Monday, April 05, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon

"The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." Psalm 118:22

Poor Hiccup. In How To Train Your Dragon, this hapless teenager (voiced by Jay Baruchel) not only has an unfortunate name, but has the least Viking-esqe personality in the middle of a medieval Viking village plagued by dragons.

While most of the other Vikings (old and young) go off and fight the ferocious dragons and save the village from destruction, Hiccup stays behind as an inept apprentice to the blacksmith Gobber (voiced by Craig Ferguson). This poor young man is written off by everyone, including his own father Stoick (Gerard Butler), not to mention his secret crush Astrid (America Ferrera).

If he didn't live on an island, Hiccup would probably run off to someplace he would feel accepted and loved. But unfortunately, he is stuck where he is - which means he must stay and endure the fact that his own people either reject or ignore him every day.

Hiccup reminds me of the countless people we ignore throughout our lives. Whether they be the people who we know but write off and underestimate in our work, school, or community, or the anonymous poor, marginalized, handicapped, elderly, or socially awkward people we pass by on the street or in our daiy encounters, they all are the embodiment of poor Hiccup.

It's easy to write off certain people. If they don't fit in or if we're just too busy for them, we can simply forget they even exist.

Even when Hiccup shoots down a dragon to protect the city, his deeds aren't even believed. How could this inept young man really do that? So he trudges out into the forest to find and kill the dragon, hoping this might prove to the others that he is worthwhile. (this act reminds us of the measures that some people will take to be accepted or even noticed by others in our own time...)

But when confronted with killing the young Night Fury dragon, Hiccup couldn't do it.

He discovered that he couldn't kill the dragan not because he was inept, but because he is compassionate, loving, and empathetic (he later says of the incident, "I saw myself in him"). As he forms a relationship with the dragon, whom he names "Toothless," he finds and builds his confidence and, in so doing, draws the healthy attention of the very people who once rejected him in his village. Instead of resorting to violence, Hiccup taps into his creative energy to help the wounded and to protect others, even those who once persecuted him.

For many of us, we have been on both sides of this situation. At times, we have felt invisible to someone, desperate to get attention and be noticed for who we are. And at other times, we have been guilty of ignoring and rejecting those invisible people, either consciously or unconsciously.

In the Psalms, it is said, "I was hard pressed and falling, but the Lord came to my help... The stone which the builders rejected had become the cornerstone." (Ps. 118:13, 20).

When we feel like Hiccup, "hard pressed and falling," we must steady our sword and not resort to violence or negativity to draw attention. Peace, compassion, love, and gentleness should be our weapons against rejection. And when we feel like the Viking villagers, we must open our eyes to see the "Hiccups" in our midst, for they are the "cornerstone" of God's creation: it was the poor, the rejected, the marginalized, and the outcast that Christ most identified with in his time on earth and the very people he crafted into his church.

Throughout our lives from this point onward, we will again have experiences of feeling alone and rejected; we will also be put into situations where we will again have the opportunity to include or ignore someone else. When faced with these realities, let us remember Hiccup and his compassion to Toothless - and let us remember Christ and how he did not reject anyone and how he forgave those who rejected him.

When we remember that, we will surely make the right choice.

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