"...when I became a man, I put aside childish things..." 1 Cor. 13:11
Ted is certainly a raunchy adult comedy veiled in a most unexpected way: through the heartwarming story of an adorable teddy bear come to life one Christmas night.
The movie asks the tongue-in-cheek question of "what would happen if the magic of childhood fantasy continued on beyond adolescence?" When we were kids, many of us probably imagined our toys coming to life or being enveloped in a reality where all our childhood dreams came true. Movies had been and continue to be made on this premise - but Ted wonders "then would would really happen next?"
In this parable, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a young adult who once received his wish: his beloved teddy bear came to life to keep him company when no one else would, and to comfort him when things got rough. That same bear, though, is still around - all grown up alongside his human buddy John.
What we see is that in the intervening years, Ted (voiced as an adult by Seth MacFarlane) has enabled John to fulfill all his fantasies, including the ones where hard work and commitment can be avoided in lieu of rest, relaxation, and fun.
Now John is confronted with some very adult realities: establishing a career and making responsible choices with his casual relationship with his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). Unfortunately, the temptation of avoiding these decisions is all the more amplified by Ted's presence and persistence.
At one time or another, all of us have been challenged to move from our cherished, sometimes nostalgic, experiences of childhood and adolescence to the new, and yes, sometimes harsh, realities of adulthood and maturity.
Some of us have made that move seamlessly, but others have had more difficulty with this transition. Looking back can be so much easier and refreshing than facing ahead, especially if the outlook is unknown or uncertain.
To cope, we can cling to the people, objects, and perspectives we had when we were younger - hoping that they will carry us through in the next stage of life as they carried us through before.
John needed Ted when he was younger. When the other kids excluded him and insulted him, he needed someone or something else to remind him of his worthiness and to build up his confidence. But as he grew into adulthood, John no longer needed someone to comfort him (exemplified in a couple of scenes where Ted and John still huddle under the blanket in a thunderstorm); instead he needed someone to push him beyond his comfort zone.
What he needed now is the influence of Lori in his life; but as long as Ted continued to enable John, he would never truly be ready to move into the maturity he needed that Lori could provide.
Clinging to nostalgia and warm experiences from our younger days can seem tempting when faced with the cold splash of reality on our faces. Sometimes it's good to remember our roots and to tap into our past, but to remain there is to bury ourselves in quicksand.
"When I was a child," St. Paul recounts in his own self-reflection in his first letter to the Corinthians, "I used to talk and think and reason as a child. But when I became a man, I put aside childish things." (1 Cor. 13:11)
St. Paul does not say that he extinguished the elements of his past; in fact, historians say, he retained the traditions of his Jewish roots to further inform and craft his Christian evangelization. Instead, he put them aside when he needed to - and embark into adulthood with a willingness to enter into new situations, new understandings, and new opportunities, untested though they might be. St. Paul then challenges us to do the same.
What are the "childish things" that we might cling to a bit too much? What in our past do we rely so heavily upon that we can be blind to the world around us now? Who are we comfortable listening to or hanging out with at the expense of others in our lives? Where in our lives are we stuck - and could it be because we have closed ourselves off to the new and potentially wonderful possibilities right in front of our very eyes?
Reflecting on this can also open us up to examining the habits in our lives that are keeping us from truly maturing and growing. John and Ted engaged in some really immature habits in this film from drug use and a disregard for women to poor work ethic to outright selfishness without consideration of others.
Are there things in our lives that need a re-examination? Are there things we do that keep us from becoming the best we can be? Are we truly, in our heart of hearts, comfortable with the person we are when we head down paths similar to John and Ted?
It's not to say that fun must be avoided or extinguished from our lives, but that responsibility and a commitment to selfless, positive actions should be incorporated in with them. In that same passage from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul goes on to say that, when we truly integrate our past with our present, our childish tendencies with a mature appreciation, we will be more complete ("we shall know ourselves as we are fully known," 1 Cor. 13:12b).
Let us pray that we may continue to grow by putting whatever we have always clung to by the side, being open to new people, objects, and perspectives, and integrating all of this so that we may be who God intended us to be. Blessings to all in that journey!