Monday, September 06, 2010
Going the Distance
"Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?... You hypocrite!" Matt. 7:3,5a
Going the Distance is a very modern romantic comedy staring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long as Erin and Garrett, two young thirty-somethings who fall for each other and then struggle to maintain a long-distance relationship between San Francisco and New York. Almost too modern.
After seeing the film, I struggled with how messy it was: the excessive drinking, some unnecessary drug use, the frequency of sex and sexual references, the bad and selfish decisions made by the characters, and an ending that left me unsettled. This was not the cute romantic comedy that the previews had advertised - and this disconnect irked me.
But life is messy. While some movies might whisk us away to a more idealized world, there are others like Going the Distance that paint a more down-to-earth picture of society today.
What occurred to me in my reflection on the film was that these are the people and the lives that I have been called to minister and pastorally care for. The story of Erin and Garrett is one which exemplifies the situation of many young adults in the twenty-first century: the difficulty of finding a job, the economic crunch that prevents high spending, the unchecked use of alcohol and drugs, sex as the first step of a relationship (not the last), and the prominence of social networking as a way to build relationships.
Much of the research that has been done on emerging adult culture points to the rise of these situations (see Christian Smith's book, Souls in Transition, or Robert Wuthnow's study, After the Baby Boomers, or check out the essays at http://www.changingsea.org/).
This movie challenged me to see the people beyond the messiness - and perhaps it might be a chance for all of us to look into the eyes of our fellow human beings instead of being blinded by their life choices and our reaction to them.
Jesus made this point when he declared, "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye' while the wooden beam is still in your own? You hypocrite! Remove the beam from your eye first - and then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from someone else." (Matt. 7:3-5)
Instead of judging Erin and Garrett (or for that matter, any real life young adults going through similar circumstances), I need to ask myself: How can I care for and love these men and women instead of quickly condemning them? What unhealthy patterns do I need to realign before I am able to minister to them with humility and love?
And looking outward towards these young adults, what can I do to help those suffering from job loss and economic hardship? Studies are showing that those in their 20s and 30s are being hardest hit from the current recession, more than any other age group. What are we, as Christian disciples, doing to reach out to them? If we are doing nothing, is it any wonder, then, that they resort to the bad habits shown in this film? Is it any surprise that bad decisions are made without any support and guidance that spiritual leaders can otherwise provide?
While some might condemn the rise of technology, this movie showed how social networking helped to keep alive a relationship built on a weak foundation. Online communication allowed Erin and Garrett to go beyond the superficial. Sometimes things got messy (phone sex or misinterpreted conversations), but the dialogue from coast to coast also helped them to discover a real person instead of just a convenient sexual liaison.
Be warned: Going the Distance is not for everyone and it might upset some sensibilities. It is not necessarily the clean, cute comedy one might hope to get from a movie staring Barrymore and Long. But for me, it was a reminder of the reality to which I have been called to serve - and a wake-up call to put aside hypocrisy and look into the struggles and issues that lie deeper than the vices that upset my worldview.
Pray for me that I may continue to be aware of my rush to judgment - and pray for all of us that we may work first on the wooden beam in our own eyes so we can see more clearly the messy yet wonderful world God has placed before us.