Last night, I watched a movie I had never heard of previously: Second Hand Lions (New Line Cinema 2003). I was not sure what to expect, and to an extent, maybe that was good because it is hard to imagine how the exact combination of elements in this movie was pulled off so exquisitely. It had, to refer back to Sunday's brunch, scenes that made you laugh until you cried, it also had scenes that brought a tear to the eye just for its beautiful poignancy. I didn't know what to expect, but in the end, it became a lesson in faith itself. But before I talk about that, let me tell you to quit reading this and go rent the movie — you deserve to experience the movie without reading a spoiler first.
I'm not even going to try to summarize the whole plot — if you've gotten this far, you should have rented the movie and watched it already (or perhaps you caught it in theaters). Ok, Ed, you can keep reading, but anyone else must go rent the movie first.
The basic plot we have here is that of the two eccentric uncles and their young great nephew, Walter, who has been all but abandoned by his mother at the beginning of the movie. Throughout the movie, the uncles tell the story of their journey through Europe, fighting in Africa during World War I, and Uncle Hub's finding of, and loss of, true love. The story that the uncles tell Walt is certainly wild and the one uncle even questions if the young man believes the story. Along the way there are people that claim they know the “real” story — the Uncles really were mafia members or the uncles were cruel bank robbers. The latter storyteller, Walt's mother's questionable fiance, even suggests that Hub's “true love” Jasmine was actually merely someone left to die at the scene of a bank robbery.
Ultimately, Walter chooses to ignore the nay-sayers and stays with his Uncles rather than going with his lie-telling Mother. Despite that, I think both the audience and Walter wonder if the stories his uncles told him really are true or only a cover up. As Uncle Hub tells Walter, it doesn't always matter if something is true, that isn't always what is important. Walter needs to believe in his uncles and so he does. He takes a leap of faith.
This reminded me so much of how it is with our relationship with God. Like Walter, we are mere children in need of someone to watch over us and lead us. God offers us the opportunity to be His sons and daughters and we experience just a tidbit of a real relationship with Him while on earth. The world itself remains theistically ambiguous and there are plenty of people making claims as to who God really is or whether God is God at all. We can choose to believe the critics or we can choose a leap of faith.
Taking a leap of faith does not mean believing something that is not true. Walter has evidence to support his belief in his uncles' stories (such as the sandy chest with the picture of Jasmine in it), but he also has evidence that seems to point in the opposite direction (such as the bank-like safe hidden in the barn). Walter keeps the faith despite the ambiguity of things and that is what makes the end of this movie so poignant: as he arrives to see the airplane wreck that has brought both uncles to their demise, a helicopter from a Middle East oil company lands and out steps the son of the sheik from his uncles' stories. He had seen the plain wreck on the news and recognized the names of Walt's uncles. The stories were true both men standing there discover that day.
Isn't it the same with God? In this life we will never have all of the proof to silence every critic. I believe this is very much for a reason, which I'll address in my next movie review, hopefully later this week. But for now, just consider that fact. I will never be able to prove God to everyone. There will always be arguments from people trying to convince me otherwise. But, just like Walter needed to trust his uncles before he had all of the proof, so that he could gain the wisdom and love they had to offer, we must trust God now. After this life we will have the equivalent of a helicopter landing with “the proof,” but then it is too late to seize upon that truth.