There is something about truth that attracts.
It isn’t because the truth is always what we want to hear. Many times, it is the exact opposite. Truth, however, spoken ardently and sincerely can be a powerful force, a compelling and crushing beauty.
Challenging someone with unadorned truth can provoke change. And it can be a testament to the great love and respect the truth-teller has for the other. These reflections I’ve had spring from a rather unlikely source: I watched a movie.
“Something Borrowed” isn’t a profound movie or, in my opinion, even very good. People are continually seeking happiness yet not pursuing it authentically. Nevertheless, I found myself inspired by Ethan, a friend of the leading lady. Without going into a complete movie review, I was struck by his simple declaration of love (even though he knew she did not feel the same way) and, even more, his genuine desire to seek her good.
It was during this profession of love that I realized how deep of a character he was in many ways that I had overlooked. Throughout the movie, he is repeatedly speaking the truth to her. As she makes bad choice after bad choice, he loves her in it all yet never stops pushing her to be more. He simply remains a friend and does not focus on any potential gain. She is resistant to the truth, but he remains that steady voice of wisdom.
And in the midst of reflecting on that, I watched a snippet of “Far From the Madding Crowd.” Two vastly different movies and one unavoidable connection: a man who is willing to speak truth into the life of a headstrong woman. They aren’t lily-livered men who are trampled upon either. In this movie, Gabriel offers his wisdom when asked and often tells her the truth she needs to hear, but which nobody will say. As is clear in the movie, he has a great love for her, but he never seeks to manipulate her for his own gain. The truth he speaks is often not received well, but he seeks her own good more than affectionate attentions. His friendship and love is steadfast, even as she behaves in a way that is less than the person she truly is.
The point of all this? In the midst of these movies and flawed characters, two main aspects strike my heart. The first is that we need friends to be sources of truth in our lives, even when the truth is unwelcome or difficult to accept. Hard truths spoken from a sincere desire for the other’s good have the most likelihood of making an impact. When I know that the pain that comes with the truth is not desired by the other, I am more able to admit the validity of the words.
The second is that this type of love is precisely the way Jesus loves us. I was almost bewildered as I thought about Ethan from “Something Borrowed” and realized that he is an image of Christ. Once you look through the flaws and the cultural trappings, his dedication to being the voice of truth in his friend’s life, regardless of the cost, is incredibly Christ-like. The abiding presence and wisdom of Gabriel in “Far From the Madding Crowd” is similar to how Jesus, always patient and gentle, seeks to love us in our wanderings.
I don’t know why I continue to be amazed that Christ can be found in the midst of the culture or that profound truths can be spoken that go beyond what the director imagined. Of course, Christ has written His law into our very hearts. How could it not keep being revealed, despite people having no intention of revealing such truths?
I found myself wanting to share this connection with my students. But in such an environment and with so many students, I’m uncertain if I could make them see how I found Jesus in a chick-flick. They might think it is a big stretch of the imagination and I would find myself seeking to convince them that I am not crazy.
And I’m not. He is there: subtley, gently, persistently speaking the deepest truths to us in ways uniquely crafted for our hearts. Mine just happened to be through a movie.