“Un-Spoiling” the Movie
Most good movies, in my view, contain an engaging plot with twists and hairpin – perhaps even hair-raising – turns, turns that most of us do not wish to be revealed to us. We want to experience the twists, the screams, the tears, and the emotional rollercoasters ourselves without the unwelcome intervention of someone who already has watched the movie. But as we celebrate Lent, it occurs to me that we often approach this meditative season as if we already knew the ending.
Our reading today comes from Psalm 27, which is attributed to David. David likely wrote the psalm in the midst of his being pursued by King Saul. Anguish, anxiety, worry, and uncertainty drip from the interstices of the psalm:
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear? But Saul is after me with his army…
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid? Saul’s army… I can hear them not far away…
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear; Is that a sword I hear? Are they coming for me now?
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident; How’s it going to turn out?
And although the psalm conveys courage, there’s no denying that David had no idea how the story would end. He does not know if God would, indeed, deliver him; no “and he lived happily ever after” was promised. All David could muster was “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Wait… God can’t leave me alone… wait… I should not fear, God hears my prayers… wait… don’t leave me alone, God… wait… wait… wait…
Our world detests this waiting. Our stock markets don’t wait – they react. Our politicians don’t wait – they… do whatever they do. When adversity crops up, our reaction is to quickly assemble an emergency meeting in search of a solution. And if there are no immediate solutions to be had, we wail and lament and, “Oh God, where art Thou?” Even love today is fleeting. Movies today don’t often portray love realistically. In Hollywood, love seems to be connected to one-night flings and sappy words. The love that is often imaged in scripture seems to be more like a story with an uncertain ending. We don’t know how things will turn out, but don’t spoil it for us! Let us watch the movie ourselves.
To be “rooted and grounded in love” is not possible if we know the ending of the movie, with all its twists and turns. Such love is only possible when we foreclose the ending, when we “un-spoil” the movie. Might we draw further insights from our Lenten meditation if we approach it in uncertainty, in anxiety? Something’s happening, but we don’t know what. There’s Jesus, but we don’t know what’s he’s about to do. There’s the cross, but what it’s for, we do not know…
… or, at least, not yet.
Student Leader Henry Kuo