I slid into my theater seat next to my 10-year old popcorn munching, Icee slurping son. The lights dimmed, the feature presentation got underway and I settled in for 90 minutes of light entertainment. But I got more than I bargained for when I went to the movies that Saturday afternoon.
Quite unexpectedly I found myself watching parts of my life on the big screen.
Now if I were the casting director I would have picked Julia Roberts or Cameron Diaz, someone quirky and pretty, to play me. Definitely someone who is a little bit better than I am in real life. I’d want the actor who portrays me to show me in the best possible light.
But no. Up there larger than life, immortalized on the silver screen, the character playing me was an animated Lego guy. Yup. I am Emmett from The Lego Movie.
Emmett follows rules. Cheerfully. His Rulebook promises that certain prescribed actions will make him popular and successful. From the way he greets his neighbors, to his interactions with his co-workers, his steps are guided and predictable. Emmett wants to do what is expected of him and he wants to belong.
Except the Rulebook doesn’t quite deliver on its promise to make him popular and likable. Emmett is invisible in his own life. But his real challenges start when life diverts from The Plan and he faces situations that the rules don’t cover.
At that point in the movie things got uncomfortably familiar. Life imitates art, even Lego art. Events in life have a way of defying logic and predictability. Even if we do all the things we are supposed to do.
For rule followers, rules give us comfort because we know what is expected of us. And in a way we are looking for guaranteed outcomes. It’s a kind of karmic approach to life. If you treat others the way you want to be treated, you will be treated well. Right?
We expect life to be like a math problem. 1+1=2 Every single time. So we do the things that are supposed to give us the life we want.
A good education will lead us to a good job and happiness.
Working hard will lead to prosperity, home ownership, and happiness.
Finding a life partner with similar values and goals will lead to romance, fulfillment, and happily ever after.
When we are faced with outcomes that defy our expectations we struggle to find a reason, a rule we didn’t follow just right. This is what happens when we blame victims for the bad things that happen to them. When friends get divorced, we want to figure out how they are different than we are so we can feel safe in our marriages. When a young woman dies when a car hits her bicycle, people want to know if she was wearing a bike helmet. We hear “lung cancer” and think “smoker?” Childhood diseases throw us off completely. We want to know why. We want order and sense.
Rule following is supposed to be a sort of inoculation against bad things. But God never promises we won’t face hard things.
Do you want a Biblical guarantee? Storms will come. The promise is God will walk with us through those storms.
“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” Psalm 107:28-30
Sometimes faithfully following the rules is more about having control in our lives. I was surprised when I realized that I, a mostly easy-going, go-with-the-flow type B person, have a control problem.
In The Lego Movie, the rituals and routines that brought order and comfort to Emmett’s world fell apart. But the simple idea that he was Special changed his perspective and without the safety net of expectations to order his actions, Emmett became a hero. When the Rulebook was discarded, he found courage and creativity he never realized he had.
“A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?” Proverbs 20:24
If we think we can control our lives, we will be frustrated, anxious, and angry when things don’t turn out the way we think they should. It helps me to remember God is not surprised when storms come. He is with us and he directs our steps. And if we have the faith to follow those steps into the unknown, we may find ourselves doing totally unexpected things. Like writing a blog post about finding spiritual truth in The Lego Movie.