I will admit up front, I have a cousin who studies film in her undergrad degree, so every conversation I have with her makes me feel less secure about trying to interpret movies. None the less…
I went to see “Into the Woods” around Christmas time. Towards the end of the movie I began to get frustrated. It seemed to me what the movie was communicating was that when you get into the woods everyone is out for themselves and free to do what they want.
Because the woods are a hostile place. The woods make you think you are alone. The woods make you think life is a zero sum game and only the strong survive.
Yet as the movie ends, the last two songs are: “No one is alone” and “Children will listen.” These songs remind us that we are never alone and that we need to tell our stories because our stories matter. Children hear our stories and our stories influence others. We are not competing over a small piece of the pie, we are in this together.
These songs turn from a survival of the fittest perspective to showing there really is meaning and purpose in the world. We are not alone. The universe is not a hostile place. We are loved and valuable. And our story is valuable. Everything we do has meaning and purpose.
Our choices matter. Our stories matter. Our relationships matter. We are valuable because we exist.
This is the Christian story. We matter because we were created out of love. Our lives and stories have immense value and we are never alone because the God who made us never gives up. And this God put us in the world God created with other human beings who matter. We are all interrelated and held together by the God who made us and loves us.
But if our stories really do matter and we are not alone, then we have to be more intentional about how we live. Our choices make a difference.
This is actually why we have rules and regulations in the Bible. They are not arbitrary, they are trying to teach us the interrelatedness of the world and that our choices matter. You really miss the point when it becomes about the rules and regulations rather than the embeddedness in life.
Breaking Bad was an example of this. The choices Walter White made affected everyone around him and spiraled downward. But what is great about Breaking Bad is at the lowest moment you still pull for Walter White. You want the spiral to stop but you are still pulling for the person. Walter White still matters as a human being.
Lest this become doom and gloom, let’s switch gears to Harry Potter.
One of the reasons I go back to the Harry Potter series a lot is because in this series, J.K. Rowling does a masterful job of taking small, mundane details and using them to contribute to her beautiful story arc. You go through the books and you have moments where at the end of the story, seemingly meaningless events become very important pieces of the puzzle. She is a master of taking events that are strange or seem pointless and weaving them into the larger tale.
I know other writers do this as well, but HP is a particularly striking example. But whoever writes it, the point is this: In a good story, there are no moments that don’t carry meaning or move the story towards its conclusion. Nothing is lost. Everything is moving in a particular direction. Everything is moving toward a resolution.
As Christians, we are attempting to participate in the grand story – God’s story. God is working towards a conclusion and all the characters in the story are making choices and decisions that matter and are interrelated and interconnected.
We help co-create this story for good or for bad. But we are assured that the story has a resolution and a conclusion that ends in the world as it should be. And each detail of our lives, whether trivial, horrible, or beautiful, will be used and given purpose in that conclusion.
It might often seem like if we want to participate in the greater story, we need heroic deeds and world-changing feats. Anything less is trivial in comparison. Perhaps you have moments where you feel worthless or invaluable or you are not contributing to society. Perhaps you feel like the world is a hostile place. Perhaps you think you are alone. Perhaps you think life is a zero sum game and only the strong survive.
God wants to tell a different story.
Connecting ourselves to the larger story reminds us God does not make invaluable people. Not only that, but connecting ourselves to the larger story actually gives meaning and purpose to everything. Nothing is trivial. Nothing is lost.
The big and the small things matter and move towards redemption. Hurt and pain and tragedy and suffering will be redeemed. We are not alone, and God is in this with us.
When we view life this way, we not only can live in awe of the wonder of our existence, but we are given a responsibility as well. My choices as a loved and valuable person affect other loved and valuable people. Which means we need to spend more time reflecting on our stories.
The world needs reminders that God has created a world with a Story. This world is filled with value and meaning and purpose. Every day matters. Every person matters. Every choice matters. We are free to enjoy even the most mundane parts of our lives, and gifted with the task of helping others do the same.
Because what happens in the woods will be redeemed and be made whole.