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what bella taught me


being sans-children this week has afforded us the opportunity not only to get lots of things done, but also to relax differently than normal.  for example, we went to a movie yesterday, a very rare experience for us.  we went and saw the twilight saga: eclipse, and, even though i know that i may be losing significant credibility among many of you, i have to admit that i loved it.

there, i said it.  i'm a twilight fan.  when it comes right down to it, i'm a fan of stories, particularly when they involve love and tension and conflict and hope, and especially redemption.  and the twilight stories, whether they are a modern form of pulp fiction or not, have all that, and i love them.  i have read them all, and haven't really enjoyed the film versions all that much until yesterday. 

eclipse was great.  it was so much better than the previous two: better directing, better effects, better costuming, better hair and make-up, better adaptation, better acting, better everything.  so i really enjoyed it.  and not just on an eye-candy level, either.  i thought the film did an excellent job portraying one of the main conflicts/tensions in the book, the love triangle between bella, edward, and jacob.  i remember it being painfully awkward at times in the book, and the film really captured that well, i thought.  and as i watched it unfold on the screen before me, i found it to be an interesting metaphor for our spiritual love lives. 

you see, bella is torn between her two loves, edward and jacob.  neither is exactly a "safe" option (and is love really ever safe?  love implies risk, in my opinion), and she explains late in the film that the two loves represent the difference between who she is and who she should be.  this really reminded me of the apostle paul's struggle with the two natures he often talked about.  at one point in romans 7 he talks bluntly about how he does what he doesn't want to do, and doesn't do what he wants to do!  he is torn. 

through the story, bella tries to maintain a delicate balance between both of these significant relationships, and it really reminds me of us (of me) - we try to walk a balance beam between a relationship with God and with our sinful nature.  in other words, we try to do the right thing while maintaining a connection to what paul calls "our sinful nature."  we want to keep on overeating or being angry or neglecting a relationship or taking a drug or watching porn or feeding our greedy consumerism, and still maintain a good relationship with God.  we want both.  we try to "serve two masters," which is really ironic because that is exactly the phrase Jesus uses when he tried to tell his followers that this kind of love triangle just won't work out (matthew 6:24).  ultimately, we choose one or the other.  not choosing is, by definition, a choice in itself. 

and so we are all like bella, torn between right and wrong, (or more often) between good and best, between what is right and what feels good, between the easier way and the way we should take.  and most of us work pretty hard to try and find a variety of creative ways to serve two masters, but in the end, we have to make a choice, or more likely a series of choices, which by the outline of their trajectory will mark the journey of our lives, towards self or towards life.  it cannot be both. 

Comments

Arch said…
Eclipse was a compelling flick, the cinematography was excellent, the characters and plot were intricate.
I have to admit that I’ve seen all of them in the theater with my wife who’s read the books. I did read the first book but have to be satisfied with only seeing the movies two and three. Honestly, I wanted to see Inception first and she agreed but it was sold out so Twilight was the second choice, and a fine one. Really of the movies out those two (and maybe The Last Airbender) are the only I’d like to see. Twilight and Harry Potter are not my favorite series, but out of marital unity I am oddly drawn to them.
That said the idea that vampires are like us in our sin rather than we like them in our depravity is a more interesting simile. I’ve found that Harry Potter and Twilight do play off of the idea that wizardry and horror can be made appealing in new ways to a mass audience. The main thrust is that these are the good ones, the wizards that want to help and the vampires that eat animals like tofu. When in fact, sorcerery is always bad and the blood sucking undead are never really nice.
But we adults can put that aside for the sake of a good story. And the idea that Bella must choose between her better self and her darker side is a good way to portray her struggle. Now Edward represents her flesh, but I don’t see Jacob as her spirit. Unless you’d like to flip that around and put Jacob as the analogy of her flesh and Edward as her spirit and you have the problem of what is normal and what good is normal.
I’m sure that in Twilight, like Harry Potter, a great appeal in the story to children and teens is the idea that you are special and you don’t have to be normal. Here’s the truth: God sent his son to die for us, therefore we are special. But we are not the center of the universe, God is. Therefore we need to look outside of ourselves to love others and worship God. That is what being special means, we can praise God and he enjoys our adoration. And we should never accept the norms of this world. But if being normal means being old fashioned like Edward treating Bella like a gentleman and courting her with a proper proposal and an engagement to his fiancĂ©e with the desire for a lasting marriage then we need to be more normal and less hip and cool.
greg. said…
thanks for the thoughtful comment. i personally believe that if you get caught up on whether being a vampire is good or bad then you are missing the point. there is Truth in story that goes far beyond the surface; that is the great power of myth - to tell us the truth about ourselves in ways that we would otherwise not be willing to see. so in harry potter, for example, the wizardry is to the story like paint is to a painting: it is the vehicle, not the message itself. harry potter is not a story about the wonderful use of sorcery, it is a story that, through the story of a wizard, is about the power of love. i would vehemently argue that a story like harry potter is far more Biblical and in line with scriptural truth than many of the other stories our culture tells, which seem to value violence, money, and sex over real sacrificial love. i would rather our children watch harry potter than 'housewives of new jersey.'

one of my favorite things about Jesus is that he used non-sacred, mundane, and surprising things through which to reveal the Way. he used kind samaritans (gasp!) and lepers and women and stories about coins and sheep and farmers. there were not sacred things. they were simple things. they were the mundane things of life. and he brought Truth out of them. i believe that, if we really want to, we will discover that there is much to be learned about God in the mundane parts of our lives, from the movie theater to the side of a cereal box. God is not confined by what the story is about. God can be in a story about a man-eating fish, a baby-killing army, an incestuous relationship, a vampire - wolf - human love triangle, or a young wizard who is marked by the power of love. in all of these, and more: God is. it's up to us to find God there. i, for one, keep looking...
greg. said…
by the way, i just wanted to add that i don't see jacob or edward representing the sinful nature. that would be an allegory. i'm using it as a metaphor, in which the whole situation of bella choosing between two loves reminds me of us choosing between the two 'loves' of obedience to God's will and our own sinful nature. if you try to make it a direct allegory it breaks down almost immediately. i have found that truth is more often found in metaphor than allegory.
Margaret said…
Hi Greg! I love your posting. I haven't seen Eclipse yet, but your post and comments suggest it as a great idea for "Reel to Reel". Steve and I will try to get out to see it! Blessings to you, Shannen and the boys!
Arch said…
Thanks again Greg, I love movies also and can see frequently that the best story taps into truth. In re-reading this post, my comments and your reply I would agree that metaphor is a great way to communicate truth. Jesus' parables and all... the literalist in me can take things to far. What I now understand better and would agree with is this - Bella is caught between a choice between 2 loves and 1 love. She must decide to leave the option of one for the commitment to the other. This is what we face even as Christians, putting away the desire to straddle the fence and instead jump into the arms of our Loving Savior.

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