Friday, October 25, 2013

Fresh Resolve

It's quite an eye-opener for a fairly sheltered, Christian homeschooling teenager to traverse from her home, without her family, and experience a tiny bit of the world.

I love film. I love watching movies, writing them and making them. I love the unique type of storytelling that film is. I love the camaraderie of a set, the vast amount of energy and creative collaboration that takes place.

But I see, or endeavor to see, everything I do through the lens of Jesus.

And in my happy, fairly small life, I forget that other people, so many other people, live with a drastically different worldview.

When an older artist stands before a room full of teenagers and says things like "Please only yourself." When art is displayed that reveals more of the human body, or intimate action than I would have liked to see.
When art, expression, is a general go-ahead to say "Anything goes, it's art."
When I can see that without God, there is no real purpose; to these artists, art for the sake of art is enough. But I can see the futility, the strife for nothing but a shadow of true beauty.

When things like this happen, a little girl like me is frustrated. And sitting, for an hour or so, listening to a secular artist say things that I know are not true, I felt waist-deep in an uphill battle.

I caught a glimpse of the rest of the art world.

And for the first time that day, I wondered, Is it worth it?

The finale of the day was a screening of a film called 'The English Teacher,' which was to be followed by a live Q&A with the screenwriters.

I had a brief conversation with an atheist and another believer before the screening. Nothing dramatic happened. I hope some seeds were planted, but I may never know.

The film was excellent. I was loving it. It was delightful. The writing was brilliant, the visuals efficient and smart.

Until two characters started kissing, and then did more intimate things. It wasn't an R-rated scene (well, I wouldn't know, I was looking at the floor in front of me by then), it ended quickly enough. But soon after, dialog/situations implied more such content.

I didn't want to sit through any more of that, no matter how promising the rest of the story was.

So I didn't.

My friend that came with me and I went back to our room and waiting for 20-30 minutes until we knew the credits would be rolling.

My brain was going at 200mph during those 20-odd minutes.

For the second time that day, I wondered, Is this worth it?

Are the things I love about this art form worth dredging through all of the junk that comes with it? 

Is my passion worth me being seen, labeled among these types of people, with these mindsets?

I hated movies and everything about them during those 20 minutes.

We headed back for the Q&A, which was delightful, though I didn't ask a single question, merely listened and tried to concentrate through the roiling of my thoughts.

The day wrapped with a quick announcement of the festival's winners.

It was the most surreal thing. I was frustrated, questioning my passion, asking God if I should just give it up. At the same time that I walked up to the stage to briefly accept my prize for "Best Screenplay."

I was literally beside myself.

After walking out of the screening I had huge convictions about this industry: because on the one hand I could be a light in it, but on the other hand, it's like walking through a mudslide and assuming you won't get stained.

The fun Q&A happened, and then I won. Which I didn't even really care about. But people were around me, supporting me; I met amazing people. Smart, funny, loving people. And that's a big part of what I love about film.

But is it worth my integrity? And could I withstand having to constantly refute 70% of the things I would be told?

That night, I felt like my head and my heart were being pulled in every possible direction.

I wrestled with a lot that night. Texted my thoughts out to a friend because they couldn't just stay in my head.

I didn't go to sleep with a solid answer. A "yes" to film or a "no."

I was left with Do the next right thing. Abide. 

I could take that answer.

I left with personal convictions. Like wanting to be able to articulate Jesus better to people. To walk more narrowly in holiness, that unbelievers would not see me as hypocritical.

Going to this film festival was kind of the culmination of a lot of elements.


It all started when I watched The Dark Knight the other month.
I found I hated it. I've been very reluctant to say that publicly on the internet because I was afraid I would lose something. Possibly respect, possibly just common ground.
I've started to feel sick at the fake violence of movies. Sometimes. just sometimes.
And to feel uncomfortable hearing swearing.
To know that I probably won't watch any of the movies that my blogger guy friends tell me I just have to watch, because I'll love them.
I wouldn't love them anymore. Because it seems selfish, a futile waste of time, to put those things before my eyes for entertainment.
I'm not choosing to never watch a movie again or any nonesense like that.
But I want to be more prayerful, more discerning about the things I choose to watch and read.
To be above reproach.
I don't want to watch something because it would make me "fit in" with this particular group of people.
Half the things I do, I do so that I can "be one of them."
Be "understood."
Heck, even be cool.
But especially in the face of unbelievers, how could I explain that away without looking like a hypocrite? I can't. And the evangelist in me knows the priority.

If nothing else, this trip has given me fresh resolve.

Fresh resolve to abide and fellowship with my Good Shepherd, because in the gray areas in this life, in the uncertain places where I don't know which way to, He is the only one who can guide me in the right way.

Fresh resolve to hold my ambitions loosely. Fresh resolve to turn my eyes upon Jesus, to look full in His wonderful face, so that the things of earth will grow dim in the light of His glory and grace.

I may not have learned or benefitted so much from the film events. But the Lord used it to teach me greater things.
Just another tiny step towards holiness.

(gaaaaah and if this post made no sense, I am so sorry. I'm not very good with words these days, I feel like.)


Pathfinder said...

It very much made sense.
And I really admire you for this (not it making sense, the content)

Josiphine said...

Have you ever heard of PluggedIn? It's a website that lists the content in movies, and then has a general rating. They are very thorough. I've probably never seen a movie without checking it on PluggedIn first. I think it's run by Focus on the Family.


And good for you! It's hard, but it's so, so worth it.

Hannah Joy said...

Ahhhhh yes.



Sometimes it's really hard to escape from the crud in movies. (or for that matter, books).

It's hard to take a stand and say I won't watch this movie. Because like you said, it disappoints people. But I tend to overthink things. Violence has never been my biggie as an issue (though overload is awful especially when unneeded) but sexual content and cussing will keep me up late into the night because my mind is whirring the simple question, "WHY?" It's playing and replaying the scene, trying to find the reason, the good part.
Trying to find the beauty in a character that I once thought a hero but that betrayed my trust.

The funny thing is I just finished a book called Well Witched by Frances Hardinge. And while it had minor cussing, I really enjoyed it because of the consequences. Kids do bad things and they get themselves into a bunch of trouble and danger because of it. They endanger other people.

And the best thing is they learn from their mistakes. The consequences hurt. They hurt them and hurt other people and they have to open their eyes to that to see beyond what their hero is doing, to see beyond to what is fun or will look cool. They have to look toward what is actually good, not what is perceived as good.

And I cried. I cried for like, the last quarter of the book. Because it hit home. It hit home that sometimes I need to stop dead in my tracks when the whole crowd is rushing past me. Because they are rushing off a cliff into a pit of fire. Because I'm hurting people. I'm hurting me.

What's it gonna take for me to listen to the still small voice saying, "Trust me on this"?

Maybe a brilliant post from a sister who is struggling just like me.

Thanks. It made perfect sense.

Hannah Joy said...

AGH sorry for the long comment. I can ramble on, can't I?

Jess said...

I'd like to encourage you, coming from somebody who has been having the same convictions and struggles with art... But I'm afraid I don't have anything awesome to say that will help you along the way. I tend to go to extremes--I'll decide that I'm sick of movies/books screwing with my conscience, so I'll wildly rush around giving up all books and movies and dissing ones that friends enjoy. But then I'll get bored, or hang out with friends, or whatever, and I'll somehow end up watching a movie or reading a book... And since I "messed up" just once, I think, "Aw, what the heck, I fail anyway so I might as well just watch all the stuff I want." And so much for my little media fast.

But the cycle only ever leads to shame and despair, while I'm stuck on a pendulum, vascillating between legalism and the sad misuse of grace ("what then, shall we continue in sin, that grace might abound?").

But lately, it seems, I'm slowly but surely beginning to emerge from the cycle. I'm easing my way off the nightmare Merry-Go-Round. And it's thanks to the true grace that I am learning to understand. In it, I find new motivation, like you, to push myself to a higher level, to abhor evil (like the Bible constantly reminds us to do--even though we lean towards thinking "abhor" is a little harsh and intolerant), to walk the narrow path. In it, I see how empty my justifications for my actions are. And in it, I find that I can, and will, fail many, many times, but that because of grace I don't need to give up and stay there, wallowing in my failure. Grace gives me the ability to get back up again after I fall.

This is a bit of a sermon (and coming from someone who doesn't know anything about it, too). :-P But I guess I just want to say, don't give up on this. It's a godly aim. And it may seem like now, at the beginning, you don't need someone to urge you not to give up, but hopefully it'll help you in the future. Hopefully it'll help me, too, since I've finally got it out of my head and into writing. XD

Oh, and I just want to say, I think you might underestimate the support you'll get in this pursuit. By my own experience, I think we tend to hide the fact that we're feeling these kinds of convictions... but then someone like you is brave enough to bring them out into the light, and there's a wonderful sense of relief that we're not the only ones in the world. Not that what you're doing is "cool," by any means. There are some little bugs that scurry back into their holes when the rock they were hiding under is lifted. But there are others that wave their little legs at the sunlight and feel immense gratitude that someone finally got them out of the shade. :-)

Kismint said...

I like how you stated this, first because it was honest and straightfoward, and secondly because a lot of us can relate.

I too have noticed the way that media and culture has been leaking in on my innocence...and I'm so weak. So weak to resist it, when I know I should. And that's embarrassing, and really sad.

But it's kind of an "everyone" problem. And so it's nice when you take time to share your thoughts about it with us. :)

I appreciate it.

Love ya,

T.D. said...

Thank you.

I'll give new movies a once-over and check PluggedIn and ChristianAnswers, but I get really irritated by Christian review sites over lots of different things.

@Hannah Joy
No, you're good! That was perfect.
"Trying to find the beauty in a character that I once thought a hero but that betrayed my trust.
That, right there, is exactly it.

You and your sister. You're insanely amazing with words. Bless you, love you guys.

I love you too!