Last weekend my youth group and I watched I Am Legend, the latest version with Will Smith in it. I may have to rethink my expectation that PG-13 will be fine for the youth group on retreat -- I found this movie pretty intense. The youth recommended it because of the faith questions that arise in the apocalyptic landscape of the story. But the story haunted me a bit this last week and I wanted to talk about it with them more than we did Saturday night (spoiler alert) when most of us were just saying, "It was so awful when the dog died!!" and comparing who cried and who didn't.
For youth group Wednesday I had scheduled a session about "walking through the valley of the shadow of death." (I threw up a bunch of random things on a list and had them choose back in September, and then I randomly scheduled them. Often it has been perfect.) So we talked about the movie, again, and I asked the youth what they would do, since they believe in God, to comfort themselves in an isolated, terrifying situation such as Will Smith found himself in, yet again. I was all thinking about how I would be repeating the Jesus prayer or Psalm 23 ad nauseum to keep myself sane, but, of course, they surprised me with the direction of the conversation.
It didn't take long to get to what the youth do to cope in hard times -- watch funny movies, play video games, read books, listen to music. So I've been thinking about that the last few days, inbetween doing my work (reading hundreds of pages of theological statements for people coming into the ministry and finishing our year end tables, along with all the other duties of the week), sneaking in a mystery novel, and watching old Star Trek movies with Zane or reading The Hobbit to him before bed. Well. I like their strategy.
I find myself immersing myself in narratives whenever life feels a bit too much. Zane and I have read all the Harry Potter, the Dark is Rising, classic Hardy Boys, and are now starting the LOTR series. Together we watch Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Karate Kid, Indiana Jones, and several generations of Power Rangers. And left to myself I've got my head in the books or movies: the Matrix, the EarthSea chronicles, LOTR, a pile of mysteries, Star Wars, martial arts and action movies. I love the grand hero narratives, and when I stress out that's where I go.
I do have a template for them, though -- this grand anti-hero narrative that forms my work -- this Christ story I keep wrestling with.
Which brings me back to the Jesus Prayer, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me."
And back to movies which haunt me. Well, I do hope I never have to stand up to vampire/zombies, and if I do, I hope the video store is still open.