“Lord of the Flies” was one of those books many of us were forced to read in High School English. The plot and its underlying message of the conflicting forces of human beings, even young kids, is one I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, but over the years have come to know as a sobering truth. One of the tenets of our Presbyterian theology is the fallen nature of mankind. Calvin’s concept of total depravity isn’t that there is nothing good in human beings—it is the recognition that there lurks in the human soul a darkness that permeates every aspect of one’s life. (Some of you old timers might remember the radio show “The Shadow” – “who knows what lurks in the hearts of men.”)
Much is being made today of bullying, which has taken on even more sinister power through social media. For the majority of us, who have no desire to return to the days of Junior and Senior High School, the reasons include the immense self-doubt that leads to the incredibly cruel culture which sought to create some sense of being “OK” at the cost of someone else. May God have mercy on the kid who was at the bottom of the pecking order! I was never at the top of the pile but I did everything I could to avoid being the kid at the bottom. And in a moment of vulnerability, I will admit that I can still get caught in the emotional maelstrom if I sense I’m the one on the bottom rung.
The 2017 movie “Wonder” is based on the 2012 novel of the same title. The film stars Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Mandy Patinkin, and Daveed Diggs and follows a boy with Treacher Collins Syndrome trying to fit in. I’d never heard of Treacher Collins Syndrome until I watched the movie and looked it up to discover that it is a rare genetic disorder which results in facial deformity. Auggie, played by Jacob Tremblay, underwent twenty-seven surgeries in an attempt to make some functional sense of his face. It is the perfect formula for a kid being on the outside looking in—at the bottom looking up—the one who is the target of the inevitable bullying.
“Wonder” got surprisingly good reviews given that it doesn’t have a complicated plot with unexpected twists and turns. But maybe that is because even the critics can remember being on the receiving end of bullying. And it further rang true for me, because while the kids were a challenge, there is one family that was depicted as particularly despicable. It rang true because I know parents like this.
This is a heart warming tale that is worth watching. I’m really looking forward to being back and sharing a couple of clips and some thoughts on loving neighbor as self. In the meantime, these are three Bible passages I’m reading and thinking about this week:
Psalm 139:13-18 (TEV)
You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart. When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there— you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began. O God, how difficult I find your thoughts; how many of them there are! If I counted them, they would be more than the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.
Psalm 23:1-6 (MSG)
GOD, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (MSG)
Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
Wonder is a 2017 American drama film directed by Stephen Chbosky and written by Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, and Stephen Chbosky, based on the 2012 novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio.