In Sermons, Teachings

JR. Forasteros - August 17, 2014


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One of my favorite films in recent memory is Alexander Payne’s 2011 film The Descendants, starring George Clooney (it was my pick for Best Picture that year). Payne’s film is an adaptation of a novel by the same name by Hawaii-native Kaui Hart Hemmings. Clooney plays Matt King, a Hawaiian real-estate mogul who’s a distant descendant of Hawaiian King Kamehameha. As the film opens, King learns that, after a boating accident, his wife is brain dead, that he must now become the primary caregiver for his two daughters, from whom he has become distant.

King is also about to broker a deal that will sell a huge plot of pristine Hawaiian beachfront to a resort company. The deal will make King and his cousins hundreds of millions of dollars, but will sacrifice one of the few areas of untouched beach left in the state.

I love the film because it asks a question we don’t like to ask: How do we recover from tragedy?

Matt King and his daughters must tell their friends and family that their wife and mother is dying. But King also stands at a crossroads of native Hawaiian pride and the cost of colonialism. As the broker of this land deal, he must choose to protect what is beautiful about Hawaii or give it over to resortification.

Matt can’t move backward – he can’t uncolonize Hawaii. He can’t remove all the other resorts and restore those beautiful, pristine beaches and grasslands. He can’t undo the boating accident and bring his wife back. He can’t go back in time and be a better father to his children.

Matt can’t do any of those things. So what can he do? How can he respond in the face of grief?

Matt’s question is our question: how do we respond to tragedy? A pink slip in you box at the office. Taillights illuminating the boxes in the back of the car as it drives off. A police officer at the front door. Or larger tragedies, like the 2008 collapse or 9/11 or Vietnam or Pearl Harbor.

Big, life-altering tragedies. Events we would admit are apocalyptic. World-ending (not the world, but our world). We call the aftermath “grief”. A small word for such a terrible place.

Grief – like a wasteland of our emotions – a cold, gray place, where the world seems washed out, devoid of color, of emotion, of life.

We might be excused for hiding in our grief, for putting up walls to keep people out, especially when you consider the terrible things people say when we’re grieving.

“God has a plan” or “It was meant to be” or “You’ll get over it.”

No wonder we want to stay in our grief, safe behind our walls. Safe in those gray places where we’re at least alone with our sadness. Where we can go about our daily activities with a distant smile and some platitudes as armor against the well-wishers. [If you can illustrate this, it would be awesome]

If you know that sort of grief, if you’ve survived the end of the world and now you can’t see any way to go on, if you’re just existing because you can’t imagine living again, I want to tell you something very important:

There is life after the end of the world. There is hope after everything’s gone. But you can’t find it behind your walls. We only find healing by choosing to brave the world again, by choosing to step out in faith, to engage in the work God is calling us to.

Join us Sunday as we explore what it looks like to recover from grief.

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