Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Incredibly Close, Along the Way

Tom Avery and Oskar Schell are, in some ways, like you and me. Tom, a successful, yet cynical, sixty-something ophthalmologist, lives in Los Angeles. Oskar, a precocious nine-year-old, lives in Manhattan. Both Tom and Oskar are thrown into crisis: Tom loses his son, Daniel, who had been on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain; and Oskar loses his father in the Trade Towers on September 11, 2001. So Tom goes on pilgrimage to recover his lost son, and Oskar goes on a quest to find the gift he believes his father left behind. Both Tom and Oskar wait longingly for redemption.

You may recognize the two films: The Way and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Both are meaningful to me, for I lost a loved-one, I am on pilgrimage, and I await redemption.

Those films also remind me of Psalm 130, written by someone “on the way” to Jerusalem. The pilgrim is in crisis, for the psalm begins, “Out of the depths I called to you, O Lord.” It’s about waiting: “My soul waits for the Lord / more than watchmen for the morning, / more than watchmen for the morning.” And it’s about redemption: “With [the Lord] there is plenteous redemption, and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins” (Coverdale).

So what happens in these three pilgrim stories, the two films and the psalm? Don’t worry: I’m not going to spoil them for you. I simply want to show their connection to my story and perhaps to your story as well.

It’s no surprise that, when faced with the reality of his estranged son’s death, Tom Avery is drawn to the way that leads to Santiago. He longs to resume Daniel’s quest and to find that which his son had been seeking. Along the way, of course, Tom meets other pilgrims who challenge his space and broaden his perspective. Though Tom tries to push them aside, he is drawn incredibly close to his fellow travelers. Even as he eats and sleeps, often in proximity to his companions, Tom approaches his goal.

Oskar Schell’s search for his father’s gift is even more astonishing. You have to know that Oskar is a lonesome boy, an only child, filled with fears. He may have Asperger syndrome. Yet, prompted by innate curiosity and his father’s charisma, Oskar ventures forth to seek his own Holy Grail. And along the way, of course, Oskar meets other pilgrims who challenge his space and broaden his perspective. Unlike Tom, Oskar welcomes a few people into his life. They enable him to tell his story and express his grief. With each step of this incredibly long journey, Oskar makes pain-filled progress. Even when he reaches a disappointing dead-end, new grace fills his life.

What do we know of the pilgrim in Psalm 130? We know that life dealt him the same sort of hand given to Tom and Oskar. And we know that the poet cried out to God, went on pilgrimage, and waited for redemption. What else do we need to know to follow in this pilgrim’s pathway?

We need to know that the concluding verses of Psalm 130 have been fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ. “Israel, put your hope in the Lord, / for with the Lord is unfailing love / and with him is full redemption. / He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (NIV).

And what of my story? I lost my Father when I left home long ago in the loins of my father Adam. I am the prodigal son. Yet, I have been on pilgrimage my whole life. So Psalm 130 expresses my story. “Out of the depths I called to you, O Lord. My soul waits for the Lord. With him there is plenteous redemption” (Coverdale). I am homeward bound, and my Father waits with open arms.

The Way and Extremely Loud… also express my story. Many stories do that. I’m sure you have discovered a few, along the way, that make your journey meaningful.

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