I went to see a movie today with a friend. I had been delighted when I found out that she wanted to see the film too. The previews hadn't made it look like a particularly uplifting movie, in fact I was almost certain tears would flow, but I was intrigued by the concept and my curiosity and an open afternoon finally collided. I was right about the tears, but they didn't flow for the reasons I thought they would.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a movie that takes place one year after September 11, 2001. A boy with a condition that appears to be a mix of Aspberger's Syndrome and Tourette's Syndrom, loses his father on 9/11 ("the worst day")and a year later finds a hidden key in his father's closet and decides to find the lock that matches it in an attempt to keep his connection with his father alive. While the subject matter itself is bound to make your eyes well up, the moment that really broke through my defenses happened an hour and forty-five minutes into the movie, after the boy has solved the mystery and realizes it wasn't even his father's key after all. As he is coming to grips with this crushing disappointment, we find out that throughout his 3+ month quest to find the lock, as he knocked on door after door of stranger after stranger all over New York City, all the while feeling like his mother had emotionally withdrawn from him and didn't care about him, he makes a startling discovery. He listens in awe as his mother tells him that out of her overwhelming love and concern for him, she had secretly gone through the hidden maps and treasures in his room until she figured out his plan. Then she had set out to pave the way for her son and his quest, rather than preventing him from pursuing it. To insure his safety, she had visited every address on the list that he had made and met with the strangers she encountered there to tell them that her precious son would be coming one day, looking for the mystery lock that would match his key. She told them about his disabilities. She told them about the profound loss he had experienced. She begged them to be kind.
The boy was stunned to learn of her actions. He had thought that only his father had been able to understand him in such a deep way, and that now that his dad was gone, he was fated to go through life ashamed and abnormal and misunderstood. The realization that his mother had him figured out brought a sense of security back into his life, stronger than he had previously possessed before "the worst day" happened.
As I think back on this movie and that powerful, sob-filled (mine) moment when the mother's loving care was finally revealed, I can't help but reflect on the Lord and His unfathomable goodness to us, his children. We go through life developing a certain level of assurance in something... a social status, a loving family, a job, a talent or intellectual capacity, a close friend... and one day, inevitably, our assurance is shaken to the core. Either by loss, or betrayal, or a lifting of the blinders that we've worn revealing that the firm foundation we've built our identity and security on is at best shifting sand and at worst a trap door. BUT GOD...
After our brutal awakening, as we grasp for whatever shreds of hope we can find and try to claw our way back to a feeling of assurance in this messed up world, we are prone to feel that our intangible God is cruelly unwilling or sadly unable to help us or to offer the same kind of assurance that our tangible earthly idol always had. So we strike out on our own, looking for a way to get back what we've lost, or a close assimilation of it, or if that doesn't work then something that will numb us and make us forget it ever existed in the first place.
All the while, God is working behind the scenes on our behalf - protecting us, providing for us, and preparing us for the day when we will find ourselves spent, with nothing to show for it. That day, when we feel the most hopeless, the most devastated, the most disappointed and the most forgotten... that will be the day when we will finally be ready to look back and see Him for who He has been all along: The One who knew us best, who had a plan for us from the beginning that could never be thwarted by any earthly loss. The One who is the true source of our assurance, who had granted us that precious family member, friend, talent, job, etc. - for a season - but that it was never meant to become an idol, distracting us from the Gift-Giver Himself. THEN we will rejoice and REVEL in this new assurance, that the God of the universe never left our side and never will and that He understands us and knows us better than we know ourselves. That He can and will meet our every need.
" And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see." I Peter 1:5 (NLT)