Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of the movie Ways to Live Forever which is opening this weekend. While blockbuster movies from major movie companies may open in 3,000 theaters at one time, Ways to Live Forever is opening in only eight– so you may not need to bother looking for it at a theater near you. But it is “a charming little independently made movie” says a review in Christianity Today (on-line), which the only place I heard of it. The review by Mark Moring also says:
Its title implies a quest for immortality, but that’s only true in some ways. In others, the central character, a 12-year-old boy (named Sam) dying of leukemia, courageously confronts his inevitable outcome; and he concludes, like John Donne, that though Death may seem “mighty and dreadful,” in the end, “thou art not so.” It’s a sweet piece of cinema that handles a sensitive topic with tenderness and light, with a refreshing spiritual perspective that is neither saccharine nor overly sentimental.
The review goes on to describe the main characters and a bit of the plot. What I found most interesting is the third of three principal threads in the film: Sam’s important questions about death and dying. It is an ever-growing list of what Sam calls ‘Questions Nobody Answers,’ and by the end of the film there are eight. The reviewer says that it is the second question that prompts the movies most insightful exchange. Sam and his friend Felix (also terminally ill) discuss the question “Why does God make children get ill?” I again quote the review:
Felix proposes two answers: One, that God doesn’t exist, or two, that God is evil and tortures kids for fun. Sam counters: “Or three, he’s like a Big Doctor. He makes people ill so he can make them better people, to make them less selfish.” Felix shoots back: “Four, there is no reason.” Sam considers this, and then has the last word: “Five, there is a reason, but we’re too stupid to understand it.” Wow.
I also say “Wow.” Imagine that!– rather than shaking his fist in God’s face, Sam admits that we may not see everything and may not know everything. That is pretty good theology for a movie! Christians may disagree on whether or not God actually causes bad things to happen, but all must grant that God allows little children to get sick and die. Either way, we are left with a huge ‘WHY?’ Sam has the humility and the wisdom to say, “I don’t know why, but maybe there is more going on here than what I can see.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 — “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Job 38:1-4 — Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.”
Romans 11:33-34 — Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
I Corinthians 3:18-19a — Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.
Isaiah 29:16 — You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?
O Lord, let me not desire health or life, except to spend them for Thee,with Thee, and in Thee. Thou alone knowest what is good for me; do, therefore, what seems best to Thee. Give to me, or take from me; conform my will to Thine; and grant that, with humble and perfect submission, and in holy confidence, I may receive the orders of Thine eternal providence; and may equally adore all that comes to me from Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. –Blaise Pascal (1623-1662))