I am attempting to post a weekly. Every other week these posts will be reposts. I had been a contributor on two different sites that have since closed or changed to no longer include blogs. I will be reposting pieces that had originally been featured on one of these two sites.
This was originally posted April 14, 2011
I like Wes Anderson movies. I like how he uses quirky, extreme characters to get at the psychological issues in all of us. I like the outlandish stories and interesting sets; I like how a line of dialogue will take me unawares in the midst of a seemingly chaotic story and I’ll be staggered by its depth and layers of meaning.
For Example, The Royal Tenenbaums is a story of an extremely dysfunctional family. After a family friend crashes his car into the house, killing the dog, Chas Tenenbaum says to his dad, “We’ve had a hard year, dad”. It is a simple statement that encompasses much and means much for that character to say. His wife had died and he had not come to terms with it; he had been smothering his two sons in an effort to protect them; he had been too proud to speak to his father for quite some time, and so on, and so on…
Another example, The Darjeeling Limited is a story of three brothers attempting to reconcile their relationship by traveling together through India. Each brother is selfish and neurotic in his own way. Each of them has internalized their parents in unhealthy ways. None of them have dealt with the recent death of their father. Towards the end of the movie all three of them are looking in a mirror and Francis says, “I’ve still got a lot of healing to do.” On the surface level, Francis has just removed some bandages and is speaking about the effects of a motorcycle accident, but in the context of the movie, the words means much more.
A line that I have been ruminating over lately is from Fantastic Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox’s son, Ash, says, “I can fit through there. Do you know why? …because I’m little.” On the surface, there is a small opening to fit through at that point in the movie, and Ash is the right size to go through it; a straightforward statement of reality. On the other hand, the line is a turning point and a moment of growth for the character. He has spent the first half of the movie trying to pretend to be bigger than he is. He was bitter and vindictive towards his good-looking athletic cousin. He repeatedly tried to be someone he wasn’t to win his father’s approval. Then he embraces the truth about himself. He knows who he is and knows that he can be useful in his own way. He isn’t filled with pride, he’s able to delight in who he is, “…because I’m little.”
I think about this in conjunction with a book I’m rereading now, Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. Manning quotes Therese of Lisieux about being a child before God the Father. She said, “it is never being disheartened by one’s faults, because children often fall, but they are too little to do themselves much harm.”
What could I do if I was little? What would the freedom, the lack of fear, feel like if I was too little to harm myself? How do I hinder myself by attempting and pretending to be big? I hold back because I fear falling off the pedestal of straw I’ve made for myself. I subtly trick even myself, trying to be big by finding pride in a false humility; confession and vulnerability are often carefully scripted to make others think I’m a spiritual giant. I’ve painstakingly constructed an image that I substitute for the real me all too often, a plastic paragon that is too big to fit in anywhere, a precariously balanced facade that requires constant vigilance, stopping me from moving forward. I worry that others see through my deception and expose the real me; that I’ll fall so far down because I’ve pretended to be so high up. If only I didn’t set myself up as big such that I fear being found out and falling. If I was open about my faults I might be a little smaller. If I stopped guarding my image I might not have to worry about scraping my knees if I fall. I might be small enough to fit in my heavenly Father’s arms.
But I am so worried about what others think. I’m scared to not appear clever or wise amongst a group of my peers. I worry that this blog isn’t spiritual or theological enough or that it’s too long for people to read. I am addicted to an image that I think is more acceptable than the real me. I hunger for approval from other humans even though I know I have the approval of God almighty, my heavenly Father. I am little, but I behave as if it is so important that others think I’m big. The more I fear falling, the more energy I expend trying not to fall and the more harm I do myself when I do fall.
But the reality is that God loves me as I am. He loves the real me, not the me I pretend to be. He loves me though I am finite, fallen, broken, selfish, confused, and sometimes just plain stupid.
What if I could delight in my smallness? What if I knew what I was good at and what I wasn’t good at and had no pretense regarding either? What if I could completely check out of the politics, posturing, and selfishness that often characterize social interactions? What if I could simply not care what other people thought of me? What if I could rejoice in the achievements of others without a hint of jealousy or comparisons? What if the things of this world faded from my view because the Father filled my sight?
If only, like John the Baptist, I would decrease so that He will increase.
If only I could look at the eye of the needle Jesus directs me toward and say,
“I can fit through there. Do you know why? ….because I’m little”