Like many of you, I have always attended the cinema as a way of getting some much-needed entertainment in my life. As the youngest of six children, money was always a concern in our family, so watching movies, musicals, drawing and playing the game of chess kept all of our minds and little bodies occupied, while my parents were handling more adult concerns.
Movies were a way of escaping, and that escape gave me permission to become a dreamer – in a sense, a ‘geographical explorer’ – without ever needing to find the money to ‘fund’ my expedition. In short, movies allowed the impossible to become possible when living vicariously through the ‘lights, camera, action’ on my television screen.
So life for me proceeded as life will often do, but it was when my world came crashing down, when ‘9/11’ came to my door… in the form of a divorce. It was when watching movies came back into my life, only to play a different role this time, becoming the agent God used while looking for answers to my failed marriage. The movie Rhapsody, starring the beautiful Elizabeth Taylor, was a classic that struck such a deep chord within me. To many, watching a movie once or twice would be more than enough but, due to my depression, I could easily watch a movie a minimum of a 100 times. I was thirsty for change, choice and answers, and so I rediscovered my thirst of reading the Bible and watching movies as a pastime, a lifeline when coping with the dry, uneventful season of my divorce.
As I turned down the lights and rediscovered my passion for cinema, the dialogue spoke to me in deeper ways than before. The actors seemed much more vivid and complex, as I related to their pain, humour and dysfunctional ways. The music would pierce my heart, beckoning me to run out to buy CDs just to meditate and find peace through the melodic sound, while reading my Bible. And the cinematography seemed to slow down just for my viewing pleasure, making me curious how the director put it all together. I fell in love with every angle the camera chose to show me, revealing facial expressions hidden from others in the scene, but revealed to the curious onlooker like me.
God met me as I questioned, cried and dissected the story line revealing the characters’ faults, complexities, uncertainty and pain. I heard dialogue that brought me to my knees, like in the film Rhapsody, when Elizabeth Taylor and her wealthy father couldn’t let down their walls even after an attempted suicide (Elizabeth Taylor) brought her cold-hearted father to her side. I will never forget what he said: “After all these years we still can’t communicate; is it my words or your ears?”
God reminded me of my own dysfunctional relationship. My marriage had flatlined, and chances are it was a breakdown of communication, trust, love, faith, but most of all, God was not in the centre.
Jesus is the great Communicator, having the ability to speak with those of various and diverse backgrounds. I instantly thought, as the tears rolled down my cheeks, how did my words do the opposite of what I had hoped? How many times had I heard something, but taken it the wrong way? Perhaps the answer to the breakdown of communication is because both parties choose to shut down internally, rather than giving one another grace when their loved one is struggling. Perhaps love must endure the various disappointments, arguments and rejection with hopes of revisiting a sensitive topic free from blame and discord. Sometimes revisiting once one is ready provides God an opportunity to bridge the gap of understanding.
I can’t help but wonder where has humanity misheard or misinterpreted the Word of God, only to become hurt and dissatisfied before ever giving the Godhead a proper chance. As I gazed at the screen, I was reminded of perhaps the real problem: an awareness which is a bitter pill to swallow when building long-lasting relationships. It is the book of James which reminds us all that the quarrels, disagreements and fights between us come from the conflict and battles within us (James 4:1-3).
In the end, I find I must go to the beginning of my journey, when movies were strategically used to fill a void in my life as a child. In a way, movies are still so very entertaining, because I am also being educated by God, as I allow Him to guide and shape my thoughts while watching those Hollywood movies. God embraced my passion and love of the ‘lights, camera, action’ of others’ lives, as I hoped for a change in my own. It was in my living room where I chose to give my life to Him (April 26, 2006), for His purpose, vowing to allow Him to lead me, cover me and love me for the rest of my days.
I am so happy, because I found myself with God, and learned to laugh again whilst finding Him in the movies. I know what it is to be satisfied; God will always come and meet you where you are, but He will never leave you where you stand.
To God be the glory…
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Deborah Lassiter, author of Beyond the Face of the Movies