The future is always better than the past OR: Life is like the movies

Our boys have never been to the cinema.

(Yes. I know, I know. Go ahead and look at us funny.)

Going to movies is just one of those things we’ve put off because when your six-year-old can’t see you come into a room then big screen blockbusters aren’t fun. They’re just another reminder. And going to movies is a difficulty we don’t absolutely have to face unless we want to, and, we’ve reasoned, there are more than enough of the absolutely-have-to difficulties.

But on New Year’s Eve we chat about it with friends and they nudge the issue onto the table gentle and gung-ho and we realise it’s time. So on the first day of the year we ask the boys if they’re keen and we’re all now-or-never spontaneous in the kitchen and I book tickets in thirty seconds on my phone before we can think of reasons not to go. Paddington. Here we come.

I explain to Cam how we’ll give it a go and just see, ok? Because cinema is part of culture and exposure is part of education. Plus, we’ll get popcorn to make it worth his while. He says,

‘Well, even if it goes badly the first time we must just try again, because it’ll probably go better the next time!’

And I’m kind of stunned by this kid who lives and breathes the optimism bias. This kid with sandwiches in his hat smeared thick with hope and humour.

We weigh up the obstacles: limited peripheral vision and depth perception; loss of distinguishing features at four or five metres. If we sit too close, he’ll lose the edges of the screen. Too far and everything will blur. We opt for four rows from the front and it’s the sweet spot. He follows Paddington through London until all the slapstick and the scary give way to poignant warm-fuzzy.

I don’t want to ruin it if you haven’t seen this nail-biting drama, but Paddington leaves his home in Peru – with his marmalade and his red hat – and stows away on a ship bound for London where he has been promised a warm welcome. He’s never been to London. Never personally met anyone who has been there. Yet he doggedly (bear-edly?) believes that what lies ahead of him will be better than what lies behind.

That’s faith.

And I think about how maybe people have been wrong all these years – saying that life is nothing like the movies. Maybe life is every bit like the movies.

In the movies and in real life I’m inspired by those who do the brave, hard, heroic thing anyway, despite odds stacked overwhelmingly against them. In movies and in real life it moves me to watch people living resolutely. Obediently. Grateful recipients of grace unwaveringly committed to the moral compass. As if they’ve got scrawled across the screenplay of their lives –

God’s will, God’s way, in his strength, for his glory.

Sometimes those characters have to lean in and hold on. Sometimes they have to lean back and let go. Sometimes they have to do all that simultaneously. Valiantly. Passionately. In the trenches of the boring ordinary. Those characters never grow weary of doing good because they know that at just the right time they will reap. And I’m so thankful for those characters because movies need heroes and so does life.

There’s a moment in Paddington when it seems that Nicole Kidman at her most wicked is going to trump Hugh Bonneville at his most gallant. But even in less predictable movies when it seems impossible that good will outplay evil, I rest in the powers of the directors / producers / screenwriters. They know the end of the movie. They wrote it.

I think about how I’ve got my year all worked out magical: each fantastically blank page of a brand new diary waiting for the story of a brand new year. Except that really, I don’t know what life will look like months from now, or this afternoon. But I’m resting in the power of God. He knows the end of my movie. He wrote it.

The credits roll and we head home through real life streets, eat real life leftovers and go to real life bed. And I reckon we’re in the best movie because Hollywood has nothing on now and eternity. We can live free and easy and optimistic, with or without marmalade sandwiches for emergencies, because the best is yet to be. There will be real life close calls and real life tragedies. But the good guys always win in the movies and ultimately so do we – we who have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light because when the real life credits roll God will bring everything together under the authority of Christ and he will make all things new and we can be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead.

. . .

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading today. Feel free to leave a comment. It would be amazing to hear your hopes for 2015.

If you’re new around here? Yay! Big welcome! Check this out, and please keep in touch.

I’m quietly amazed and super excited by what God is doing through Dragons and Dirt: The truth about changing the world – and the courage it requires. You can get it (or gift it) on Amazon or Kalahari, or right here on through PayPal or Postnet. Half the proceeds of every book sale will go towards Botshabelo’s Preschool Teacher Training Programme in Olievenhoutbosch and other under-resourced communities in Gauteng. Because really, we can change the world.


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