“But I’m caught in between the now and the not yet
Sometimes it feels like forever and ever
That I’ve been reaching to be all that I am
But I’m only a few steps nearer
Yet I’m nearer”
– Pam Mark Hall wrote this song, recorded by Amy Grant. it’s a good one.
I went to see Lincoln the other night. For those not very hip at all, it’s the much acclaimed movie directed by Stephen Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis as the much beloved president. First of all, DDL was fantastic and reminded me of everything right about actual acting as opposed to those who just recite lines. The subtlety of his movements and gestures and his eyes are perfect. Truly one of the best out there and absolutely one of my favs to watch. And I mean, he’s Lincoln, so it’s not even like he’s supposed to be handsome. I bet Lincoln wished he looked like DDL trying to look like him. haha.
But I digress. What really made me smile was how tense I felt in the movie when I already knew the plot. I knew what would happen. I knew the amendment would pass. I knew who wins the war. I mean, unless you’re a big dope, you knew too. And yet, we sit there and we watch it unfold and I for one got nervous. I mean, a little nervous. The dramatic tension was there and being the kind of empathetic person I am, especially as a movie/tv watcher (you shoulda seen me get worked up during The Sopranos) I felt the pressure of that momentous decision for Lincoln, for Thaddeus Stevens, for Congress, for the slaves and for all of America.
But there was also this layer of relief as I watched, knowing how it would end, knowing the truth about how our country would set the stage for all the world to see democracy and equality – and how it would continue to be a struggle even for us now to ensure freedom and justice for all. I know the story and I know the end.
Like how we sat to watch Titanic, and the fictional characters aside, we all knew the boat would sink. I would wonder about people who saw the movie several times – do you think there’s a chance the boat wouldn’t sink? like one of these times, I just know Jack will live with Rose happily ever after… right?
Why is it that sometimes, we Christians live our lives as if we don’t know the ending? We know this ship will sink. We know the war will be won. We know that many will give their lives. We know someone will kill Abraham. It’s things we know. We know the earth will fade away. We know the earth will be restored. We know that someone killed Jesus and we know He will return.
Or do we? When trials come, when temptation engulfs us, when we feel we cannot bear the weight any more, we let go of the ending. We forget or we flat out reject it. I don’t REALLY believe God is working for me. I don’t really believe Jesus covered all my sin and all the sins of those who are completely screwing up my life right now. I don’t really believe that any one is coming back for me and that there will be relief and release in my future. I don’t really believe that I have all I need right now and that God isn’t holding out on me. I don’t really believe.
And I get caught up in the tension of the moment, the what ifs and the maybe it won’t happen this time. I think about how if Lincoln had buckled to the pressure and gave up on the 13th Amendment, if he had let the political environment and stubbornness of men’s hearts drive away the necessity and belittle the urgency of such a bill, what kind of movie would we be seeing? What would we look like now? Would this movie even exist? Would any of this exist?
But we ARE watching THIS movie, and we are seeing what we know to be true, acted out and that beautifully before us. They didn’t turn back and the cowards did not claim the day and the war was over and while still far from ideal, we have a country. And yet a greater truth and a greater country lies before me, a place I can hang my hat. and I lose sight of it at times, and I forget how the story goes and let the doubters of the day with the loudest voices cry out and drown the sounds of truth and beauty and grace. But when I listen for the Truth, really listen, it is ever whispering to me “you have a home, you are bound for the promised land. take heart.”
All this said, Lincoln was a great movie. A few people said it felt slow in parts and I think that’s our American 21st century sensibilities betraying us. Life is slow. Every moment is made up of camera angles and costumes and lighting and subtle gestures and stances. We take the whole screen in and absorb the moment, if you’re really paying attention to it, and not just wondering when the plot will move along or the next explosion will occur or some chick in a skimpy dress will walk by. Story telling takes time, great story telling is painstaking. I’ve learned to look at everything on the screen at any given moment, whether anything else is happening at that moment or not. There is a prop someone placed there, an angle, a lighting issue, a brief glimpse of a sigh or a smirk on a good actor’s face. It’s all there. It’s like sitting in a room with your favorite people and no one has to say anything. I love those moments.
I do hope DDL gets an Oscar and unless something really epic comes out in the next month, Sally Field will probably get something too. Slightly mental characters always get picked, because that’s not like real life at all…