Ever Wish Life was Like a Hallmark Movie?


Elegance teen faceOnce you  have seen a couple of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, you know what to expect when a “new” one is introduced. You can count on finding a beautiful, yet not quite “perfect,” girl with a difficult past who has to choose between her current love—an arrogant, insensitive jerk—and a new acquaintance who is kind, good looking, patriotic and certainly available.  There is  just enough drama and conflict to keep us engaged  and to stick through the commercial breaks for more. Even though we know it is coming, the final kiss in the snow gives us the warm feeling that life is well and the good people win. Ahhh! Hallmark movies are vegetable beef soup for the soul.

Christians can be attracted to such movies because of the absence of foul language and underlying themes of forgiveness, grace and love. And it’s even better when our love can be directed toward those who have managed to make it through some of life’s most difficult personal challenges like single-parenting or the death of a dear family member. We also like the justice element afforded us in these movies. The writers know this and, therefore, create that arrogant, insensitive jerk who will get what he deserves…and so we won’t feel so bad when the main character dumps him for the lonely new guy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life was like a Hallmark movie?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the “Christian” life was like a Hallmark movie? Wouldn’t it be nice to encounter a few bumps in the road and then find an open and wide smooth highway with only minimal traffic? Wouldn’t it be nice if every problem would end in a long embrace and warm kiss in the snow with a multitude of smiling onlookers?

Facing the Giant Christian Myth is one of my first blog posts. To this day I continue to receive negative comments for how I expressed my displeasure with how the faith-based movie, Facing the Giants, broadcasted an unrealistic view of faith and the Christian life. It would be nice if the everyday Christian life mirrored the miracles of that Shiloh Eagles, but it doesn’t.

Another reason why Christians are drawn to Hallmark movies is because they show life as it should be. Sure, we are going to make some mistakes and encounter trials, but in the end—as in right now or real soon—life works out.

Hebrews 11 is a chapter in the Bible Christians love. Well, at least we love, quote and relish most of it. We affirm and teach that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 1 We want to hear again about Enoch being taken straight to heaven or Noah saving the animals and his family from the flood. We want to be reminded of the great faith of Abraham and Sarah.  We want to read, again, the heroic story of Moses rescuing his people from the tyranny of Egypt. We will sing about the walls of Jericho falling down after the seven-day march. And, yes, we will extol the victories of Gideon, Samson and David. The life of faith is great!

But wait! There is more to Hebrews 11. There are more faith-ers—people who showed incredible faith. However, they are nameless. They are simply referred to as “others.” All we know about them is what happened to them. They “experienced mocking and scourging, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were to put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, wandering in deserts and mountains and cave and holes in the ground.”2 For these, their warm embrace and kiss in the snow was promised, but the delivery was postponed till the afterlife.

 The “Others”

Though the Bible simply calls them “others,” let’s imagine one of them. I will call him Ehud. Ehud would have been a devout follower of God. He was such a man of faith, the writer of Hebrews says “the world was not worthy of him.”3 He kept the commandments. He gave to the poor. He stood against injustice.  He was a humble man who loved mercy. Yet, because of his unwavering devotion to protect the vulnerable he was mocked, publicly scourged, and chained and imprisoned.  Yet, Ehud remained steadfast in his faith in Almighty God.

Though malnourished and in constant pain from the beatings, he continued to worship God and pray for his wife and children. Even in captivity he spoke up for the voiceless poor. Finally, the authorities could take him no more. He was paraded into the city square and “sawn in two.”  End of story.

No embrace. No kiss. No throng of warm contented smiles. No separate line item in the list of the great people of faith.

Please, I don’t want to be an Ehud.

I want to be a man of faith, but I prefer to be more like Abraham, Moses or David….not Ehud. I want God to reward my faith in the “here and now.” I want to step out of the ark and see the blue sky. I want to see the walls of my enemies come crashing to the ground. I want to lead the captive out of Egypt into the Promised Land. I want to see the grand culmination of my faith….and in this life. Soon. Now!

My guess is this is how you would like life to be too. Yet, God doesn’t always call us to be an Abraham, Moses, Sarah, Samson or Joseph. No, sometimes we are called to be one of the “others.”  This is why when we teach about faith, our focus has to be on the ultimate plan of God.

 Faith is a willingness to accept God’s purposes in our life.

Even in the list of the great people of faith, life was not a continual series of comfort. There were times when trials were followed by reward, such as when Daniel was sold into slavery on his way to becoming a statesman.  Others received only a partial reward of their faith before death called them home.  As an old man, Abraham rejoiced in the birth of a son, but he never saw the promised great nation that would come through that son. Then, there are the “others” who died horrific deaths following long seasons of pain. In each of these situations faith was present. Therefore, faith, genuine faith, is a willingness to accept God’s purposes in our life.

In every generation there will be Josephs and the Ehuds. There will be those who will experience the joy of having their faith realized in this life. Then there will be the Ehuds, the “others,” whose faith is just as real, but who will not see the rewards of their faith before closing their eyes in death.

 Faith requires we relinquish the demands on when God should answer our prayers or provide us with the promised blessings.

When it comes to rewards, our preferred timing is “soon” and certainly before we bid this world farewell. Joseph was able to experience the reward of his faith, but for the “others,” like Ehud, the rewards came after death. Therefore, we learn faith in God requires we relinquish the demands on when God should answer our prayers or provide us with the promised blessings.

As I enter a new year, Hebrews 11 is a passage of the Bible I want to resonate in my mind and soul. I want to embrace a mature faith that trusts in God’s plan for my life, whether or not it includes experiencing the great victories of faith during this life on earth.

__________________

Thanks mom: A special word of appreciation to my mom who introduced me to the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies during this past holiday season. We often watched the same “story” played out with different characters and settings. I enjoyed sharing (predicting) with my mom what was coming next—and most often I was right.

1Hebrews 11:1 (All Bible passages quoted from the New American Standard Bible)

2 Hebrews 11:36ff

3Hebrews 11:38

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