Last night I went to see Ben-Hur, the bloodiest movie I think I’ve ever seen. It was far worse than Friday the 13th or any of the warped bloodfests I pretended to tolerate but was really disgusted by as a teenager. Ben-Hur is not a movie I’d recommend for children and not one I think I’d see again. At the same time, I am very glad I did see it.
In some ways, I wish I had just read the book and skipped the movie. I’m a writer so you can probably guess that books hold a special place in my heart. In fact, if I were to become a hoarder you’d probably find me tunneling through stacks of books I’d hoped to get to one day even while I knew there’d never be enough time to devour all I’d want to experience and learn through the writings of others.
But I’m getting off track. I would have preferred the book because, when a book becomes too much, when the suffering of the one involved becomes too great as in the case of A Child Called It or Bonhoffer or the retelling of the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ (See the Gospel of John 17 – 19), one can modify images the words put into one’s head so they are less harsh, so they are not as graphic as reality suggests they were. When all else fails and our minds cannot turn off the suffering, we can always put the book down for a bit and walk away. We can decide when we are ready to come back and find the happy ending we hope awaits.
When you go to a movie, you can’t do that. You see on screen violence and suffering and evil, and you must sit and watch the whole thing or disturb others, walk out of the theater and not return to catch what you hope will be a happy ending.
Leaving without ever getting that happy ending is even worse than staying through the blood baths. It provides no closure and a continuing of suffering in your mind as it replays what you saw and never what finally happened. It gives you no closure.
As I sat there on my nicely cushioned seat with the a/c keeping us all comfortably cool wishing I was almost anywhere but in that theater watching the blood spew across the screen, I drew parallels to life marriage and family, divorce and recovery.
Ben-Hur the Movie & Real Life
Life is, in some ways, more like a movie than a book. You cannot simply turn off images of destruction when they appear before you. In fact, in many cases, the most horrific, tragic events in your life replay themselves over and over repeating endlessly in your mind. Remembered scenes of mistreatment and abuse, harsh words and scathing looks are everywhere. They even invade your quiet times, forming behind your eyelids when you close them in the hope of finding refuge in sleep at the end of a long and trying day.
What’s worse is that you cannot get up and walk away from your life when things go badly. You are trapped, held prisoner by people and circumstances, unjust laws imposed by those with perhaps well-meaning hearts but inept capabilities. It is not their fault. It is the system. No one but God has the power to heal a broken family, a shattered heart, a love unreturned.
One of the hardest things to face is that the tragedy of your life may seem never ending. You have to go through the day to day monotony of sameness, of sadness, of relentless questioning. There may seem to be no light at the end of the tunnel. You wonder when will this ever end.
Leaving Your Theater in Real Life
Sure, there are some who will get up and walk away. Perhaps that same feeling of “When will this ever end?” is what led your spouse to leave. Perhaps it is not the big blood baths but all the little scrapes and trip-ups along the way that led your spouse to leave the theater. Perhaps there are days you understand how your spouse feels and wish you could do the same.
There are some who will say, “I’ve had enough. I deserve to be happy.” They will pick up the pieces and walk from the theater that is their lives. They will leave before the movie is over and they will be unable to return. They will not stick it out until their mountain is climbed. They will not get to stand on the summit and look out at the view. They will never get to inhale the crisp air at the top. They will never get to look out and see how beautiful all those hills and valleys are when they are put together. They will never get to see the Son descend from the skies and touch sacred places within. They will never get to see the happy ending that awaits if only they continued a few more steps.
They quit believing the scenes to be too bloody, too hurtful, too beneath them. They will leave before seeing that their suffering is nothing compared to those in the boat with them and that the best way to get out of the suffering is to row together. They will not see that abandoning ship does not free them at all, but enslaves them in different, often worse, ways.
The failure rate for second and third marriages is very high, especially when those second marriages are begun through an affair. There is logic behind that. When a person leaves his or her marriage, it shows the person cannot stick it out, that the person has an inability to find hope when in the valleys or when struggling uphill to get to a peak. It shows the person is incapable of unconditional love. It shows the person who never gets to look upon the view and see how it all fits together beautifully.
It shows the person who subconsciously craves a happy ending but lacks the will in the moment needed to stay to the end of the show.
This person sometimes lashes out at others, especially those who were closest to him or her because of frustration and anger at not being able to reach the happiness they crave and because of hurting deep within the soul. It is confusing and painful for the abandoned to deal with, and the desire to lash out in kind is fierce in some while the desire to cower and collapse in self-pity and doubt is almost overwhelming in others, but neither is what we are called to do.
We are called to find Joy in every moment. We are called to stand strong and courageous. We are called to put on the breastplate of God.
And we are called to love our neighbor.
Because, no matter how badly we are treated, we must have Mercy on those who leave the theater without waiting to find the happy ending they crave.
Be Strong. Wait for Your Happy Ending.
Your happy ending is coming. If you are alone, if you are scared, if you are persecuted, stick it out. Do not lose your faith. Keep your eyes on God. Climb your mountains. See how it all fits together, those hills and valleys.
Don’t leave your theater before your role is done.
Look for your happy ending in this life and even more so in the eternal life.
SIDE NOTE: If you are being abused, you also have a responsibility to protect yourself and your children. Abuse, real abuse is nothing to be trifled with. Get out and get help. You don’t need to end your Marriage, but you cannot stay when you are endangered. You especially are in my prayers so often. May you use God’s power and the Holy Spirit to give you courage and willpower and keep you safe. You are NOT alone!
Please also join me for my next post, Ben-Hur the Movie & the Enslavement of You, by going here.
And if you’re looking for family friendly, faith-based movies you can watch any time, check out PureFlix, a Christian alternative to what mainstream media shoots into our homes. Purchasing PureFlix through SingleMomSmiling also pays me a small commission. 🙂
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