Monday I had the distinct privilege of seeing a movie. Not a cartoon. NOT with my kids. NOT AT THE DOLLAR THEATER. I felt, for a moment, like a real person. A real, adult person.
Rob hung with the kiddos while I saw Catching Fire with Rob’s sister Sandi and my niece Katelynn. I read the first book in the Hunger Games series before seeing the first movie and then decided to wait on reading until seeing the other movies. Usually I do it the other way around, but in the case of a series with a good plot but so-so writing and a movie franchise with big bucks and a great cast, I’ll do it backwards.
As I sat in the nice, cushy seats (still hearing in the background ghost cries of my miles-away baby), I got caught up in the grandness of the story. The sweeping epic battle of justice and injustice, forced poverty and inexcusable excess. I found myself teary at times, cheering inwardly at others. This kind of movie, it tugs at you. It makes you long for a larger story, for being a part of something that matters. It pulls you from the banality of a cushy movie seat and into a right vs wrong kind of battle.
Stick with me for a little meander-y thinking.
Today, as I watched and felt moved and longed to be a part of something bigger, I began thinking about God and injustice and revolution. I thought of the Israelites, not unlike all the districts, oppressed and overpowered and waiting for some kind of savior. God had been long silent, prophets dead and gone while the streets were filled with Roman soldiers, demanding their taxes and their tributes.
And then…hope. First, a star in the sky, heavenly hosts appearing to shepherds and—horror—the massacre of so many sons by a fearful Herod. Thirty-some years of quiet again.
Then: a voice crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way!” Long had the people strained to hear the voice of a prophet, and all came to John, receiving a baptism that had been for Gentiles entering into the faith, not a sign of repentance. Something new was stirring. Hope was rising.
“There he is,” John said, pointing to a man from Galilee, “the Lamb of God.” With each miracle, the crowds grew and the dissension rose among their own people until it became too much and their shouts and protests reached the ears of Rome, who tried at first to pass off judgment, but caved with so many voices shouting, “Crucify!”
The darkness of that day on the cross stretched into three days when hope was more than lost; torched and burned and trampled. What happened to our Messiah warrior? How are we still under such oppression? Why did he not open his mouth and call down from heaven the heavenly armies to protect him?
Hope died on the cross and rose again three days later. Such a more beautiful and sweeping expanse of a story. Such a great rescue, broader than just for one people—it was for the world, for all peoples and all times, for reconciling the very universe’s maker with his wayward creation. A gift, beyond what had been asked for in years of fervent and faithful prayers.
We identify so much with stories like The Hunger Games because, I think, justice is somehow written in our hearts. We long to see wrongs righted (if only we could all agree on what those wrongs are). We hope (as I did in the theater) that if battle ever came, we would stand for what’s right.
But even as I think of this longing and this hope for bravery, I thought of Jesus. Humble. Not grasping at the glory due his name. Willing to die, wearing a crown of thorns and an ironic sign proclaiming him king. He suffered an unjust death so justice could be met in him, rather than in us.
I wondered, then, if there ever would be a government I would rise up against. Or if Jesus would have us work within the confines of an unjust system, pointing to the greater spiritual world beyond, suffering injustice because we know one day God will bring justice. I wondered how we should treat those injustices around the world, both individually and as a nation.
I thought of how the injustices of our world, great and small, grieve our Savior, and how they should also grieve me.
I wondered what makes me catch fire. What makes my heart long and stir and burst within my chest for action. What things spring my passion from thought to action.
I told you this was meander-y. I warned you.
Is it just me who longs to be a part of a larger story? Who forgets sometimes that I already am a part of something cosmic and universal, something great? It is a story that does end with a rider on a white horse and a dragon slain and a king, worshiped on his throne and feasting alongside his people at the banquet table.
What stirs your heart and bursts it to flame? What makes YOU catch fire?