Rise!

There are moments in every life when quitting is easier.  The relief starts in the mind when we contemplate no longer trying, and moves to the heart when we lower our expectation.  We realize in this moment life is easier when expectation is lower.  Life is easier without the possibility of disappointment.  Life is easier when we stop trying to rise.

My parents taught me something early in life.  They taught me hard times come, they always come, and when they arrive you will meet yourself for the first time.

They wanted me to understand, and spoke plainly about this in the late sixties, that for a young black kid hard times were going to come.  These lessons were reinforced with stories of their experience with Jim Crow and racism.

jim crow

I embraced those lessons and was profoundly inspired when I discovered their source of hope.   This hope had helped them get through those hard times.  It was the hope they were passing on to me.   Their hope came from God.   Neither of them was interested in organized religion, but they were interested in the hope.  This hope was the type to tell a person who was knocked down to get up.

When I read the Bible I understood God had been their hope.

16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.  

Proverbs 24:16 (NIV)

The more I read and learned about God I understood he was the God of those who rise.

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!  Though I have fallen, I will rise.  Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.  

Micah 7:8 (NIV)

This leads me to one of my favorite poems written by a woman from my parent’s generation.  Maya Angelou and these selections from her poem ‘Still I Rise’ make three big points about rising.

Rise and Rediscover – Purpose

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

When we fail we tend to write ourselves off, and let others do the same.   God wants us to rise.   This means overcoming criticism by rediscovering God’s purpose for our lives.

Rise and Redefine – Passion

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

One we rediscover God’s purpose for our lives we must redefine ourselves accordingly.    Rather than allowing the past to dictate our future, we must rewrite our future without any consideration of the past.  This redefines the next stage of our lives, and when this is done we experience a new found passion for life.

Rise and Reinvent – Path

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise

Once we have found our purpose and passion we must begin the work of reinventing ourselves.   Becoming the person this new vision has shown us.  This puts us on the path to rise!

 

Noah the Movie, Russell Crowe, and Struggling with God

But even though the scale of this film — the size of its budget and the breadth of its themes — is larger than anything this director has attempted before, “Noah” is less an epic than a horror movie.

A.O. Scott, NY Times Noah Movie Review

This post is not for the super serious Bible Scholar looking for an argument.  No arguments here.   From a Biblical point of view Noah the Movie was a bit of a mess, but I like Russell Crowe (Michigan Football  Fan, Go Blue!).

I didn’t anticipate enjoying Noah enough to visit a theater.  Renting was just fine.   My love of Russell Crowe got me through to the end with an intense determination to justify my man’s performance…my money spent…and my time used to watch it.

My critique of the movie is best described by Winston Churchill’s 1939 definition of Russia:

Famously, Winston Churchill defined Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” and his words in 1939 spoke eloquently to the Western sense of Moscow as the “other” – an inscrutable and menacing land that plays by its own rules, usually to the detriment of those who choose more open regulations.

Alan Cowell, Churchill’s Definition of Russia Still Rings True, NY Times

Scripture teaches Noah was righteous, blameless, and walked faithfully with God.

This is the account of Noah and his family.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.

Genesis 6:9 (NIV)

Little in the film reflected this Noah.  The Noah who most believe was a hero practicing non-conformity with bravery and skill.  On the other hand the film may have captured a side of faith we Christians don’t like to acknowledge.  Faith is a struggle!

20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.

Genesis 9:20–21 (NIV)

Noah did hit a rough patch after the flood.  Probably some dark times.  You have to admit I am doing a pretty good job justifying Russell Crowe’s performance in Noah 🙂

Seriously, when I look at my spiritual life I see struggle.  I see doubt, resistance, and anger.  I see bitterness.  We all see those things. God wants us to see the struggle in our Biblical heroes.   He wants us to understand we are human, so are they, and he is quite comfortable in the relationship.  One might even say he enjoys the relationship the way parents enjoy their children.   Parents celebrate the victories, ache during the struggle, yet always extend their love.  God does the same.

I don’t recommend Noah (especially for the young) but I don’t disparage it either. In fact, I might recommend it as an opportunity to see how people who don’t believe everything we believe see us.   Maybe just maybe those with a dark view of the future, the environment, and God could use our help to make him attractive.  Maybe they need to see the light  The light of hope found in the struggle to know and trust God on the way to our destiny.   The light of resilience that sustains us through dark times always helping us see the bright side.   The light of courage to fearlessly share our struggle confident in the end we will win.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

Hebrews 11:7 (NIV)

One more thing.  I believe in happy endings.   I believe the Bible is full of happy endings.  The movie tried but didn’t show the bright conclusion that is the life of Noah.   He saved his family.   This is what every father wants to do and he did it.   And contrary to the confusion he gave future generations a new lease on life.  But let’s make sure we don’t forget those things came about through struggle.  The same struggle we face today.

Struggling does end happily if we walk faithfully with God.  There…Russell Crowe restored to his rightful place among the pantheon of great actors.