Skip to main content

Another Kingdom image: Nannies and stories

This weekend, my eight-year-old daughter popped in our DVD of Nanny McPhee, a marvelous and magical film all about transformation and putting and seeing things right. I adored it the first time I saw it, but this time I was particularly struck by the transformation of Evangeline, a scullery maid for Cedric Brown who’s the widower with seven misbehaving children—for whom an initially frightful Nanny McPhee has rather mysteriously come to care and, along the way, teach (both the children and adults) some valuable lessons.

Early on, we realize that Evangeline is in love with Cedric but believes it completely outside possibilities that he could ever love her. At one point, Nanny McPhee finds Evangeline practicing her reading on the porch. She’s in the middle of a romantic novel and as the two speculate about the fate of the romance in the story, McPhee picks up on Evangeline’s own love for Cedric. With a meaningful look, the Nanny encourages the girl to “read it and find out” what happens.

Evangeline, however, isn’t optimistic. Instead she laments: “It’s a pity that stories aren’t ever about real people.”

But at the end of the film, an utterly transformed Evangeline walks in wonder and awe under flutters of magical snow towards Cedric, whom she’s found is suddenly and rightly-so her groom-to-be. As Evangeline and Nanny McPhee (somewhat transformed herself) walk together, McPhee asks her how her reading is coming along.

“It’s much better,” says Evangeline, still in awe. “But I still haven’t got to the end of that story.”

“No need,” says McPhee. “You are the end of the story.”

This scene strongly resonates with me because it captures so well that sudden moment of realization that we are indeed in the midst of a wonderful, transforming, miraculous and even previously-doubted Story—the Story of God’s redemption and restoration of how all should and will be. It captures that wonder and sensation of suddenly comprehending you’re no longer only reading about life and purpose and Truth but instead find yourself smack dab in the middle of it. Finally realizing that we are in the Story (a part of a larger purpose, event and reality than we realized) is truly an awesome, jaw-dropping moment.

But perhaps an even more awe-inspiring moment is realizing that that Story is lived here-and-now by walking with Jesus. As walking with McPhee draws open Evangeline’s eyes in awe to both the wonder-world around her and her own transformation, Jesus opens our own to the even greater wonder, mystery and beauty of Kingdom and the marvel of our own transformation as we walk beside him. But unlike the fairy-tale world of Nanny McPhee, it is not we who are the end of the True Story—at least, not by ourselves—but Jesus. He is the end and means of the Story.

This scene moves me every time I see it. It reminds me of the wonder of discovering my part in God’s Story of ongoing redemption and Kingdom come-ing. But, this scene also pushes me to the greater Truth, that (as Dallas Willard says here) our part in the Story is an effect, not the life itself. Walking with Jesus is the life. Everything—everything—comes from that.

(Images: screen captures from the DVD are copyrighted by Universal)