I have this thing where I think in blocks of movie clips.
I don’t know if there’s a scientific/psychological term for it, but one of the ways I process what’s on my mind is pulling up clips of movies and tv series which somehow reference whatever it is I’m thinking about. For example, a couple of weeks ago I preached on Ezekiel 37, the “Valley of the Dry Bones” passage, where God takes the prophet Ezekiel to this vast land of skeletons of Israelites who have died….and I couldn’t stop thinking of The Terminator scene at the very beginning, showing a post-nuclear war future.
Someone the other day made the argument that not everyone is special, which made me think of the movie The Incredibles, where Dash and his mom are in the car and Dash wants to use his powers more, that his dad said their powers make them special, to which his mom replies that everyone’s special. “Which is another way of saying nobody is,” Dash says to himself.
For me it oftentimes helps to articulate (at least for myself) what I’m thinking or feeling. Sometimes I’ll hear a quote from something which sends me on this existential rabbit hole, and forces me to question the very reality of what I do and what I believe. Like Futurama.
There’s an episode where their ship Planet Express falls in love with Bender. Bender, of course, cheats on the ship. When the ship finds Bender with other women, he tells the ship they are his accountants, to which the ship replies: “Oh, I would dearly love to believe that were true….so I do.”
I think about this quote a lot when it comes to being a pastor, a Christian, and simply a person.
Many Christians, and really people of any faith system, share that faith is something that is theirs, yet it’s sometimes also described as something independent from us–like it is given to us. Or we might say that our faith guides us or inspires us, in a way which suggests that it is something alive and organic. And that sounds powerful; it sounds inspiring and live-giving, and looks great on a church’s website. But how true is this in our quieter moments, when we’re not trying to “sell” our faith, and it is just ours again?
Is faith a choice? Is it something done to us, or something which grows out of us–out of our experiences and thoughts and lifestyles? Do we believe in something because something happens to us, or because one day we choose to? And if we choose to, can we choose not to? What happens when we make a different choice? I think of the movie Dogma (see, it happened again) when the human Bethany and the dead apostle Rufus are talking about faith and ideas. “I just think it’s better to have ideas,” Rufus says. “You can change an idea; changing a belief is much trickier.”
And that’s not even limited to religion. What about just faith in ourselves? Or belief in ourselves? People who search for self-confidence are often told “You just need to believe in yourself.” Isn’t that kind of the problem? If they could just believe in themselves, then they probably wouldn’t be searching for self-confidence. And what about the opposite problem? What if one has too much self-confidence, i.e. arrogance? We are told that in growing self-confidence, we need to stay away from negativity, the nay-sayers, and those who tell us we can’t. We need to surround ourselves with positivity and those telling us we can. Is this any different from believing in something just because we want to? Is that a good enough reason to have faith in something….or someone?
Someone once said that confidence is when you tell yourself you can do something; arrogance is when you tell everyone else. That seems to be a good balance. Because we should believe in ourselves. We should put ourselves in situations where we’re not sure we will be able to accomplish them, but still try….because maybe we can. And if fail, we will have learned a little bit more about ourselves; and it doesn’t hurt to have people by your side who can both cheer us on, and ask if we’re sure about what we’re doing. And if we do succeed, we’ll be able to strengthen our confidence, and perhaps our outlook on the world. And not just because we want to, but because we have experienced it as true.