Why do I like scary movies? Maybe for the same reason people enjoy challenging themselves to ride roller coasters: it’s a safe way to engage our own fears, to practice bravery, to develop courage, and to enjoy the thrill.
At Canada’s Wonderland (a nearby theme park that I worked at for seven fun years as a young adult), there is a roller coaster called “Leviathan.” This is the coaster that produces the most screams in the park, largely due to that first near-vertical drop that makes you feel like are about to die every time – and I LOVE it. I love it because it really does scare me, and making the decision to ride that ride is itself a process of overcoming fear, which increases the joy. And judging by the extra-long line every time I go, I’m not alone in this experience.
But I digress. This post is about one of my favourite movies so far in 2018 – A Quiet Place. It’s out now on DVD and it’s the feel good family film of the year! (Except for the intensely scary, violent, and horrific bits.)
FEELING UNLOVED & UNWANTED
For now, what you need to know is that part of the story line of A Quiet Place features the strained relationship between a father (played by John Krasinski) and his deaf teenage daughter, Regan (played by Millicent Simmonds, who is actually deaf). This father-daughter relationship is strained. Something has happened in the past that has left Regan shamed and her father quiet. When they do talk (through sign language), they argue. Otherwise, the father is investing most of his attention in Regan’s brother so he can grow up to take care of the family in the hostile environment they now live in.
For Regan, her friction with her father, plus what she interprets as his apparent lack of attention and care, plus the guilt she carries over her own mistakes – all of this blends together into a toxic mix of feeling alienation, exclusion, and lack of fatherly love. Over time Regan begins to filter every family experience through this lens of being unwanted and unloved.
This feeling of the absence of a father’s love is something many of us can relate to, even if just for seasons of time, either with our own human family or with our heavenly Father. In truth, Regan’s dad loves her incredibly much, but Regan has filters in place that make it hard to see and harder to receive her father’s love. Maybe we do too.
Now here’s my favourite scene in the movie… In what is arguably the climactic moment of Regan’s relationship with her dad, he signs to her “I love you.” The story behind the scenes is that Millicent Simmonds (the actor who plays Regan) spoke up about this line not being enough. She knew that “I love you” says something about the present, but it doesn’t help the daughter undo the damage of her perceived lack of love in the past. What an intuitive young actor. Millicent suggested to actor/director John Krasinski that the father character should say one more line. He agreed, and that’s how it plays in the movie – and she was completely right. The father signs to his daughter, “I love you.” And then adds, “I have always loved you.”
At that point in the theatre I burst into tears (all three times!), while everyone around me was hiding behind their seats. I’m an imperfect dad with precious daughters, and this scene got to me. Even more, I’m a child of my heavenly Father – a child who sometimes allows my own sense of shame and guilt to cloud my ability to see and receive the Father’s love. Can you relate?
The actors in A Quiet Place got something deeply right about love – it has the power to change, not only how we see the present, but also how we interpret the past. God is love, and God has always loved us. Hear these words from the Apostle Paul…
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
~ The Apostle Paul (Ephesians 1:4-5)
Hear this. Let it sink in. God loves you. He has always loved you.
A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
In a recent church service at The Meeting House we tried a thought experiment, and feedback suggests this can be a meaningful exercise for all of us to spend a few minutes on right now. Ready? Take a couple of minutes to imagine the worst thing you’ve ever done – I’m talking about the event that brings you the most shame, guilt, and fear of judgement. (Sorry if this is painful – but ultimately I’m hoping this will be more healing than hopeless.) Got that horrible failure in mind? Now, remind yourself that even in that moment – that “God-forsaken” (that’s a lie!) moment, that moment of deepest regret, sadness, and shame – in that moment, God was loving you right then, because God has always been loving you. In fact, God knew your lowest moments and deepest failures before he created you. Before calling you into existence, God knew you, all of you, including the best and worst version of you. Think of that: before he made you, God knew all of you, including the worst version of yourself that you would ever be. And he was already loving you then.
There never has been a moment when God has not been loving you. So now, rethink your life, and move forward knowing that the next time you mess up, you don’t have to hide from God or lie to yourself. Like the Prodigal Son, you can run towards the one who is running toward you saying:
I love you. I have always loved you.
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