Sunday, September 11, 2011


The beginning of wisdom is:
Acquire wisdom;
And with all your acquiring, 
get understanding.
Prize her, and she will exalt you;
She will honor you if you 
embrace her.
She will place on your head a 
garland of grace;
She will present you with a 
crown of beauty. 

Proverbs 4:7-9

We are given two moments from which to grow. Two snapshots. Two drawings. Two memories of inspiration. This is to be a our base. Our origin. Our firm foundation.

The indie-superhero flick, Super, starring Rainn Wilson impregnates its protagonist from scene one with these two pillars of truth. Frank D'Arbo is a pathetic man who has the poor misfortune of not being particularly bright, being incessantly socially awkward, and the worst of the lot, being perceptively aware of his personal shortcomings. He is a man who's life experience has taught him to think lowly of himself. From the getgo, we generously pity him for his lot in life. But at least he has his two foundations...

Frank tells us of his bedrock. He has two happy memories; two moments where he felt important, two moments in which he felt empowered by purpose. I would add that these are two moments of grace felt.
  • Moment One: His wedding day. Frank loves his wife. He seems to have this understanding that she is a perfect, immaculate creature that he really has no right to be with. He sees her as vastly beyond him. It is an infinite grace that such a beautiful creature would care to love such a man as him. 
  • Moment Two: Frank helps an Officer of the Law get his man. Frank plays a role in establishing justice on this earth, if only for an instant.
Wanting to be daily encouraged, Frank draws these two moments onto a couple pieces of paper and tapes them to the wall. To remember. To be edified. To be renewed by the reassurance that the world has shown him favor. Frank has known love, and been loved in return.

For her profit is better than 
the profit of silver
And her gain better than 
fine gold.
She is more precious than
And nothing you desire
compares with her.

Proverbs 3:14-15

Now the inciting incident. Sarah, Frank's bastion of grace, his beautiful bride, is lured into a drug addictive relationship with heroin and its dealer, Jacques, played to the max by Kevin Bacon.

Frank falls into ruin. His foundation is rocked. His great gift is taken away.

*Here, a few thoughts about the film's execution before mulling over the themes therein... 
Super is a twisted film. From my perspective, it doesn't know what it has. It too badly wants for cross-pollination of genres when it should have been played with much less pomp. To depict with example: at various times in the film, we are given cartoon-interstitials. The characters are depicted through comic book antics. This is galvanizing, creating a second reality -- one that breaks from the story to comment on the evolution of the superhero genre in pop culture. I mention this to the shame of the film. Anyway... I am distracted...

Half of his self-worth suddenly catapulted away from him, Frank cries a desperate and honest and sad and self-centered and remarkable prayer:

God, please guide me. Tell me what to do. I hate you god!... I'm sorry I said that. It just seems so unfair god. Other people have goodness, they have good things, they have love and tenderness, people who care about their lives. Not humiliated at every turn. Other people have things God, even the starving children in Africa, even their parents love them. Why was I so unlucky, to have my soul born into this disgusting me? This ugly face, this hair, this hair that doesn't comb, and this dumb idiotic personality? 
[Sobbing] Other people stare at me god, I can tell. They are amazed at how something so stupid and idiotic can even exist! Why am I that? Please. God. I just want this one thing, I'll ask for one thing, I'll never ask for anything ever again. Please. Let Sarah be my Sarah again. 
A sobering prayer; one not that distinct from desperate moments I myself have exuded to my Lord. 

Frank is given a vision, one that will leverage his other bedrock (helping manifest justice); he is to become The Crimson Bolt. He is to become a superhero.

Until the final scene of the film, the rest of the film is fairly predictable (except maybe the realistic bloodiness and consequences of dolling out hand-wrenched violent wrath). The film's climax involves Frank's inevitable assault on Jacque's property and the saving of his lost bride. From there, however, we fade to the moment of Frank's story. Again we find him sobbing in his room... but this time, his eyes run with tears of joy. He is alone, but he now has not merely two, but dozens of drawings of happiness from his life. The movie ends with his voice-over:
So maybe you think something's wrong with me. Maybe you thought I was gonna learn what Jacques said was true. That I was deluded. That I was as evil as the rest of them. But maybe you're the one that needs to learn something. I know how it looks. But sometimes how it looks, and how it is, are two different things. The truth was in my heart. I followed it. And I saved Sarah.
She stayed with me a couple months. They were not bad times. Though they were most likely out of Sarah's sense of obligation. But one morning, she moved on. I thought it was me at the time, that I was the chosen one. But it was Sarah, all along. And that's why I needed to save her. She needed to finish school, to study anthropology, because Sarah knows something about people. She needed to go back to her meetings, where she had insights that struck others uniquely. And sometimes she needed to have nightmares of those ugly times at Jacques' ranch. Because a kind man, a man who was good and didn't know it, needed to learn how to comfort someone. And maybe, most of all Sarah needed to have Patrick, and Trevor, and Laura, and Joy. Four children who probably wouldn't be at all if Libby and I hadn't gone to Jacques' ranch that night. Maybe, if all of us are lucky, they're the ones who are gonna change the world.

My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,
Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding;
For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2:1-5

Once, long ago, I heard a sermon on the sufficiency of Scripture. One cannot easily argue with such a lesson. Yes. The Biblical canon is sealed. It is complete for telling the story of redemption history. Yes. But what does this word, sufficiency, mean? What does it imply? To be satisfied, for me, conjures up the image of being full. I need not eat anymore when I feel as such. Truly, I have not even the desire to ingest more. More food would lead to suffering. Is that how Scripture is sufficient? 

How did John the Revelator receive his vision?  He tells us simply enough: I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet... Revelation 1:10. That voice proceeded from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whilst in the Spirit, the Lord spoke to John.

Do we not have access to this God of ours in similar fashion? Of course we do. If we claim relationship with God, then we claim progress, no?

In a romantic relationship, does not each person desire to know more and more of the other? Does not the bond grow deeper with every discussion, every minor revelation? Is it ever sufficient? I would gander to say it is both sufficient and yet unsatisfactory all at once. Are not all things of this nature in tension?

Paul tells us that all of creation groans. That includes us. We should be groaning, for the church's bridegroom, our great Redeemer, our Boaz, our Father and the One in which we are fulfilled wholly in, is not yet fully known. His kingdom is not yet fully realized. We are not yet in His utter presence.

And yet with each day we can grow more intimate with Him, no? I think so. I think that is how the Ghost works in our lives. I think.

Why is wisdom and knowledge and truth and beauty so impressed upon the reader in Proverbs? Why was God so impressed by Solomon's asking for wisdom? Because in these things lies the fabric of the character of God.

There can exist a laziness in the Church. There can exist a sickness among us. I, often, find myself falling victim to it. It exists as this: the perception that we know God well enough.

Think of the Jews of Jesus' earthly ministry. How could they have anticipated how the Savior would come? Granted, the scriptures prophecy so much of what Christ was to do, but yet, the full measure of how God chose to save us remained hidden. We expected a warrior king, someone who would physically free Judah from her natural oppressors. We got a servant. We got a sacrificial lamb. We got God's blood on our hands. Who could have predicted it? Who could have fathomed such a story beforehand?

God is too big for us to fully understand. I write this smiling. It's a great, awe-full thing for Him to be as such. We can never fully know. The implication of that fact then stands that we can forever be learning more. We can forever grow closer to Him. We can forever want more. We can forever be hungry.

Frank D'Arbo had only two drawings. He loved those memories. He clung to these instances of grace. But he, in his heart of hearts, longed for more. I think so should we.

God has blessed me beyond any means by which I can measure. Still, I shall ask for more, confident that in my seeking, I will be set ablaze in awe, glimpsing more and more of the God whom I am just beginning to love. The God who loves me so.

Chapter 8 of Proverbs takes a bizarre turn. Wisdom herself takes form, and speaks to her own being:

The Lord possessed me at the 
beginning of His way,
Before His works of old. 
From everlasting I was established,
From the beginning, from the
earliest times of the earth.
When there were no depths
I was brought forth,
When there were no springs
abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills I was brought forth;
While He had not yet made 
the earth and the fields,
Nor the first dust of the world. 
When He established the heavens,
I was there,
When He inscribed a circle on
the face of the deep,
When He made firm the skies above,
When the springs of the deep became fixed,
When He set for the sea its bounday
So  that the water could not transgress
His command,
When He marked out the 
foundations of the earth;
Then I was beside Him, 
as a master workman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
Rejoicing in the world, 
His earth,
And having my delight in the son of men.

Now therefore, O sons, listen to me,
For blessed are they who keep my ways.
Heed instruction and be wise,
And do not neglect it.
Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at my doorposts.
For he who finds me finds life
And obtains favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 8:22-35

1 comment:

  1. Postscript: One of the more fascinating moments in THE SHACK was the encounter with the woman 'wisdom'. The anthropomorphism of wisdom in Proverbs creates a confusion for me of identity. If she is given an identity, then who exactly is she, since she was here before creation? Could she be another personage of God? Number 4? OOOOOOooooOOOOoooo....