Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the King & I

Chick flicks make me insane.

Honest to goodness, if I have to watch Katherine Heigl overcome her insatiable crazy one more time or see Kristen Bell show off her blunt-cut bangs or hear Reese Witherspoon ...

Wait a minute. Reese Witherspoon I actually like. That she's from Nashville is reason enough. Add to that the facts that she attended the same school as Amy Grant and can play June Carter Cash better than the woman herself, and I am officially a fan.

The same cannot be said, however, for the genre of films typified by her work in such movies as Sweet Home Alabama and the unbelievably misguided follow-up to Walk the Line, Just Like Heaven, in which she plays a ghost courting a landscape architect.

Yes. I'm serious.

And no. I didn't see it.

I just get so frustrated with the perfect little "Hollywood endings," where everything is all neatly wrapped up and, no matter how unlikely, no matter if you're a friggin' ghost, for Pete's sake (I'm looking at you here, Reese), it all works out in the end. This has just not been my experience. As a result, I find myself growing increasingly cynical towards a class of films where the implausible is more commonplace than the probable.

Instead, I prefer to feed my cinemappetite on a diet of films whose stories are far more realistic. Tropic Thunder comes to mind, as does the classic MacGruber (now on DVD!) in which the only American hero to earn 16 purple hearts, 3 Congressional Medals of Honor, and 7 Presidential Medals of Bravery saves the world from nuclear war using little more than a bobby pin, some street smarts, and a really rockin' mullet.

All kidding aside, I do prefer to watch (and read) things that I can relate to, things that make me think, "Boy, have I been there" and "Man, it sure is good to know I'm not alone in thinking that!"

That's probably why I like the book of Psalms so much. Talk about relatable. In my opinion, it reflects the roller coaster of emotions we feel on this ride of life. Feeling never better, with a song in your heart and a sparkle in your eye? There's a Psalm for that! Think that gray skies and endless rain couldn't even express the extent of your morose melancholy? Well, guess what. So did David!

Psalms had really been just any other book of the Bible to me until about a year and a half ago. I had just broken up with my boyfriend and was nursing a broken heart and a shattered spirit. At the same time, I was prone to outbursts of tears both unprovoked and unquenchable. As Jonathan Forbes said of Jan Morrow in Pillow Talk (one chick flick I DO like, though probably more for Doris Day's costumes than the actual storyline): "I never knew a woman that size had that much water in her!"

Shortly thereafter, I happened to start a devotion book on the life of David. As soon as I did, he was my companion in the valley. My misery loved his company.

Truly, just like him, there were times in my journey of recovery when I was high: "Thank You, Lord, for Your guidance. Thank You that You lead me, and You keep me from making mistakes." Same goes for David. "Praise the Lord, O my soul," he wrote. "All my inmost being, praise His holy name ... and forget not all His benefits!" (Ps. 103:1, 2b). Other times, I was lower than a well-digger's shoes, borrowing the shepherd's words when I'd plead, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? ... How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?" (Ps. 13:1a, 2). In these moments, I could almost hear David whisper, "Boy, have I been there."

There was one way, though, in which I couldn't relate to David. He was constantly talking about his enemies being after him - "O Lord, how many are my foes!" (Ps. 3:1) "Save and deliver me from all who pursue me." (Ps. 7:1). "Wah-wah-what is he talking about?" I'd think, sort of annoyed, to be perfectly honest. This sort of chase is just a tad outside the purview of my experience, sorta like the "Hollywood ending" of every chick flick I've ever (begrudgingly) seen.

But it was real life for David. Just like getting the guy is real life for each of Julia Roberts' characters, so was it commonplace for David to be on the run for his life. He had armies and kings after him. At certain points, his own son sought to kill him. He was forced to call out to God from the shallow safety of a cave. And him a king?! Needless to say, these were points on which my buddy David and I couldn't really commiserate.

Until recently.

Follow me here down the trail called "Digression": my transition from PC to Mac began last Christmas when I got my beloved MacBook Pro. It was completed a week ago when I became the proud (and obsessive) owner of an iPhone 4. As amazed by the App Store as I am Shutterfly slideshows, I downloaded a Bible app and signed up for a Daily Reading Plan of Psalms (I also downloaded a Skee-Ball app, but that has absolutely nothing to do with this post, other than the fact that I've stopped writing no fewer than six times to squeeze in a game ... or seven. It's just that the cyber prizes (Hamburger Phone, anyone?!) are really cool).

Anyway, the Plan starts with Psalm 1 and works through the book numerically. In reading it, I was instantly reminded of one of the differences between David's experience and mine, as he started droning on and on again about his enemies, asking God to save him from them, and there I was again, wondering what in this world that had to do with me: "Come on, David," I'd think, rolling my eyes Heavenward. "Hit me where I live, Brother."

And then he did.

He kept talking about the way he'd overcome his enemies. In Psalm 8:2, he said, "From the lips of children and infants, You have ordained praise because of Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Soon after, he wrote this in Psalm 9:1-3 - "I will sing praise to Your name, o Most High. My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before You."

This verse instantly made me envision that scene in Airplane when Robert Stack fights off zealots of a thousand different stripes, only, in my vision, David did it in reverse - he'd sucker punch his enemies with songs of praise to his God. "Oh, yeah, Saul? You wanna slaughter me? Well, guess what - POW! - 'The Lord reigns forever.' And ya wanna know what else? - ZAP! - 'He has established His throne for judgment.' Take THAT!" Saul is instantly obliterated. Then I see Absalom ready to catapult a fiery canon into his father's cavernous hide-out, only to be subdued when David says to him, "Son, let me tell you something. 'The Lord is King ...'" Uncomfortable, Absalom would retreat, shouting over his shoulder as he did, "Um, good talk, Dad, but I hear Mom calling." And off he'd go.

I obviously don't mean that to sound as sacrilegious as it probably does. Those images, though, really do help me to think about my own enemies. Sure, there aren't armies after me, and I don't even have a son, but I am in a battle. Ephesians 6:2 describes it in detail.

Paul writes, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

My enemies, then, aren't "flesh and blood" but discontentment, impatience, lack of discipline, slothfulness, selfishness, vanity, pride, and a thousand others. Realizing this, cries like David's "How long will my enemy triumph over me?" had a whole new resonance.

"I DO have enemies," I thought, bizarrely happy that my kinship with the Israelite king was complete.

And thanks to him, I also know how to make them "turn back." Like David, "I will sing praise to Your name," and just as they did for him, so will "My enemies turn back. They stumble and perish before You." Discontentment can't live in a land where there's full awareness of God's bountiful blessings; impatience can't abide the knowledge that God's "way is perfect."

And that reminder alone is "perfect."

Sorta like the Hollywood ending of every chick flick I've ever (begrudgingly) seen.

(By the way, this was not the post I had in mind when I posted this. That one's still to come. Maybe.)

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