I just saw a film called "Fragile World," directed by Sandy Boikian (who, happily, is a reader of this blog!). Sandy was kind enough to let me screen her new film recently, and I was blown away. It's a film that could certainly be categorized as a "faith-based film" (still struggling with that term) and it's clear that she is a person of faith, but the film transcends any religious genre and shines on its own merits as a well-written indie film, Christian or not. "Fragile World" accomplishes things many mainstream big budget movies fail to accomplish, as I explain in my full review here.
But the film brings up a critical question. I might sum up the question this way:
Is this the real love? Is this just fantasy?
That, of course, is an altered version of a Queen lyric from the famous song "Bohemian Rhapsody."
But which love am I referring to, you might ask? Well, the most obvious one in this context is God's love. "Does God really love me?" so many people wonder this in the quiet corners deep down beneath their ribs.
The question also applies to our relationships with people. "Does that person really love me? Is it unconditional love or is it conditional? Am I performing well enough to earn their love? Will they ever stop loving me someday if I change or if circumstances change?" Ultimately, it comes down to the question, "Am I of any value?"
And then the question extends to self-inquiry: "Have I ever truly loved anybody unselfishly and unconditionally? Or do I simply love people because of the benefits they add to my life?"
Scary questions--especially those last two questions. Such questions feel like a final exam that's been rigged to guarantee we fail. It's like asking, "Am I as perfect as God Almighty?"
Yeah, I know. It feels slightly self-pitying and perhaps excessive in the navel-gazing when we go down paths like this in articles.
But this film (you just have to see it) really captures these kinds of questions--the emotional force of these questions--in a creative way and in an unusual context (a mental health situation in which the character isn't sure what is real).
Here's the crux of it: when a person is faced with the full extent of their inner brokenness (as Rosalie is in "Fragile World") and the full gamut of their fallen nature, these questions suddenly rise to a blasting volume in every fiber of their being. It's no longer a pity party. It's a question of redemption. Are we truly redeemable? Or are we lost forever? Is there any hope in this broken world? Is there any hope for our broken selves?
In literature we see these questions explored repeatedly. C. S. Lewis, in what he deemed to be his best work of fiction--"Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold"--writes this (through the voice of his character Orual, the sister of Psyche) about the self-revelation we have when we see the full extent of our brokenness:
"Oh Psyche, oh goddess," I said. "Never again will I call you mine; but all there is of me shall be yours. Alas, you know now what it's worth. I never wished you well, never had one selfless thought of you. I was a craver."
She bent over me to lift me up. Then, when I would not rise, she said, "But Maia, dear Maia, you must stand up. I have not given you the casket. You know I went a long journey to fetch the beauty that will make Ungit beautiful."
I stood up then; all wet with a kind of tears that do not flow in this country. She stood before me, holding out something for me to take. Now I knew that she was a goddess indeed. Her hands burned me (a painless burning) when they met mine. The air that came from her clothes and limbs and hair was wild and sweet; youth seemed to come into my breast as I breathed it. And yet (this is hard to say) with all this, even because of all this, she was the old Psyche still; a thousand times more her very self than she had been before the Offering. For all that had then but flashed out in a glance or a gesture, all that one meant most when one spoke her name, was now wholly present, not to be gathered up from hints nor in shreds, not some of it in one moment and some in another. Goddess? I had never seen a real woman before.
"Did I not tell you, Maia," she said, "that a day was coming when you and I would meet in my house and no cloud between us?"
Joy silenced me.
In the story, when Orual discovered the truth about the full extent of her brokenness and self-centeredness, she expected judgment without mercy. Instead, her sister brushed off the great grievance (you'll have to read the novel to learn why there was a grievance) and offered forgiveness and reconciliation.
In truth, we can never force other people to love and forgive us the way Psyche does for her sister in "Till We Have Faces." But God promises to love and forgive us--to redeem the unredeemable.
It is a powerful revelation when it goes deeper than our heads and hits our hearts.
I will leave you with Ephesians 2:4-5 to consider: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved."
*Lewis, C. S.. Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (pp. 305-306). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.