Thursday, May 1, 2014

Saving Mr. Jesus (is that sacrilege?)




"Something there is that doesn't love a wall.
Yes, Robert Frost knew where it was at.

For Easter, we got Child #2 the movie Saving Mr. Banks. She is a big Disney fan. This is the child who would wear a ball gown gardening if she could find a fairy godmother to launder it later. (Note: I am not a fairy godmother.) So, this movie + her = yes.

We watched it this week for the first time. If you haven't seen it, I have two things to say to you. 1—Why the heck not? What is wrong with you? And 2—Go. Get your Amazon or Netflix account signed in and watch it. Now.

Story synopsis: P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins, refuses to sell movie rights to Walt Disney on account of his tendency to turn stories into overly optimistic, animated saccharine. That's her stated reasoning, at least. Really, however, her refusal stems from the childhood trauma of losing an affectionate father to alcoholism and tuberculosis. It colors how she views everything, even—especially—optimism and imagination. Learning to free her father allows her, in the end, to free her story as well. Roll credits.

Young P.L. Travers could not control her father's actions. No matter how hard she tried to be good enough, he made his own drastically bad choices whose consequences reverberated for decades. In reply, she carefully controlled all aspects of her life from then on. Nothing would get in. No one would alter her equilibrium. She would always be practically perfect in every way, but nothing else ever quite was.

She maintained control of Mary Poppins not because she didn't want it to become a Disney movie but because she didn't know how to let go. Of anything.

I've done that. A result of my possibly-stubborn-perfectionist personality but also my background, I suppose. There are a lot of control issues attendant on a kid who lost both parents at 17—one to death and one to alcohol. You kind of start to draw the walls close. You want to know, with certainty, what is and is not going to remain inside your suffocating safe world.

I'm going to take a wild guess and suppose there are more than two of us who have ever done this sort of thing.

It's also what I'm increasingly realizing we do in our evangelical world.

We evangelicals are the kid who's seen too much too soon of what the world can do, and we have the control issues to prove it. We're a whole subculture of P.L. Traverses running around, and should I remind you of something? No one likes her much in the beginning.

We draw the walls close. We decide who's in our world and who's out. And sometimes, we have solid biblical reasoning behind some of those lines. But way too often? The lines are drawn by fear, not faith.

We spend way too much time deciding who's up to our practically perfect standards and far too little time freeing Mr. Banks. And ourselves.

Guilty as charged.

We're afraid. So darn afraid. So stupidly, erroneously, un-Godlike, afraid. Something might get in to make us uncomfortable and uncertain. Like P.L. Travers, we've seen the dangerous results of free will, and control suits us better. It's safer. It's sunnier. It's . . . unbiblical. Oops.

Hey, anyone remember where that free will thing we're trying to improve upon came from?

God turned his people free to learn, in their faltering, mistake-ridden, yes, sin-infested way how to love Him well. He offered to do whatever was necessary to help them love Him well. Then He did it. And it was the sacrifice, not the safety, that finally drew our hearts to His.

I told our lead pastor yesterday I was having a crisis of evangelicalism. It's not a crisis of faith, but maybe a crisis of the faithful? One thing I learned at the writing conference I attended recently was that I am called to remain where I am—firmly in the evangelical world. But no longer as an order-obeying enlistee. As a revolutionary. Funny, that's what the “What type of person are you” quiz I took the other day said I was anyway. (Although that might just be because I said I'd like to vacation in Paris.) Might as well embrace it.

And what say we juts stop using these things?
My risk, in line with being part of that fantastic group RiskRejection (do go read their inspiring posts! After you finish mine), is to willingly live with uncertainty. To embrace the not knowing. To peek through some of those walls and love, really love, people outside them--not to bring them inside my walls but to expand my small world. And to accept that the world I belong to might not like that.

I heard someone the other day say that, “As long as another person is in agreement with me on the non-negotiables, we can be in Christian fellowship.” OK, I can understand that. It's just that I suspect my list of non-negotiables is much shorter than yours. And I'm not as sure as you are that your rules are drawn from Scripture as they are from a fear that once you open those floodgates, there's no way to control what may come through.

That is so gloriously true. There isn't. Amen. There isn't.

5 comments:

Amy Sullivan said...

I'm not going to lie. When I saw the preview, I thought, "Really? An entire movie?" BUT you have certainly got me all jazzed up.

Amy Sullivan said...

ps You can write. As in I really enjoy reading your words, Jill. Always insightful.

Julie said...

I admit there are times I skim over posts -- one of my terrible habits. But, like Amy said. I love your words and they draw me in. No skimming.
I think I would like having coffee with you....:) I like what you said about the Christian life here...

Jill Richardson said...

I think I would like to have coffee (OK, tea for me) with you both, and I may just have to make a road trip one day. Thank you--hearing this means more to me than you know. I don't think there's an apology for skimming--a writer has to earn the right to be read. It honors and humbles me that two such as you ladies think I've earned that. I don't take it lightly.

Jen said...

Jill - "A crisis of the faithful"...Oh, how I have been there! Great flow to your writing and like Amy said, so insightful! Thanks for sharing your journey with us!