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The Last Jedi

You know how it is, when life unpredictably sends a piercing shaft of light over some dark, subterranean cavern of your own mental brooding? Without warning, you are enveloped in a paradigm which you vicerally recognize (if you’re honest). I’ve keep my spiritual ears wide open, because in the most unexpected places, at the least likely of moments, the Holy Spirit can pounce on you. Much the way Hobbes loves to ambush Calvin, He’ll send you tumbling. He’s affectionate, but He’s oh, so strong. That’s the sensation that broke upon me as the new Star Wars movie splashed into the opening sequences. ‘The Last Jedi’ is the newest release in the saga hard-core fans have waited for voraciously. Luke, Leia, Hans and Chewbacca enthralled us eons ago. They had us at “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope…!” This latest offering in the trilogy does not disappoint.

Without dropping too many spoilers, the movie is centered around Luke Skywalker, our favorite home-town-boy-turned-champion. We’ve watched Luke for a long time now. Long, long ago and far, far away, we were introduced to the charming, but naïve, youth. Enamored with the tales of fighting for the Resistance, and caught up in traumatic events, he was soon deep in the idealistic adventure of becoming the great Jedi warrior. In our latest installment, his long history of passionate involvement, sacrifice, and belief in ‘The Force’, has unexpectedly mutated in an agonizing impasse of grief, regret and doubt. The war is now as much within, as without. When a new generation comes seeking his assistance, instead of his help and mentorship, they find profound opposition. Slowly, the back-story behind this complex stalemate emerges to provide the spine of the story. Through it, we’re given a complex and textured examination of the true nature of motivation, maturity, and heroism.

The inexorable process of age and experience feature as some of the unspoken, but ever-present characters of the film. We see in the faces of Luke and Leia the long battle of endurance that has overshadowed them. We feel the weight of it. What started out with a certain reckless abandon has vintaged out into a heavy burden impossible to jettison. It’s not as if we don’t understand their struggle. Even in our own lives, mortality can become our mortal enemy, if we’re not careful. Maturity and experience enrich us with compassion and competence, but there’s a lot of dark baggage too. Experience benefits us, but it can also batter and embitter. Solomon once said succinctly “Increase knowledge, increase sorrow” (Ecc 1:18). Right and wrong, good and bad, black and white; they may be simple, but they’re not simplistic. We’ve got to learn how to handle the paradox without being sucked into the great vortex of despair. Unfortunately, by the time you are carrying the motherlode of wisdom, tempering and skill, that has real value, you may no longer have a heart for the battle.

Being on the front line of the life’s crusade takes a toll. If you’re over thirty, chances are good that you’ve started to reap some of the harvest of your own choices, and not all of them are brilliant. King David, the most famous warrior of the Old Testament, knew all about it. Some of the decisions he has made concerning his children have come back to haunt the old king (2 Samuel 17-18). Absalom, his son, is deviously bent on stealing the kingdom right out from under him. Former allies and long-term partners suddenly turn against him, breaking rank. It what looks like a concession of defeat, David retreats from the city, drawing the pursuit into the open country. He’s far too seasoned a veteran, and the stakes too high, to draw his people into a civil war. Even though it looks like he’s lost his mojo, David is not concerned about himself. He’s tired, besieged, and far too old to be engulfed in war, but he hasn’t lost his touch. In fact, age has only honed his skills. The true essence and perseverance of the champion of God is captured in Hebrews 11:33-34; “ …who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”

“Out of weakness were made strong”. That’s a telling phrase, because the veteran warrior is one who has learned to battle not only with his right hand, but with his left; who has tapped into the profound reservoir of passive strength that comes with age. ‘The Last Jedi’ knows how to garner his resources, and he doesn’t squander them on ego. He’s quietly confident in the source of his strength. There’s no grandstanding; no gratuitous bloodshed, no collateral damage. Although he appears pathetically passive, he’s really poised like a point-man sniper to administer the coup de gras; a clean and final strike that cuts off all challenge. Likewise, after much soul-searching and excruciating self-recrimination, our man Luke reclaims his legacy, grasping his spiritual light-sabre to enter the fray once again. The veteran warrior expends his last, concentrated effort in a full-on confrontation with his greatest adversary. In a moment of supreme expertise, the culmination of many demanding lessons and arduous campaigns, fear and failure breathe their last. In the end, self-mastery vindicates itself as the most worthy contest of all.

Are you weary of the fray? Battle-scarred and depleted? Disillusioned? Flip despair on it’s ear. Lean into your weakness. You may actually be experiencing the peak of your potential. Take the words of another outstanding combatant who said; And He (Jesus) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me…. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:9-10

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