Let me tell you what I believe about authority (and also, the Hunger Games)

Y’all, but actually, how great are movies?

You know what’s even better than movies? Movies that actually stay true to the book they were based on.  Tonight, I hit up the theater with my Phi Lamb family for the “midnight” (8pm, we like sleep) premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (a phamily tradition).  First of all, I’ve been to see each of the movies and read all the books several times each – even though I haven’t read Mockingjay in probably a couple of years, I still remembered all the major plot points before they occurred in the movie.  Hunger Games is an awesome series with a great plot, great acting, wonderful writing.  It was one of those series I was hooked on from the get-go, I sprinted through each book faster than the one before it and had the whole series read in less than a week – but let me tell you, when I finished Mockingjay for the first time, I threw the book at the wall.

I couldn’t for the life of me understand why so many of the characters had to die, and why so much had to fall apart for things to end on such an ambiguous note (spoilers).  We had to read through Finnick’s death (tears), and Prim’s (SO MANY TEARS) and endure the love triangle between Katniss and Gale and Peeta only to get to the end . . . and have it just end.  There’s no real recovery, the loose ends don’t get tied up into nice, neat narratives – it just ends.  It moves on.

And I hated the ending, I hated it so much.  It just didn’t seem right for a story to crumble apart so slowly like that.  Yes, Peeta and Katniss end up together, but they don’t, not really: nothing is ever the same as it was. There’s this underlying tension there, this lack of resolution that I just can’t stand. And that’s the whole point.

Today I’m a little less aggressive about the way the story ends – but only slightly.  I was still pretty sassy going into this movie, knowing there would be parts of the plot that just drove me up the wall, and wondering how they would end it to stay true to the book.  And I was surprised.

The whole reason I got into the Hunger Games series is that my high school boyfriend was crazy about it.  He was the one who loaned me the book that I threw at the wall (oops) and the rest in the series before the first movie came out.  When I finished it for the first time, I called him and said dude – what the heck??? How could you let me read this series thinking it’s so great only for it to end this way??? How could you still love these books???

His answer was pretty simple: it’s real.  He loved the books because they didn’t sugarcoat things, they didn’t have a happy ending: they had an ending that resonated with him as being real.

Those words came back to me in the theater tonight somewhere in the middle of the movie (spoilers) as I watched the Capitol mutts chase the heroes down a dank tunnel.  The lights were flashing and everyone was screaming and the mutts are absolutely terrifying (no really, cover your eyes at that part. It’s not worth it).  And in the end, Finnick falls.

And it’s real.  Things chase you and don’t let you go.  You can’t sleep some nights, nightmares wake you up others.  Beautiful things break apart before your eyes and there’s nothing you can do about it.  People you trust walk away; people you love hurt you and you hurt them back, whether you know it or not.  And sometimes it’s little things – a friend doesn’t pick up the phone – and sometimes it’s big things – someone walks out of your life and doesn’t look back – and sometimes it’s in between – you got a bad grade, you got in an argument, you pulled an all-nighter writing a paper, your group project members let you down, you don’t have enough time to get everything done.  We’ve all done it to others, done it to ourselves, and had it done to us.  It lurks in the shadows, this force of a fallen world, that keeps things from ending up the way we think they should, that makes things complicated instead of clean, that hurts instead of heals.  It has a name.  It has a different name to different people on different days, but the most important thing about it is it’s real.

It’s been a painfully real semester for me.  There’s this force that I’ve had to contend with at every turn, that’s determined to make things fall apart right when I had my hope staked in them working out.  I’ve written about this a little bit before, but I want y’all to know: this semester has been real.  This fallen world we live in: it’s real.  This person called satan: he’s real.  And our ability to give those things authority is also real.

I spent some time talking and thinking with a sweet friend tonight about what authority is – and one of the things that my Bible defines it as is “the freedom or ability to act.”  What do we give the freedom to act on our lives to?  This determines what we give authority to govern how our lives continue to go.  And let me tell you, I have two choices.  I can give the authority in my life to whatever the “it” of this world is, or I can give authority to the Gospel.

The Son is in the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:15-17

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.

Ephesians 6:10-12

I get it now, I think, the ending – seeing the movie even helped.  It’s real.  The things of this world move on, but they may not really fade – if you give them the authority to haunt you.  They may be over, but you may not ever understand them, and that may terrify you – if you give your own understanding the authority in your life.  If I let these things dictate how I think, and how I feel, and what I do with those thoughts and feelings, I’m letting them distract me from the things the Gospel promises are profoundly true about my life when I make Christ my ultimate authority.

Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more . . . You make known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:4a, 11

It starts with little things, I think.

“I’ll tell them how I survive it. I’ll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in things because I’m afraid it could be taken away. That’s when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I’ve seen someone do. It’s like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.

But there are much worse games to play.”

Katniss Everdeen, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I make lists of the goodness of God, of the gifts He gives me, of the things He says are true about me.  I’m trying this new thing called prayer coloring a lot. I put all my worries in an envelope and once they’re in there, I tell myself they belong to the Lord and no longer to me. I’m trying to be more vulnerable, honest and intentional with my friends and my community.  I’m reading through Philippians really slowly, and learning to dwell in God’s word.  I’m trying to acknowledge and wrestle with my fears about relationships and singleness.  I’m using my tumblr to make a list every day I can of good things that happen in my life.

And I’m falling back in love with my life and my Lord, as exactly the person He’s created me to be, and giving the Gospel alone the freedom to act on my life.  I’m constantly redefining this “new romantic” thing.  It’s not always the way it should be, and I’m pretty far from perfect, but I’m finding every day I accept that this world is real, but God is above it is a day worth discovering.

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