Oh, how I despise trying to find suitable movies for my kids to watch. The "tween" is not always happy with the cartoonchoices of the little girls, and the little girls, who are stretching anxiously to be out of that age designation, get twisted in knots because they can't watch some of what the "tween" is able to watch. Then, there is the "almost tween" who isn't sure whose side she wishes to be on.
It's a mess!
So, instead of one movie at the "RedBox" the other night, I ended up getting three -- one for the "tween" and "almost tween", one for the "younger one's" and one for the adults. (My husband was exhausted and wanted to watch baseball, so I knew the movie would be just for me.)
I had one set of girls on the computer watching one movie, the other in the basement watching the other movie and, I was upstairs sleepily watching in my movie in my room. So much for the idea of a "family movie night"!
I knew that the "almost tween" was going to grow bored of what she was watching, and I was right, about 15 min. into starting my movie, she appeared.
At first, I thought it might not be a great idea to let her watch with me. The movie was rated PG, so other than one topic that I could easily address, it should be fine. I decided to have her climb up and cuddle and watch with me.
I was so glad I did!
The movie Facing the Giants was released originally in 2006. It is about a failing football coach at a Christian academy. His life and his job are in shambles. He feel like a failure. Grant Taylor, the football coach, aside from struggling with financial and work related issues, is also struggling with the fact that he and his wife cannot conceive a baby. (This was the issue that I thought I would need to tread carefully around -- but, the movie so tastefully addresses the matter, it really wasn't an issue.) His hope seems to be at an all time low, and in that moment of desperation, Grant makes the decision through prayer to surrender to the will of God in his life.
Now, while this was decidedly a Protestant perspective of surrender and trust in accepting God as our personal Lord and Savior, the message was for all Christians. In particular, Catholic Christians should note that "God in our daily lives" is something that all of us do very well. We tend to tuck God into His little Sunday cubbyhole and go about our business. It would serve us all well to consider that God must be honored in all that we do from sharpening a pencil to providing for our families, from offering our daily work to worshiping Him on Sundays and Holy Days.
My daughter and I watched as the coach and then the team surrendered to the will of God; during a Bible class, several teens accepted Jesus and "got right with God." In the Catholic tradition, we call this the Sacrament of Penance, but the message of getting right with God was compelling, especially to my 9 year old.
We watched together as the Lord moved through the lives of the characters in this movie. We talked a little bit about how typical the daily routine was, but how "changed" the attitudes of the characters were after they decided to live for Christ who died for them.
It was clear that our children needed to see this movie. So, I kept my "RedBox" rental and extra day. We took it with us to Pennsylvania with a portable movie player. After we had dropped off Grandma at home, and the natives were becoming restless after the long drive, I climbed into the back seat and suggested that we watch the movie -- we were about an hour from home. No one was really interested in watching a football movie. I had an ally, however, because the "almost tween" had really enjoyed the movie the night before.
She chimed in, "You'll like it, there were some really funny parts."
I added, "Come on, it's a great story!"
And, so it began. The movie captivated the girls. They watched a sad scenario be transformed by trust in Christ. They watched a defeated team that lacked heart and commitment be transformed by Biblical analogies being applied to their lives and their training as a team. They watched as Good defeated evil in sport and in life. And, they witnessed that "all things are possible with God" as the coach and his wife were transformed by Christ in their marriage.
I added along the way how, as Catholics, we would be asking for the grace of the Sacraments to help strengthen and carry us. We would also rely heavily on the Eucharist in our prayer -- not necessarily taking our Bible out into an open field to pray, but perhaps we would go directly to Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration, or before the tabernacle where we know his is truly present.
This was a movie of hope with a solid Christian message. Tweaking the plot to represent a Catholic Theology wasn't too difficult, and my kids were able to say, "We don't do it that way," opening the door to explaining our way more clearly.
What I loved, however, was this: my "tween" observed that this movie made think about Christ; made her consider a little more earnestly how she would approach the rest of her day, her tomorrow and the future. She wanted to know why we don't speak more about trust and surrender in a way that motivates. She concluded that more parents need to be vocal about their love for Christ in a way that kids won't think is "over the top".
I had to consider this for a while before I answered her.
I eventually offered this (paraphrased, of course):
God meets people where they are. Sometimes He touches them through the words of the parents. We try to live Christ in our daily lives, but you see that as routine and not necessarily a compelling witness, perhaps at this age you might even be embarrassed by it. Other times, God places challenges and joys before us and asks us to choose and honor Him in those moments. We must not be afraid to choose and honor Him in all things. That is how we will become holy and receive our reward in heaven. It's not always easy to do, but that is why He promised to never leave us alone. You can go directly to Him in the Eucharist, and because you know that we, your parents, love Him and trust in Him, you can come to us with anything.
Prayer is also key. All things are possible by praying to God for guidance and thanking Him for whatever the outcome is of that prayer. And, remember that a mother is close to her children -- Blessed Mother will bring your prayers to her Son, so always ask for her help to bring you closer.
Some kids will accept this idea of developing a personal relationship with Christ right now, others will have to make their way, fighting through the muck to get to the joy, until they hopefully will realize that with Christ even sorrow holds joy.
So, we just need to keep talking, keep offering the Christian hope in words and deeds, keep being a witness, and eventually, people will want what we have -- the joy of Christ. It won't seem so "over the top" when those you choose to be with have the same relationship with the Lord. I won't sound so "over the top" when you come to know Christ this way.
My "tween" seemed satisfied, as if the struggles of "tween-ness" seemed a little less daunting. And, perhaps she was even a bit more inspired to share Christ in a way that she hadn't thought was "cool" before. I'll keep praying and looking for teachable moments in that regard.
The movie wasn't finished when I offered this perspective to my daughter with the other girls listening. We had arrived at home and let my husband out before I ran to get some dinner for us and do an errand. The girls elected to stay in the car and watch the rest of the movie. They were glued! The Holy Spirit had them engaged!
In the end, the story turns and the joy of a happy and somewhat overwhelming conclusion of events is what the characters enjoy. It was a very good movie; a movie that I wish could have had a more Catholic tone. But, I'll take the positive message of Christ in our lives any time, adjusting the Theology as I go, over the secular message of narcissism and humanism that movies offer to our kids these days. Our kids need the message of Christ presented to them in a powerful way, a way that is recognizable and accessible, so that they can carry Him out into the world and bring others closer to Him in the Sacraments. Facing the Giants, for my family, may prove to be a catalyst to just that.