Once again, while flipping channels this afternoon, I ran across the movie Signs. I’ve talked about that movie in previous iterations of my blog, but today something different struck me, and it seemed worth writing about, so here goes.
I’ve said before that Signs isn’t about aliens, it’s about faith. But more specifically, it’s about having faith in a personal God who intervenes in our lives.
I’d say as an Episcopalian priest, Mel Gibson’s character had faith in God prior to the death of his wife. Where that faith fell short was when God “failed” to personally intervene and prevent his wife from being killed in a freak accident. He lost his faith so quickly, and so completely, because a God that isn’t personally involved in our lives is basically a moot point.
I know many people who say they believe in a vague, impersonal concept of God. But I don’t know any people who say that belief has had an actual impact on their lives, for better or worse.
In the movie, Reverend Graham loses his faith after his wife dies as the result of an unlikely string of coincidences. It seems clear (to him) that his wife’s death is a meaningless, random accident; convincing him that if there is a God up there, He doesn’t bother to intervene on behalf of His servants.
Towards the end of the movie, all these odd, random threads that have been strung throughout the plot begin gaining relevance. The climax of the plot is when coincidence builds upon coincidence until it would take more faith to believe there isn’t a higher power who is personally involved in seeing that everything works out for the best, than to believe otherwise. The glasses of water everywhere in the house, the brother with the powerful swing who is now living there, his son’s asthma, and his wife’s final words, all come together in one moment of meaning and significance.
Suddenly, Reverend Graham’s logic is turned inside out. A string of unlikely coincidences led to his wife’s death. But his son is spared, thanks to an even more unlikely set of coincidences, many of which were contingent upon his wife’s death. He realizes the limitedness of his own powers of perception and recognizes that God may have seen what he couldn’t. But more importantly, he realizes that God does get involved. He does intervene on our behalf. There is Someone up there looking out for us.
For a person who lives in “the Bible belt” and doesn’t get out a great deal, I get the opportunity to talk about my faith to people who don’t share it, and are curious an awful lot. What I hear in their questions is this unspoken question: “Maybe there’s a God and maybe there isn’t. What I really want to know is why it should matter to me?” In their lives they’ve had pain and suffering, because we’ve all had pain and suffering. People like to talk about transcendence and enlightment, and how suffering is just a product of attachment, but I think those statements are another way of dealing with the same aching, painful question: Why do I suffer? If there’s a God, and He’s powerful enough to create the universe, why doesn’t He protect me?
Deep down, we’re all six-year-olds knocked down by a bully in the playground, wondering where our Parent was. Wondering why and how he or she dropped the ball and let us get hurt.
If I wanted to, I could probably give all kinds of reasonable, rational apologetics for why I
believe in the God of Israel and his Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah. There are all kinds of cool books just chock full of neat, historical and archaeological tidbits and evidence.
But I know that none of those things are the reason I believe, and none of them could make me believe or disbelieve.
I believe, because like Reverend Graham, and Job, and a billion other people, I have stood toe-to-toe with God and demanded an answer to that six-year-old question. And like Reverend Graham and Job, I didn’t have to wait long for an answer that knocked me to my knees. I believe because God is personal. Because He has always been involved, intimately, in my life; I just had to believe in order to open my eyes and see it. And once I saw it, it was too much to deny. Humbling. Freeing. Life-changing.