Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lessons from Rogue One: It *IS* a Problem If You Don't Look Up!

At one point early in the film, before Jyn Erso commits to joining the fight, she is asked how she can stand to see the Imperial Flag waving overheard and not act. She shrugs her shoulders,

"It's Not A Problem If You Don't Look Up."

As soon as she said that, I thought, that's me. That's me not wanting to do spiritual battle. That's me, knowing that the devil is working to hurt us but wanting to pretend like nothing is wrong. The Apostle Peter knows better; in fact, he warns in his letter to the churches in Asia Minor ( chapter 5):

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world."

Resist him.

But's it's so hard and takes so much work.

Hypocritically, when my 5 year-old whines, I get incredibly annoyed and tell him to stop, but it is easy for me to whine in the privacy of my own thoughts. Mastering some small bit of self-control by not saying aloud everything that comes to mind does not mean one doesn't have an internal heart full of worms. I whine. Or pretend like nothing is going on.

What are some reasons that we would rather be like Jyn at the beginning of the movie, would rather not look up and acknowledge the battle?

Here are some ideas:

1. We are tired. Waking up, getting the kids up, starting a load of laundry, refereeing an argument - and then it is time for breakfast! Or maybe we don't have so many little physical tasks but we battle emotions all day long and are worn out. We don't want to put in any more effort.

2. We are scared to engage. A real enemy that could actually do damage to us? No thank you.

3. We are lazy. Oh Lord, take from me a spirit of sloth.

4. We are delusional. We are asleep in the part of the soul that sees such truths. We say to ourselves, there is not really a battle.

5. We are mad. This could be Jyn Erso's reason. She lost her parents. She lost her mentor. She hates the whole scene and would rather avoid getting involved, because being involved means letting down internal defenses (or raising up old memories).

Perhaps you can think of a few other ideas?

Here's the worst of it: if we pretend that the battle is not there that does NOT make it go away. The battle rages. The enemy fires missiles. The lion pounces, ready to tear us to shreds. And ironically we leave ourselves open to the attack.

Could you imagine if a Star Destroyer refused to put on the energy shield defense even though X-wings, MC-80 Star Cruisers, Y-wing fighters, and a Light Freighter were aimed and ready to attack? (Did you see how I did that? I had to ask my son for the actual names. I love Star Wars in a more big-picture, thematic way, but my son loves each type of ship, gun, and robot. Thanks, bud!)

Back on earth, we have our defense shield down because we are pretending there is no attack; consequently we get hurt.

We get hurt if we engage and we get hurt if we don't engage, so why not engage and capture the opportunity be transformed in the process?

Transformed in the process

The Apostle Paul writes to the Romans (12):

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."

Jyn Erson pretty much did that. Although she was not doing it to worship God, she did step out of her regular galactic daily existence, let her mind be renewed, and offered her body as literal sacrifice in order to try to stop the evil Empire.

We don't have an evil empire. By contrast, we have a Love that burns so bright it could fill us to be on FIRE, but we often are not on fire. Distracted, we don't look Up. And maybe the devil allows us to feel safe or unattacked, because as long as we are avoiding the Love Fire then we're doing ourselves more harm than he could.

Me, I often don't think I'm deluded. (I guess that's the point.) Delusion is easier than reality, effort-wise, but not consequence-wise. When we are ready to awake from distraction and try to really see God, our path will not be easy. It will involve fear and trembling.

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling!

If you have considered theosis but struggled to wrap your mind around it, I have found Hinds Feet on High Places helpful (not perfect, as no allegory is, but helpful) to walk through this ongoing process:

There are no obstacles which our Savior’s love cannot overcome. The High Places of victory and union with Christ can be reached by learning to accept, day by day, the actual conditions and tests permitted by God, by laying down of our own will and accepting His. The lessons of accepting and triumphing over evil, of becoming acquainted with grief, and pain, and of finding them transformed into something incomparably precious; these are the lessons of the allegory in this book.

The Christ-figure in this story explains to the fearful protagonist that although he could just carry her up the mountain, she'd still be lame when they got to the top and she wouldn't be able to freely go with him in those high places. She can only get the feet of a deer by traversing on her feet up the mountain. Christ will use that process to refine her and strengthen her. She has to be willing to go.

In another good book, A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain, an experienced monk on Mt Athos warns the younger seeker that he must be willing to fight for his faith. He's not talking about fighting the heathen for the sake of Christianity. He is talking about engaging the battle within his own heart.

"Man is subject to the demons' persistent hostility."

"Prayer requires struggle to our very last breath."

I groaned when I read that. Really? Can't I just reach a point where I'm good and don't have to fight?
Well, Shamassy, actually you can reach a point, but the path to that point is straight through the battle. Straight up the mountain.

We must actively oppose the enemy, the Elder continues.

"Blasphemous thoughts must be opposed with contempt."

"The body participates in the work of prayer."

One way the body participates in the work of prayer is through Holy Communion. In "A Prayer of St. John of Damascus" before Holy Communion, we seek our Lord and Master Jesus Christ that our partaking of His life-giving mysteries would be
... a protection and a help to overthrow the adversaries...

In "A Prayer of St. John Chrysostom" we pray

O Master, who alone art holy, that thou wouldest sanctify my soul and body, my mind and heart and reins, and renew me entirely. Implant my members the fear of thee, be thou my helper and guide, directing my life in the paths of peace..."

Somehow, in a paradox, walking through the battle, carrying our cross, leads to peace in Christ. We must keep our eyes on this end goal and believe that the peace is coming.

When we are faced with a daunting battle and forget that the peace comes through it, Despondency looks our way with raised eyebrows, thinking it might find a victim. It would be easy to look mostly at ourselves and not out, at what we need to do to love-in-action others. Have you ever wanted to lay in bed all day instead of facing your people? Or have you been tempted to despair at facing such a difficult road ahead? The holy Elder from Mt. Athos has encouragement for you, because our hope is not without cause in this battle: Jesus wins!

"The love of God for man prevails in this war."

He did not say our buff spiritual muscles or our mighty prayers win this war. We just have to show up, with open heart-eyes willing to see, accept the circumstances God allows in our lives, and engage. Call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has already beaten the enemy. The love of God will win the war.

When Jyn Erso decided to join the battle, she did not know whether or not she would ultimately be successful.

But we do.

Glory to God!

From the Archives:
Lessons from Rogue One: Part One
Lessons from Rogue One: Part Two

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