Carrying Pain: Some Thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I just saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and it did not disappoint.  There were a lot of great moments in the film and it reminded me why I loved the first one.  It has joy and heart and humor and when it’s serious it connects.  And at the heart of it is hope.

There are a lot of things that could be talked about in this film but there was one point that really resonated with me once I left the theater.  (Minor spoilers but nothing major)

One of the underlying plot points in the film carries over from the first film.  This is the rivalry/fight between Gamora & Nebula.  In the first Guardians, Gamora had the chance to kill Nebula and didn’t.  In this film, Nebula returns at the beginning.  She is first captured by the Guardians and then later escapes.  Later she finds Gamora with the expressed intent of “besting her”.  She comes in guns ablazing (literally) in a spaceship and crashes with Gamora having to save her again.

Later on, Nebula expresses all the rage and anger she had to Gamora was because Thanos would “repair” Nebula with cybernetics when she lost to Gamora and that’s why she hated Gamora.  Nebula raged because deep down she didn’t want to win.  She wanted a sister.  And so that pain built up inside Nebula and made her what she became in the 1st Guardians film and bled into this one.  And Gamora realizes that and tells Nebula that she was just trying to survive.  She didn’t mean to hurt Nebula.  And there’s a great scene where Gamora hugs Nebula and at first Nebula is stiff but finally she returns the hug.

Nebula still carries the pain of her past.  And at the end of the film, she doesn’t let it go just yet as she jets off to go after Thanos.  And Gamora lets her know that she’s welcome with them because she is family.

We all carry pain of some kind.  We are all hurt by people.  Sometimes the pain is unintentional and sometimes unfortunately it’s very intentional.  However we are hurt, we each carry that hurt with us.  Sometimes that pain can be used for good.  We see how we are hurt and we care for others so that they do not feel that kind of pain.  Peter Quill throughout the films carries the pain of seeing his mom die and fights for others.  Nebula rages with anger at the pain she carries and while she is not the same as she was at the beginning of the first film, she still is consumed by the pain and the anger that comes from it.

Like I said earlier, what I love about this series is that at the heart of the films is hope.  Hope for change.  Even if one carries such deep pain, there is hope for change.  I am very much looking forward to Vol. 3 and seeing how the character of Nebula is carrying her pain.  Because it reminds me of the pain that I carry and how I can’t let it carry me.

The Power Forgiveness Can Have: Rewatching The Prestige

Lately I’ve been going back and rewatching some of my favorite movies, especially ones that I have not seen in a long time.  Last week, I rewatched The Prestige.

the-prestige

The Prestige, which starred Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Scarlett Johannson and directed by Christopher Nolan, tells the story of two magicians/illusionists and the rivalry that developed which turned very personal.  Both Robert Angier (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Bale) wanted to be the best and would stop at nothing to do just that.  In the end, the price that they both paid not only cost them but those around them.

There’s a lot one can unpack from a Christopher Nolan film.  One could rewatch his films numerous times and pick up different things.  This time when I was watching the film there were two things that stood out and I tweeted about them while I was watching the film.  The first was this: “If there is a word that is an underlying theme in this film it is hubris.” The other thing was this: “And how forgiveness could’ve kept things from escalating as it did.”

Both men had a huge amount of pride.  They wanted to be the greatest magician/illusionist in the world.  And both of them felt they were better and smarter than the other.  This hubris blinded them to the damage they caused.  Borden made a mistake which led to the death of Angier’s wife.  Instead of being sorry or asking for forgiveness, Borden went on to become a solo act.  Instead of Angier not pursing revenge, he hijacked a performance and shot Borden which cost him two fingers.  And on and on until there was irreparable damage done to not just the two men but their wives, friends, colleagues and everyone around them.

Granted if one had shown grace and mercy to the other it would’ve been a very short film.  But the truth remains.  Their anger and thirst for revenge drove both men in ways that made the situation worse.  On the flip side, forgiveness was right there and could’ve stopped a lot of heartache for both men.

Forgiveness is such a beautiful thing but it also can be one of the hardest things to do.  It is so easy to hold onto hurts, to hold onto wrongs done.  But God calls us to forgive.  We are called to forgive because He has forgiven us.  He forgave us with great cost to Him with His son Jesus dying on the cross for our sins.  He chooses to forgive us even though we wrong Him with our sins.  That is the beauty of forgiveness, that restoring of relationship.

Angier and Borden could not forgive one another.  Each man wanted to prove he was better than the other.  In the end, they proved that their actions kept them from being the best that they could’ve been as well as hurting their relationships with those around them.  May we be people that forgive.  It may come as a great cost but the rewards are much greater.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 6:27-36

“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either.  Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back.  Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.  Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”  (Luke 6:27-36)

Jesus shared this words to His disciples as well as the large crowds that gathered to hear Him speak.  These words are a part of His Sermon on the Mount (also found in the book of Matthew).  He made a point to tell His disciples that being a follower of Jesus meant loving others even your enemies.  Loving one’s enemies goes against what people think and feel.  People who are one’s friends are to be loved, people who are one’s enemies are to be hated.  But Jesus made it a point to so say “love your enemies” and to bless them.

When He said this, there was no guarantee that the enemy would love back.  In fact, He says to “expect nothing in return”.  Those enemies may keep on hating, may keep on taking, may keep on being ungrateful and hurtful.  Yet, as followers of Jesus, we are called to love them.

We live in a day and age where divisiveness is prevalent.  Hate is almost celebrated and anger is cheered.  Yet even in the midst of this, Jesus’ calling for us to love our enemies still rings true.  We are still called to love our enemies.  We are still called to bless those that curse us.  We are still called to do what is good and lend expecting nothing in return.  Because that is what Jesus would do and being a follower of Jesus means doing what He would do.

This week let us demonstrate that love to others.  Let us show love and let us show mercy.  This world needs that desperately.

Thursday Quote Day: Tim Keller

For this week’s “Thursday Quote Day” here is a quote from pastor and author Tim Keller:

“…God’s grace and forgiveness, while free to the recipient, are always costly for the giver…. From the earliest parts of the Bible, it was understood that God could not forgive without sacrifice. No one who is seriously wronged can “just forgive” the perpetrator…. But when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly.”  (Tim Keller)

Sunday Devotional: Psalm 103:1-5

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5)

In this time of Thanksgiving, we are reminded of what all we are thankful.  As followers of Jesus, we have a lot to be thankful for everyday.  Here in a portion of Psalm 103, David shares several of those things that He is thankful for that God has done.  He is thankful for the redemption that comes from the Lord.  He is thankful that God heals.  He is thankful that God rescues us and that God shows us great love and mercy.

All these things that God has shown to David, He shows to us as well.  We should, like David, sing out about God’s faithfulness and lovingkindess.  How He has redeemed us and given us new life.  How He has given us hope and salvation.  This week, let us continue to be thankful and grateful for all that God has done for us and continues to do for us through Jesus Christ.

Vengeance and Luke Cage

Like most everyone this past weekend or so, I started watching the Marvel Netflix series Luke Cage.  And while I haven’t binge watched it all the way through like some (I’m still a couple of episodes from finishing), I have watched a good amount of episodes since its release.  (FYI, there maybe minor spoilers but nothing major ahead)

luke-cage

And while there are a lot of things to think through with this series, there is one that my mind keeps going back to.  This is due in large part to one character in the series.  That character is one of the major villains of the series by the name of Willis Stryker aka Diamondback.  Many times throughout the episodes that Stryker is on screen he is either quoting Scripture or he’s holding a Bible in his hand.

The backstory of both Stryker and Luke Cage are linked due to the fact of both of them having the same father.  That father also happened to be a preacher who had an affair with his secretary which led to the birth of Stryker.  Stryker resented Luke and the “sins of the father” would later come to terrorize both Luke and the people of Harlem.

Stryker is unfortunately a reminder that you cannot separate the story of the Old Testament with the New Testament.  Much of what Stryker quotes is Old Testament.  He seems to live by the code of ‘eye for an eye’ or even more so a perverted sense of justice.  He hasn’t really known much about the New Testament and grace.  I would imagine the Bible that he carries around Him doesn’t get opened much around the Gospels.

To translate it from the small screen to real life, I think a lot of us live with the sense of wanting vengeance.  When we are wronged, we want justice.  It is that reminder that deep down there is a true moral right and standard.  However, because we all have a sinful nature, it tends to skew it sometimes away from justice and more towards vengeance.  The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 12:19 “never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine I will repay,’ says the Lord.”  God is the only one who can rightly judge in the end.  We are to called to forgive, even when we have been deeply wronged.

One of the hardest things in the world to do is forgive.  We see that in stories in TV shows like Luke Cage and in books and movies.  We see it in real life.  When we’re wronged, the default in being hurt is to rage and want revenge.  But like for Willis Stryker, it consumes you and you lose out on all the good that you can be.  Watching this series has reminded me of how much grace and forgiveness is needed in this world today.