Every now and then my Facebook newsfeed fills up with posts on a single theme, and unsurprisingly with the release of 50 Shades of Grey, a lot of people are talking about the same thing this week. Those who love Jesus and love people warn about the dangers of pornography and uphold the beauty of biblical sexual love in marriage . . . both things this movie twists and perverts. It’s no wonder so many have written words to share with others that get to the heart of our collective concerns.
However, if your newsfeed and life are like mine, it’s also filled with people who are now holding a ticket stub . . . people who daringly told us they loved it, and people who may know enough not to check-in when they entered the theatre so no one knows they were there. They’ve all seen our stance. They know how we feel about it. But I wonder if they also know how we feel about them, and whether or not we have an answer that will satisfy them more than what they’ve found in those scenes. Sometimes I wonder if we even believe we have it and if we understand why they’re still thirsting. Sure, some will go just for the thrill of the sex scenes, but other movies filled with sex haven’t garnered the same buzz. Why this one? Salvation.
The story is one that has moved women for ages. A woman overlooked by the world and unconvinced of her own worth is brought to beautiful fulfillment by a man who is more than other men in so many ways . . . and so needy in other ways. As he joins her life, she is increasingly more than she’s ever been before. And in the process, he is healed of all his wounds by the love and softness and steadfastness of her heart toward him. Boy saves girl. Girl saves boy. All along, the answer lay right inside of them both.
It sounds so simplistic to write it out, but if you talk to anyone about their fears and desires, or if you watch the slogans of self-actualizing gurus, you’ll see it so clearly. My life is filled with women . . . Christians and non-Christians alike who live on the edge of panic and longing . . . some at the same time about the same things.
Knowing Without the Hope
Those who know Christ still live with the thought that they might have missed the one thing they should have done that would have kept suffering, hardship, and sin from wracking their family’s lives. They wonder if anyone else feels like a failure when they think about their marriage or their children. The teen years come, and they search the web and ask a dozen friends if there is any hope. They celebrate another year of marriage and wonder if anyone else is going to bed lonely while lying next to their spouse. Their fears and desires burn in them, and they long to know if anyone else knows what to do about it all.
Stories like 50 Shades still tempt and lure with the possibility that salvation is lying right inside of us, and inside of one who truly sees us. If only we could find that one, if only we could be that one . . . maybe our lives wouldn’t feel this way. These women and men “know” Christ, but they aren’t sure of the hope they have in him. They know about heaven, but they aren’t sure of his power and goodness for them right here on this earth. And many don’t feel safe saying so to those around them. They’ve lost their place in the grand story, forgotten their parts, and aren’t sure that the writer of it all remembers them.
Now turn to those who have no greater hope, whose eyes are still blind to Christ. Where should they go to keep the darkness from consuming them, to keep their fears at bay? What do they turn when their own story is filled with bad guys and monsters, and when they hear the whisper that they might be one of them? It’s not really a surprise that they turn to stories to set their own free. In this one they have found an image of themselves as alone and unseen, yet capable of rescue, even of becoming someone’s potential savior. It’s a heady thought that sustains . . . for a little while.
With both of these groups, we need not fear that nothing we offer will be as satisfying as what they’ll receive from those two hours of escape. We have the true story that in Christ. We have not only been delivered from the domain of darkness, but have been transferred into the kingdom of the Son. Our adoption through him gave us our entrance into a far grander story, full of light and hope and peace. We have a Father who delights in our welfare, delights to do us good with all his heart and all his soul.
Mercy for the the Doubters
It is a continual fight of faith to believe in his commitment to us, a constant pressing into the hope we have that our resurrected Christ is who he says he is, has done what he says he has, and will do for us what he says he will. We fight together to believe that our lives are hidden with Christ in God, one with them even as Jesus is one with the Father who loves us as he loves him.
Our sureness not in ourselves but in God gives us the ability to bring the dark longings into the light, to breathe when the storms crash in, to glance at our weaknesses then turn to stare at his strength. But it may be that we have known it so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like when you doubt it, the fear that plagues us, the longings that consume us, and all the words and actions that flow from that fear instead of faith. And it’s possible that we’ve forgotten how God tells us to deal with those who do, the command Jude adds at the end of his little letter to “have mercy on those who doubt” (Jude 1:22).
We have to go deeper than the sin to understand what drives them, and to know that we all are drawn toward finding what will save us from the darkness of the world and the darkness of our souls. Those who are thirsting are walking right by us, sitting right next to us at our son’s Little League games, walking beside us into our preschools, and sitting next to us at church. Their words, their actions, and especially their longings tell us much about where they are searching for their functional salvation in the story of their lives.
The more we understand those, the more we will find in common with them, and the more we will understand not only their movie choices, but also the other ways they soothe themselves and seek to save those they love. Then we can turn our attention in the coming days to having coffee with them, having them into our homes, opening up our own doubts to them so we can give them a defense not only for our own movie choices, but for the far deeper hope we have in a Christ. In mercy, he has unblinded the eyes of our hearts so we can see he is a far greater Savior than we are sinners, and who in turn has shown us a Father who satisfies our desires in a sun-scorched land.
Let them pull out their ticket stubs in our presence. Let them open up the far greater and far deeper fears and desires that lie so close at hand. Let them find in us people who are not threatened by their lives, but understanding of them, and find in us a people who care that they are hurting, care that they are longing, and confident that our Savior is like a stream of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land (Is. 32:2).