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Why such brief candles?

>> Saturday, February 11, 2012

I was watching the movie “ The Tree of Life” the other day. Honestly, I couldn’t connect all the pieces together the first time I saw the movie. It can mean completely different things for completely different kinds of people. The Tree of Life is about everything. About life, nostalgia, love, loss, hatred, anger, nature, grace, forgiveness, redemption, and everything else that could be there in life. The scenes are incredibly beautiful, as perfect as they could be and looks out of this world. The Tree of Life is a series of fragmented memories of a young man named Jack (Sean Penn) who reminisces his childhood memories as a young boy , and the polar relationships between his graceful, loving mother (Jessica Chastain), and his strict, disciplinary, and sometimes angry father (Brad Pitt). It is a simple family entwined in love,the kind we see in everyday life.

And,somewhere in the middle of the movie, there was this scene when the Brian family attends the church on a Sunday morning and listens to a sermon.It really struck me as I listened to it again and again. It haunted me.

The Book of Job explores the myth that we inhabit a world in which people who live virtuously inevitably receive blessing, while those who do evil, always suffer a painful fate. The story of the tragedies that fell upon virtuous Job, demonstrates that there is nothing in life that can protect us from the possibility of pain.The story of Job is quoted often when one gets angry at God and when misfortunes befall.

“Job imagined he might build his nest on high – that the integrity of his behavior would protect him against misfortune. And his friends thought, mistakenly, that the Lord could only have punished him because secretly he’d done something wrong.

But, no, misfortune befalls the good as well. We can’t protect ourselves against it. We can’t protect our children. We can’t say to ourselves, even if I’m not happy, I’m going to make sure they are.

We vanish as a cloud. We wither as the autumn grass, and like a tree are rooted up.
Is there some fraud in the scheme of the universe? Is there nothing which is deathless? Nothing which does not pass away?

We cannot stay where we are. We must journey forth.

We must find that which is greater than fortune or fate. Nothing can bring us peace but that.

Is the body of the wise man, or the just, exempt from any pain? From any disquietude, from the deformity that might blight its beauty, from the weakness that might destroy its health?

Do you trust in God?

Job, too, was close to the Lord. Are your friends and children your security? There is no hiding place in all the world where trouble may not find you. No on knows when sorrow might visit his house, any more than Job did.
The very moment everything was taken away from Job, he knew it was the Lord who’d taken it away. He turned from the passing shows of time. He sought that which is eternal.

Does he alone see God’s hand who sees that He gives, or does not also the one see God’s hand who sees that He takes away? Does he alone see God who sees God turn His face towards him? Does not also he see God who sees God turn his back?"

The sermon is a profound piece of theology, a beautiful piece of poetry, and a deep well of spiritual wisdom and insight.

“Is there nothing which is deathless? Nothing which does not pass away?”

“The Tree of Life” also offers an answer in the voice of Mrs. O’Brien when she declares, “Unless you love, your life will flash by… Do good, wonder, hope.”

There are only two routes through life: “the way of nature and the way of grace.” Grace is abundant in the story’s mother figure, the pious and loving Mrs. O’Brian and a sufferer of the most awful of all tragedies – the death of a child, her middle son in his late teens. How he died we never learn, but the rest of the film can be seen as a reaction to his cruelly shortened life and to the question it inevitably poses.....Why? Why such a brief candle?

At the boy's funeral, a pastor tells Mrs. O'Brien "He's in God's hands now" and she replies with something like... "He should be in my hands." I could not think of a better answer than hers. Perhaps that answer is the one which shook me up.Whenever I hear of the death of a young child, I am reminded of my own personal loss. Why? Why such a brief candle?


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