The end is, in fact, redemption and hope and life. And hopefully love.
In real life, it’s worse than a movie because we can’t just leave. We can’t get a refund from the theater. We can’t walk out at the scary parts. We have to stay. And God, sometimes I just want to run. Ya know?
But we can’t. We have to keep our feet on the earth and put one of those terrified feet in front of the other one and face our fears, one at a time. I don’t ever want to.
But I can because in this story of Life, just like a movie watched for a second time, I have an advantage.
I know the end of the story.
Right now, when the darkness is dark and it feels like it’s closing in around us, coming in to choke us at the throat and snuff out our tiny lights, I’m telling you, this is not the end of the story.
You don’t know it? Well, let me just spoil it: the good guy comes back for the girl and the bad guy dies. Dead. A bloody glorious ending. The actors: Jesus, as the good guy. The church, me and you, as the girl. And the bad guy, well, he will go uncredited.
The story we Christians tell is no fairytale. I wish it was. Between the news and the Scriptures, it’s easy to conclude creation is made more of guts and gore then glory. But he gave us a preview, a foretelling of future history. It’s right there at the end of the book, in Revelation.
Before it gets good, it gets strangely dark. Even in heaven, God’s people ask, “How long are you going to wait to act, Lord?” But he does. He moves heavens and earth. He comes down kicking in doors, Liam Neeson-style, and with expert aim, nothing will stop his reunion with his loved ones.
But some of us in the church have forgotten how the story ends. We look around and we see the grand theater of the world playing out before us, and it looks in the moment before the climax as if the bad guy is surely going to win. It looks as if the good guy is down for the count. He isn’t strong enough. He’s not in the game anymore.
Satan wants us to think he’s already won, because then we will stop praying and instead accept doom or prophesy judgment. He wants us to think that God wants it to go badly for America. And for the world. He wants us to lose hope so we will begin predicting our own downfall.
But God never wants to judge. His judgment is only for a moment but his mercy last forever. Mercy is always his preference. But it is the praying church that releases God’s mercy.
1 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray…I will turn and forgive and heal their land.” He’s not talking about all the people who don’t know him yet. He’s talking about us, his people. The ones who wear his name. His adopted kids. Me and you.
We are the ones who can pray and bring healing. It’s our humility and prayer, our turning from patterns and routines that separate us from God, that will open the door for him to respond with healing and restoration for our nation and world.
But in order to even pray first, we have to believe God still wants this healing. And in order to believe, we have to know the story. The end of the story. We have to know that redemption and restoration are not just wishes. They are future history.
We, my friends, are the lights, the Hope Bringers. We are the Salt, the preservation and flavor.
It’s time to stop getting defeated by our bad predictions and assumptions about ourselves and God. He wants our good. He has a hope and future for us. We just have to believe we know how the story ends, and then we have to ask for the good things now. We have to turn around toward him to get the mercy we want. We have to believe he wants to give it. Because he does.
So, my friends, when it’s good and especially when it’s bad, when it’s really freaking horrible out there, and you want to give up because you just cannot go on any longer like this, that’s when you know you have to keep going. Because as long as the bad guy still looks like he’s strong, as long as the victory score is not playing loud from heaven, as long as God’s love alchemy is not stretched from sky to earth, then you can be sure: the story is not over.
Keep praying. Keep dreaming. Keep risking. Keep adventuring. Keep hoping. I’m in it with you.
Need more inspiration and encouragement these days? Me too. I’ll be bringing it your way. Sign up here so you don’t miss it.