by Alastair Sterne
April 2, 2013
6 min read
God sometimes speaks in the most unexpected, peculiar ways. This is the God, after all, who is known to speak through a donkey on one occasion, and through whispers on the next. So, we shouldn’t be surprised if the way God decides to speak catches us off guard. Sometimes we have that moment. Things seem to slow down, reality subtly shifts. And then the words someone is saying, a moment in a movie, or the lyrics in a song are suddenly infused with the voice of God. “God spoke through you!” we say, or “I heard God speak to me in that!” That moment happens, and suddenly the normal everyday moment becomes something different, something other, something holy.
I had one of these moments recently.
It was when I watched the movie Warm Bodies.
It was the last place I expected God to speak to me.
I’m not one who really analyzes movies to find their redemptive qualities. I’m one for really bad action movies, or cheesy zombie flicks. When I went to see Warm Bodies, for example, I was having one of those days where all I wanted to do was escape and watch a movie that required no cognitive effort on my part. I wanted to forget about life and lose myself in the movie. So that’s what I did. I went to see Warm Bodies.
Here is the quick premise of the movie: a zombie saves a living girl, protects her, and begins to have feelings for her (defying every law for zombie movies). The more he falls in love with her, the more his humanity is restored and, well (spoiler-alert), overtime love brings him back to life. A zombie—the walking-dead whose only hope is to have his head cut off—comes back to life. As far as I’m concerned, it earned its 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Why did I want to escape into this zombie love story?
I don’t enjoy confessing this, but I struggle with hope.
I am a bit of a glass half-empty kind of guy. To be hopeful is a choice for me, it’s not my proclivity. I wade into the easy tides of cynicism. And if I’m going to be hopeful, I don’t want it to be a naive optimism (there’s my cynicism flaring up). So hope, it tends to be a day to day, moment to moment, one foot infront of the next thing for me. At times I feel alive with excitement, and at awe about the possibilities that come with following God. I dream with the Scriptures, and feel joy imagining what could be with God. And then a day later, I may feel dispair and weighted down by the impossibility of it all—only to remember that what God has entrusted to me is not for me to accomplish but to receive; and then I feel joy again.
I am a bit of a glass half-empty kind of guy. To be hopeful is a choice for me, it’s not my proclivity.
Hope and despair can be a cycle. We all get this. One day it seems like your walk with God is going great, cloud 9 sort of stuff. Then something happens, the ground shifts, life changes and you’re dramatically reenacting the psalms, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me!”
The day I went to see Warm Bodies, I wanted to ignore the hopelessness that was gnawing away at me. I wanted to be entertained. I wanted an easy fix. I didn’t want to have to be broken before God and find healing through him. I wanted to submerge myself into a hopeless, apocalyptic world full of zombies.
But then I had that moment. The movie was no longer a zombie love story. It was infused with God, it was a movie that preached the gospel to my heart struggling with hope.
I was surprised by hope. I began to tear up several times (the movie, by the way, hardly warrants any tears). The gospel was so powerfully on display in that movie, well at least it was to me. Dead stuff comes back to life. It’s the impossibility of love. Love brings dead things back to life.
In God’s economy, dead stuff comes back to life because love can overcome everything. Paul writes, “We were dead … But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:1-10). This is not just warm thoughts. This sort of love isn’t trite and simply an emotional high, or a superficial fairy tale of love defeating all things. This is the sort of love that is absolutely other focused, and completely self giving. It’s the sort of love that overcomes impossibilities.
When we are loved by this sort of love, when we are loved by the type of love that overcomes the grave and brings the dead back to life, how could we not be overwhelmed simultaneously by hope? The beauty of the way of Jesus is that we believe in a God who loves the dead back to life. Everybody says this sort of love is an impossibility. Dead stuff stays dead. But if love can bring dead stuff out of the grave, if it can bring hopeless hearts hope, struggling lives transformation, then what sort of untold possibilities lie ahead of us?
I am convinced that our hope is inextricably related to the amount we realize we are loved. If we settle for cheap, superficial love—or don’t feel loved at all—then we will surely be hopeless. The love we are offered in the gospel is unfathomable, powerful and free. It is unending and all-encompassing. We can’t open our arms or our hearts up wide enough to contain it. That sort of love does something to us. It births hope. A hope we don’t have to muster up.
What we need, what I need, is hope anchored in true love. In Warm Bodies, a teenage love brought a zombie back to life. A great twist on a zombie tale. A solid movie. But what about when love actually brings dead stuff back to life? Since the moment Christ stood up out of the grave, and filled up his lungs with a fresh breath of air, nothing has ever been the same. A new day of endless possibilities began. Love conquered sin, evil, suffering, death, and continues to bring the dead back to life.