Today the tears surfaced and my voice broke. Something had invaded my well-armed defenses. It had even slipped through my normal paths of feeling. I felt an unzipping, and then desire surging forward. In that moment, I had been ambushed again…by a movie. Of all things it was Little Women, not the most masculine of film experiences! But the passion the four March sisters felt towards each other and their longing for home hit something subterranean in me. What had been struck?
I know that I had just spent four days with my siblings and their families over the Thanksgiving break. I also know that my two daughters were just making final preparations to go back to school. And I know that I have been thinking much about family, its blessings and banes, its wonder and fallenness. So maybe I was ripe for such an ambush. But I was still surprised by the movie.
I have used films for years in my teaching. It started when I first began teaching Bible to high school students. I was desperate to connect to them because what I was doing wasn’t working. Showing clips just started an electric current flowing in the class. So next I started using movies to teach about various worldviews. Finally, I let them become conversation starters in my adult Sunday School class. But that’s not why I watch them.
I watch them because sometimes God calls out to me through them. And the calling is often a yearning long sedated by addiction or buried under stoicism. So what did Little Women awaken? The longing for home, where love’s passion is the daily fare, where you are known and still enjoyed, where your presence is vital and your strength needed. And the tears were both joy in the beauty of the desire and sadness over its novelty. It’s a terrain I have visited so infrequently.
For to live in the terrain of longing is a perilous affair. It will open you to the sting of disappointment and the frustration of waiting. But it is the way of the cross, the way of Jesus, for longing will always point you to heaven, the truest home. It’s what we ache for beyond knowing. It’s what movies can arouse. It’s why I watch them.
So the next time you put in that DVD, watch out. Anything could happen.