The Truman Show: Freedom Outside the Cage

TrumanshowRecently I watched the Truman show on Film 4 and I was struck by how much it was telling me about their view of the Creator.

The God role of Christof (Christ?!) the creator has a booming voice from the sky and he has Truman in a giant dome of ignorance while he watches and even controls him. On top of that the film makes us ask the question: “what is true reality and what is true freedom”? And can we get any of that with God or without Him?

As Christof says, “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.”

Those growing up in religion or those believing in God simply accept the reality they are presented and they never question it. We may feel that God is just like Christof who keeps Truman in a cage through lies and watches his every move like Big Brother. And this cage is the safe place, outside the cage is the sickness;

“I have given Truman the chance to lead a normal life. The world, the place you live in, is the sick place.”

At the end of the film, the Creator speaks to Truman from the Moon. He is cold and distant and Truman decides he has had enough and wants to go on an adventure outside of the Truman bubble. He seeks truth and reality away from his creator.

And the Creator loses his star and the whole of the Truman show collapses. Once the truth is discovered there is now freedom and no need to live in a cage and no need for the Creator. But the question is still there:

The_Truman_Show2Will Truman find true freedom and life outside the Truman show?

It is interesting that they portray this view of God. And I think many people can resonate with Truman. They see God as an old man in the sky. With a white flowing beard and wearing a glowing robe. He has a booming yet distant voice. He hides in the sky, far away and shouts commands to his creation.

And often Christians see God like this, a cold and distant being hiding in the clouds.

It’s odd because not even in the Old Testament is God like this. Straight away the Lord in Genesis 3 is walking in the garden. He eats and talks with Abraham (Genesis 18) he speaks to Hagar (Genesis 21), he speaks to Moses face to face (Exodus 33) etc..

Ed Harris The Truman ShowWhat’s more, there is no solitary being alone in the clouds, but there is a unity of three. Father, Son and Spirit who dance together and who interact with their creation in a personal way right from the start.

Most importantly, the Son becomes flesh and walks among us. He walks around in the world, the “sick place” as Christof calls it, and he touches, talks to, eats with, heals, forgives and loves the sick people. The Trinity is no distant God.

The Sent One walks in and among the sickness of the world and brings hope, healing and salvation.

We are right to reject Christof as a portrayal of the Christian God. If you disliked him and the world he created, if you yearn for finding truth outside the cage, then I agree with you.

But the cage isn’t the world of the Trinity, or the life in the Son. The cage is always outside of Christ, a place of darkness and sin. Christ beckons us to find Truth and reality in Him, not outside of Him. He allures us to find life and love in him, not anywhere else. And he doesn’t call us from a distant far off cloud, he calls us by walking with us in our darkness and shame and he carries us and shines a light in the darkness.

There is no life in the creator Christof, there is only a cage that this one person creator can offer Truman. A cage of rules and camera’s and lies and control. That is not a place we want to be and thankfully our God offers ever-lasting life in the Son and in Him is freedom.

1998_the_truman_showSo will Truman find true freedom and life outside the Truman show?

A resounding yes to this question, but only if he turns to Christ. If he turns to the world and the idols of the world then he will find himself in another cage with an idol that is perhaps more destroying then the first.

And so if you find you are feeling a bit like Truman, like you are in a cage and your view of God is like that of Christof. Then run to Christ. Don’t run to the world, it wont offer you what you heart truly needs.

You need to run to Christ and find freedom outside the cage.

Collection of Webs: April

Here is a monthly collection of webs where I share with you what I have been reading on blogs, articles, books and what I have been watching or listening to. If you have missed any collection of webs this year you can find them all on this page.

Blogs Posts from friends:

Bryony writes about her Church Youth Weekend away: If you have Jesus, then you have everything you need for life. Not just today, not just in this moment, but for your whole life. (Amen to that!)

I am currently studying 2 Timothy with Bish at the moment, so it’s always great to see him blog about it. Here is a cracking post about maturity: “Wisdom is chewy.
Wisdom is slow-cooker.”

Emily unpacks the story of Elijah when he stops to rest under the broom tree. Its a great little post to encourage you!: “I know the journey is too great for you. Here, eat this, and drink a little of this water.’

Mike Shaw writes about students and their final year exams, an encouraging post in a season of exams and anxieties for students: “So as many students enter their final year, their priority has to be cross shaped, not exam shaped.”

Tanya wrote an amazing and challenging post on Disability living allowance in the UK. This is certainly worth a read: “It is plain misleading, and the truth of what is happening is being buried under debates about Wizard of Oz songs in the charts.”

Blog Posts Out There:

An article about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s daughter and her battle with depression: “Christians who suffer from depression find themselves “suffering quietly and in fear of what their friends would say”, she said.”

What happens when you really disconnect? “By the end of nine days, I felt empowered and enriched. With my brain quieter, I was able to take back control of my attention.”

Pam writes about Naming the Top: “I’m sure Jesus mentioned something about arguing who is the greatest”

David Murray writes I’d rather be a godly administrator than an ungodly minister: “You spend your week filing papers, printing reports, chasing up bad debts, putting stamps on envelopes. Then you go to church on Sunday and you see a man leading hundreds in worship and prayer, and preaching inspiring sermons. It’s pretty obvious who’s pleasing God most isn’t it?”

Books:

I finished reading Life of Pi! Which I really enjoyed, I haven’t seen the film yet but I really want to! I think its such a clever book and lots of themes can be drawn out from it!

I’m now reading Cloud Atlas which is a fun and really different book. I am only a quarter of the way through but I think all the lives of different people will link together throughout the book!

I’m also reading Serving without Sinking by John Hindley which has been an encouraging read. Its been focusing me back onto Christ which is certainly what I need!

In the Garden:

We have started gardening this year. Already planted: Carrots, potatoes, garlic, broccoli and leeks in the raised beds. In the green house we have Aubergines, Peppers and Tomatoes! Already some of the potatoes and garlic are showing leaves above ground which is very exciting!! I hope to give you updates on these as the year goes by.

Posts on my blog:

Stewarding, Strife and Smiles: My account of the challenges of stewarding at a conference.

Two Years of Marriage: What I have learnt in my marriage so far.

Introverts at a Conference: How an introvert can survive going to a conference!

Black Mirror: The Entire History of You

entirehistory Imagine if you had a perfect memory. Imagine if you could store in your mind every moment and every conversation you have ever had. You wouldn’t forget anything, you would never lose your keys and if there was a moment that you wanted to watch over and over again you could easily do that.

In Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: The Entire History of You, we are taken into a world where memories are stored on a hard drive in your brain (by a device behind your ear) and you can project those memories on the TV screen for all to see like an episode of Eastenders. This gadget seems like a perfect device for CSI – you can look at people’s past events and see whether they are lying or not. Employers can see your past events to see if your life matches up with your words. Your entire history can be accessed in extreme detail. It seems bliss and this episode shows successful young people in beautiful houses exhorting this technology for laughter and pleasure. But there is a darker side.

The protagonist, Liam, starts to become paranoid about his wife. He has doubts about her faithfulness to him so he goes back over and over situations they are in. He rewinds and plays moments over and over again. The truth unfolds to show that she is unfaithful. He makes her play those moments of the affair. These memories are stuck in his head.

Play. Pause. Rewind. Play…Repeat

The most horrific moment on constant repeat. Sounds terrible. The only relief and salvation is to remove the device from the brain. The only way to forgive and move on is to erase the memories altogether.

This happens in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The main characters Joel and Clementine want to erase their memories of their relationship – it becomes too painful to carry on with those memories so the best way to deal with it is to get rid of those memories and start again.

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned.Alexander Pope

erasemeIt sounds like the perfect salvation. Imagine being hurt and having that constant memory stuck in your head, going around and around interrupting your sleep. The best way to deal with it is to get rid of the memory. Pretend it never happened.

“Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Black Mirror challenges us on how we leave an entire history of ourselves on the internet, with our e-mails, bank accounts, facebook and photos. Everyone can see them, our history is displayed to see. Yet if something or someone upsets us, well lets just erase it, lets just delete that friend, lets just untag ourselves. Simple.

Except it really isn’t. We are creatures that often cling to the hurt and pain of memories instead of the good and truthful ones. Just reading the Old Testament  shows how forgetful Gods people are to His goodness and salvation. In my own life its easy to remember the hurt and pain of a remark or a friendship breaking down – it runs deep and raw. It would better to just pretend they never existed. But in reality that won’t ever heal your heart.

There is something of forgiveness that brings a great balm to our souls and memories. If we could just erase memories, I wonder if it would truly remove the heartache, would it truly heal the ache or just bring about emptiness? Sin runs deeper than memories, it’s a sickness of the heart and the painful memories are often a reminder of the need of salvation. True salvation is not simply forgetting or erasing the memory or hurt, but true salvation is forgiveness and love piercing through those memories and hurts and healing the heart.

“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”
Lewis B. Smedes

Just look at how Jesus forgives. He knows all our sins, all our idolatry and hate crownofthornestowards him and yet while we were still enemies he dies for us. A forgiveness that runs deep into the heart and gives us hope for the future. It can only be satisfied on the cross.

What Liam needed in this episode was not his memories erased, but he needed the cross – the place of true forgiveness where memories of hurt and pain run loud and clear and yet in spite of that they are covered in blood bringing forth a healing forgiveness and love. If we simply forget those moments of painful memories then we will never learn forgiveness, we will only seek a numbing half lived life where we carve out all the best and good bits. It’s the struggles, the pain, the brokenness that brings us to the cross and teaches us about true love, healed hearts and restored relationships.

He sings over you

I have recently been watching the X Factor and it’s currently the auditions, which is my favourite part of the program! Some acts can really make you cringe and curl up into a ball and wonder why their friends and family didn’t tell them that they were not right for this audition. You also get the amazing acts, the ones that look the part and can act in the right way, they shine out with their hair style and rustic voice and they have winner stamped on their forehead.

But then you get the ones that come on stage and they don’t look the part, their hair is wrong, their body shape isn’t right and their clothes are not up to date or fit in with the style of our culture. They come onto stage quite shy and out-of-place. The judges look at them and glaze over, they sigh and already resign to the idea that this person is going to be terrible. The audience sniggers, points and smirks. They whisper: “Who do they think they are coming on stage like that? They don’t belong here.”

Then it happens. The shy, out-of-place guy or girl opens their mouths and the most beautiful sound comes out. It makes the whole theatre go into a deep silence as ears are being washed with the most delicate and heart wrenching song that they will ever hear. Their hearts melt and transforms their opinions of this person. The judges gaze open-mouthed and wondered how they could have been so wrong about this person. And the person singing is swept up in the moment, singing like a bird in flight, and allowing everyone to see the true beauty that was masked. This is one of my favourite moments in the competition. I love it because it makes me think about my own heart and the heart of Christ.

When that person come on stage I judge them. In my heart I wonder why they are there – they don’t look the part, they look messy, weak and out-of-place. It reminds me how often I treat others, how I judge them from first impressions, appearances and what people say about them. My cruel heart deems them unworthy and I wonder why they are in church and I wonder if they are really a christian if they don’t serve as hard as everyone else does or questions the teaching from the preacher when everyone else is silent.

Then some days I am like that weak, shy person on stage. With the spotlights on me and I look a mess and feel helpless and weak and everyone is judging me – they judge what I do, what I say, how I say it, how I serve, how I spend my time etc Just the same way as I judge them really. We all like to think we don’t and we all like to think we get up on stage as spotless perfect people but we don’t.

The reality is that when that person or I get on stage we are all the same – messed up, weak, broken, hurt, sinful and we don’t look the part, no matter how hard we try to dress up and cover our stench with the latest thing. And you know what? Even when we try to sing, try to speak what comes out isn’t what happens on X Factor, we don’t turn heads like those guys do on TV. No its much worse – our voice is flat and trembles. Instead something remarkable happens; as we stand on stage someone else stands with us and he sings for us. He sings over us. Jesus sings the most beautiful song for his wife, covers her shame and guilt, he soothes her wounds and her comforts her hurts. The song he sings is one of the cross – he died for her and rose to life so that she could one day stand on that stage clothed in him and be one with him.

If I am the person on the stage, I can do nothing but cling to Jesus, knowing I can’t do this without him, knowing that I will fail unless he does it for me. And if I am the person judging then it reminds my heart that this person is loved and cherished by Jesus more than I realise and I have no place to think I am better than they are. Not when he has clothed them with his blood soaked garments. And the ironic thing is that I too have been clothed in Christ and yet I forget that as I sit in the shadows passing remarks and thoughts that are damaging to the other person. Christ loves me and if I really thought about it, I would be amazed that Jesus would love such a terrible sinner. And Christ loves you, no matter what you look like, how you feel, your weakness and how messy you are. He loves you.

*Just as an aside, I know that singing and the X factor stage isn’t the greatest or strongest analogy of the cross and being one with Christ. But I hope you understood where I was coming from and got the point I was making.

The Christian Rat Race

I have been thinking about a few things recently over the holiday and so this may seem a bit jumbled. But I have been thinking about how our culture is very driven and full of vision and success and how the church sometimes reflects that. I go to a fair amount of christian conferences and listen to teaching and have been a part of various churches and vision is good. I work with students I want them to capture the vision which is to give every student on campus an oppertunity to hear about Jesus. I like this vision, to me its simple (although can be difficult and hugely challenging) but I like this because it comes about in different forms – evangelistic talks, seeker bible studies, meals, coffee chats, random questions at tea and toast. Its great fun and the vision is for every student on campus to meet Jesus and I want people to meet Jesus.

But when it comes to church it seems to become really tricky, I hear lots of other visions and some visions I don’t really understand and most of them are about becoming a better, successful, bigger church. Where we strive for perfect and better Sunday mornings and we paint this grand image of ourselves for the city to see and soon the church is a big machine, running along with its programmes and visions and targets. And there is a place for that and CU and church are different – I know that! But what I have been really thinking about is where do the weak, the poor, the sick and the suffering, the widows and the ones clinging to a thread – where do they fit in? You would say to me that they should be taken under the wing of the church and carried along – yet often I don’t see that. I have seen those on the fringes being hurt by inner circles and those who are sick and suffering who just can’t keep up the pace of church/christian life that’s being painted which leads them to be left behind.

I have been really thinking about these people and they aren’t abstract – they have names and some of them are my friends. Those who feel very much left behind and not able to keep up with the big machine and its vision casting. And it is so easy to get caught up with it too and just think of the end result and think of those that are weak and ill as people who are holding us back – dead weight. I wonder what Jesus would think of that?

I love how Jesus says this: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28

Jesus calls the sick, heavy laden, the weak and helpless. He is calling sinners to himself and promises rest. I love how through the OT and NT the heart of the Lord is always for the weak, helpless, widow, sick and poor just like here:

“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” Lev 23v22

He never forsakes them, when they come hungry to him he gives them food. He doesn’t say that they should be stronger or they should keep up. He calls them to come to him and he will give them rest. I guess I love this because he never forsakes me.

Yet our culture is so opposite to this, where the sick and poor are problems that should be got rid of and sometimes as christians we can get caught up in this idea and its displayed for the world to see. Its challenged me, how am I going to help those who are sick and poor in my church, my christian friends and along my street? It may mean stepping down from the christian rat race and step away from the inner circle and not be caught up in what ever vision is happening this week. It may mean stopping and slowing down and listening and offering Jesus so that they may have rest. It may mean actually caring for people instead of worrying about targets and numbers. Those are just some of my thoughts and I would love to hear what you think.

Adverts, Stories and a Saviour

Our culture is constantly sending out messages. Everything we read and watch is a canvas littered with ideas and visions they want to tell us. Either to make us buy something or to believe something. For Christians I have mainly seen two responses to culture:

1. Blindly take it in – we sit and we consume. We flick on the TV and open our minds and allow the images and words to flit in and out while not really paying attention to it. I think most people do this, not just Christians.

2. We blindly reject it – We reject the culture and deem it as evil without engaging or understanding it. This happens quite a lot, you hear a few influential people say something is bad and it catches like wild-fire and you end up agreeing with them without thinking about it yourself. This can often create a Christian sub-culture, where we reject the cultures films, music and clothes and come up with our own christian movies, music and wrist bands… (there is obviously conscience and wisdom here, if something isn’t helpful or causing you to stumble then reject it and there are some things that need to be rejected straight away – like porn)

I think if we are leaning towards either extreme than it’s not good, the middle ground is no better either. What we need is Christians engaging with the culture and the messages that they see. Just like paul in Acts 17 where he looks around and engages with the people in the market place and he engages with the thinkers and he uses their own culture and poetry to show them who God really is. We have an amazing message and an amazing person to speak about and funny enough it’s what everyone is really searching for, culture screams out for the need of a saviour and so do your non christian friends.

The most obvious place I see this is on TV. And they are called adverts. All adverts are screaming that you need a saviour! Think about what adverts are saying:

You have bad breath, bad teeth, ugly skin, you are getting old, your clothes are terrible, you are fat and you don’t have any friends…

They are telling you that you are in a bad situation and you need help, you need a saviour to get out of that situation! and what is their solution?

Buy this toothpaste to have fresh breath and amazing teeth that will sparkle and glow in the dark… Put on these lotions and potions to make you youthful and attractive. Wear these clothes that will make your popularity from zero to hero and if you keep to this weight loss programme of eating cardboard you will be super thin! plus if you buy this car you will have the full package – Good looking, young, popular, rich and successful with a gleaming smile.

They are your saviours. You may laugh, but I know I have believed it more than once and I think you probably have too. It is so easy to as well because we can just buy these things or have them as our goal to reach. And I am not saying that you shouldnt look good and have nice smelling breath, but when it becomes all that we want and when we believe what the adverts are saying that these things will make us better people, they will fulfill us and others love us more – then its a problem.

Really when you compare this with Jesus, they really don’t stand up. It sounds so obvious, but my heart forgets it so easily. Does your heart know this? That Jesus is the saviour and that he loves you without any of these products. Do your friends know they can find a better saviour then these products? Have you told them that? Have you told them that their problem is far worse than having bad hair, their greatest problem is not knowing and trusting Jesus?

Jesus is the one that fulfills and never runs out. He is the living water and spring of life that continues to flow out to us. It is good news.

When we find ourselves engaging with culture, we find that the world is crying out for a saviour, a true saviour that will help us out of this mess. It is  in nearly every story that is written – Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Miss Congeniality etc. There is a disaster and then a saviour. But they don’t last or they fail or the story ends. But when we as Christians engage with this we notice that Jesus fulfills that, the Gospel is the ultimate story that we all crave and with this message we can speak truth into the culture around us.

Film [and culture] is a powerful communicator. It speaks to the emotions, the imagination and the mind. It tells a story, but the story it tells can redefine what we believe about the world, the future, even ourselves. It can reinforce or undermine our value system, our moral compass and our spiritual openness. But it is not the creator of the film who has ultimate power over us. We are hardwired to hear the voice of the one who created the filmmaker and the world we live in. We are immersed in the story he is writing, and it is as we read and study the plot synopsis that are our Scriptures, that we will hear Gods voice speaking to us, find resonance with the echoes in our culture, and draw a new generation of people to be part of God’s story. –Krish Kandiah

8 Years Old Today

8 years ago my life was changed. Suddenly there was more to live for, a purpose, a joy and a person. I met Jesus 8 years ago and he changed my life. I wrote my story on Anita’s blog as a guest post. But here it is again, as I thought it would be right to post it again today:

The real pinnacle moment for me was when I was 17 and I encountered Jesus for the first time.  Before that I was never interested in Christianity. I was brought up by atheist parents and thought Christians were a bunch of weird folk that wore sandals and waved flags to cheesy music to a God that didn’t exist. Through my teenage years I often questioned many things about life and thought deeply about things and I realised after a while that I had everything that I could possibly want and what the world deemed to make you happy: success (in good grades and having a job), a boyfriend, friends to go drinking with, partying every weekend etc. What more could a girl want? But thoughts would often race through my mind about how unhappy I was, a blackness buried deep that nothing could soothe or make sense of.

Until one day I met a Christian and a Christian who was different to everyone else and didn’t seem like the cheesy Christian I was expecting. This friend soon began talking about Jesus and she gave me some Christian music to listen to, which led her to inviting me to a Christian music event which completely changed my life!

So here I was at this event surrounded by Christians and listening to some good music, suddenly there was a break in the music and a guy got up and started to speak. This really caught my attention, this guy started to talk about Jesus but it wasn’t the Jesus I had heard of before. The Jesus I had heard about was some 2000 year old guy on the cross which resulted in people wearing funny robes and singing badly to 3 chords.

But this guy spoke about Jesus in a different way, a Jesus that was alive now and cared about people and cared about me. After he spoke there was some prayer time and a lady came up and prayed for me (I don’t think she knew I wasn’t a Christian).  She started to tell me things that God was revealing to her about me. This again was a complete shock: she was telling me things that no one knew about and she was telling me what God thought of me. I left that place very confused.

This completely shook my foundations and led me to question a lot of things about my life, Christianity and if there was really a God that loved me.

I started to go to church and hear the Gospel. I also started reading the Bible and it become apparent to me through reading the Bible that it was authentically about Jesus and that actually Jesus was asking me to make a decision to follow him.

But there was a snag. I had been dating a guy for about a year and it was getting serious; however he had no interest in Christianity at all. But I was getting to that point where I was going to become a Christian and I felt deeply that Jesus was asking me to make a choice between going out with this guy and carrying on the path I was on, or dropping everything and follow him.

On April 11th 2004 I made my choice. I broke up with my boyfriend in the morning and went to church in the evening and because it was Easter Sunday there was a wonderful Gospel message with an appeal at the end for people to follow Christ. Except of course, I was scared to go up to the front! And I stayed put until it got to the point where the preacher said “There is still someone here who needs to come up to the front” Well If that wasn’t a sign then I don’t know what is! My legs took me to the front where I gave my life to Christ.

Since then it hasn’t been easy. I don’t think I understood what it meant to follow Jesus until I got to Uni and became a part of the Christian Union there and started hearing more of the Gospel and of who Jesus is. But one thing I have noticed is that I have a security that I never had before, there is no need to strive for what the world calls success when life is found in Jesus, and he shone the light in the darkness which brings such peace!

I went through so many emotions during that year, some spiritual attacks with bad dreams, some fighting with friends and parents about whether I was joining a cult and some just within myself – is this Jesus really real and does he really love me? Yet as I look back now, I know that through those struggles Jesus was always with me and pointing me to the Cross where I glance and see how rubbish I am and then I look again and see how much he loved me and that he would never leave me.