Sunday, July 12, 2009

Film Snapshot: 'Chamber' choices

It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.

–Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

In preparation for the upcoming sixth installment in the Harry Potter film franchise, the kids and I are rewatching the previous films. Not surprisingly, heh, I resonated with Dumbledore's words above in the final scenes of Chamber of Secrets, that who we are is reflected by our choices.

His words reflect the truth that what's in our hearts will be reflected in the choices we make and the actions we take. According to Scripture, we were all created good--to make choices and take actions towards walking with God and others in just-ness, right-ness and love. Early on in the Story, however, we were broken and bent. A darkness infected us like a cancer or poison. That doesn't mean we don't all have the capacity to choose for good--after all, that is what we were created to do and be. And from our own experience, we know that we can love, sacrifice and choose what is best for others above ourselves. But if Scripture is right, the cancer that infects us is always wrenching us towards our own desires, selfishness, and darkness--and that leads to choices marked by destruction and death. Relationships break and shatter, communities break down and wars both within and without damage and destroy.

One of the amazing and always-surprising beauties of God, however, is that even we make wrong choices, God is always and forever inviting us to (as Mark Scandrette puts it in Soul Graffiti) "rethink our thinking" or "reimagine our lives by allowing the Creator to examine our thoughts, attitudes, motives, and behavior"--to "repent" or turn around. He always and forever invites us to trust that he is who he says, can do what he says, to live healed and by his Spirit rather than the broken and dark one within us, to walk in the wide open spaces of his grace and glory--a place marked by walking with him and others in the love, just-ness and right-ness we were created to be.

Recently, we've been talking to our kids about the importance of examining why we make the choices we do in order to make better choices in the future. If our focus is ourselves, we will tend to make choices that reflect that--but if it is focused on loving God and trusting Jesus is who he says and can do what he says, then our choices and actions will tend to reflect that. All too often, it is hard to face up to our bad choices and pull them into the light of God's examination because that will always reveal our fears, flaws, darkness and bent towards selfishness within us. Instead, we want and tend to overlook, rationalize, excuse and even misremember our bad choices. Even when we remind ourselves of God's invitation to do this in his love and grace, it can all be very unpleasant, uncomfortable and often painful. But he is faithful; if we trust him, we discover more and more of those wide open spaces around us--and we find they are expanding ever more in us.

And we aren't meant to do this alone. We must have one another to encourage, confront, confess to and remind us each of what is true and right--and when we fail at that. And we do this all under the shower of God's love and grace--which surrounds us whether we are aware of it or not.

What I like about the HP universe is that much of this is reflected in it. Harry and his friends don't always make the right choices--and often when they don't, they must face their own fears or flaws that led them to make those choices. And sometimes, it's really painful. But they don't do this alone. They have each other and those who love them; they are surrounded by people who practice confrontation, confession, forgiveness--those who even in their own failures and bad choices more often than not choose to rethink the way they think (ie, repentance).

And Chamber of Secrets as a whole and in particular illustrates the importance of pulling bad choices into the light as well as how our confessions to and acceptance by those around us aids in our ability to rethink our thinking. Keeping her involvement with Tom Riddle's journal a secret almost killed Ginny, and Harry discovers his own secrets and deceptions play out all too close to Riddle's. Yet Harry's rescue and protection of Ginny and Dumbledore's guidance and acceptance of Harry help each of them to reimagine their lives in a light of truth and right-ness.

So, yes, I really resonate with Dumbledore's words--not only because they reflect a truth that reveals something about us individually but also something about our relationships with each other.

(Image: screencapture from this YouTube series of clips of Dumbledore's scenes in HP & The Chamber of Secrets, copyright Warner Bros.)

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