My husband and I have just about completed our movie marathon for the season; we have seen almost all of the films nominated for the major Academy Awards. This may be the case most years, but it’s been especially evident to me this year – that most of the highly acclaimed films are true stories. The stories are quite different – from the story of Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” to the story of Chris Kyle in “American Sniper” to the story of the civil rights movement in “Selma” – and many in between. One exception is the movie, “Boyhood,” which is my personal choice for movie of the year. While “Boyhood” is fictional, it certainly could be true. The themes in that movie are ones with which many people can relate.
Most of us don’t think of our lives as being interesting enough for the big screen, but the truth is that we each have a story. One of the privileges of my job is that I often am in the position to hear people’s stories. Lives that may seem unremarkable on the outside often have a depth to them that proves more fascinating the deeper one goes. As I talk with members of this church, I hear stories of heroism – oh, not the kind that makes headlines, but definitely the kind that changes lives. I hear of the heroism of spouses caring for one another in difficult circumstances, and of grandparents raising grandchildren. I hear stories of courage: of people facing the challenges of cancer and other illnesses, of people rising above the despair of grief and loss. I hear stories of sacrifice – of generosity to the church and to family members – much of it done quietly, some of it done anonymously. I always notice the different ways people tell the stories of their lives: some complain, some brag, and some look for the good – finding where it is that God is at work in their lives.
The best movies combine a good story with good acting and good directing. All aspects matter, from the script to the cinematography to the costuming and lighting. While I sometimes enjoy movies “just for the fun of it,” my favorite movies are those that are uplifting, those that exalt what is best about humanity, those that inspire me to be my best self. I choose to see those movies, and I find that their narratives help me think in new ways about the story of my life. We have so many choices in life – choosing which movies to watch is fairly simple. Choosing how to think about the stories of our lives: that’s a choice that really matters.