Spoiler alert: I will be referring to the end of the movie in this post, so proceed at your own risk.
“Gravity” is billed as a movie that will leave you thinking about it long after the credits roll.
For me, that turned out to be true.
But initially I was disappointed in the ending.
“It felt incomplete,” I told a friend on the way out of the theater. “The movie ends with Ryan’s (portrayed by Sandra Bullock) safe return home and that was compelling, but it should have gone on to show us what she did with her second chance. It needed to be 30 minutes longer.”
I wanted to know if she found a way to honor fellow astronaut Matt Kowalski (portrayed by George Clooney) for giving up his life for her. I wanted to know if she found hope after the death of her four-year old child. I wanted to know if she learned to reconnect with people rather than pulling away from them. I wanted to see hope.
Jesus showed us what redemption looks like.
He told us to turn the other cheek, and then did so as he was nailed to a cross. He told us to love our enemies and then forgave his own enemies as he hung on the cross. He told us that possessing great love means a willingness to lay down one’s life for his friends, and then he gave up his life for us while we were still lost in our sin.
Twenty-four hours after seeing “Gravity,” my mind drifted back to the scene in which Matt let go of the tether line so Ryan could live. It seemed liked an easy decision for him.
That’s when it hit me, I’d been focusing on the wrong portion of the movie.
As Matt drifted away from Ryan toward death, he wasn’t frantic or fearful. Instead, he spoke in a loving, controlled tone, walking Ryan through the various steps she would need to take to find safety. Once she grasped that, he took in the beauty of his surroundings. “Oh, you should see this,” he said, looking down at the earth shortly before he presumably died.
We never learned a lot about Matt. We did learn he was on his last mission and he had hopes of setting a new spacewalking record of sorts. But we didn’t learn a lot about his background. Instead, he was more focused on learning Ryan’s background – even before the crisis occurred. He was the veteran, she was the rookie, and as such she needed his calming presence, so he found ways to get her to talk about herself, even though she clearly wasn’t comfortable doing so.
That leads me, and maybe you, to consider how he got to the place in his life in which he was able to make the ultimate sacrifice, without any reservation, when the situation warranted it. Prompting such contemplation is the real power of the movie, in my opinion.
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I glanced at my watch. I needed to leave in five minutes so Allen could go to work.
“I might go another six months without having a conversation like this,” he said.
That’s the kind of friendship we have. We live 350 miles away from each other, but we can go deep in a matter of minutes, even though I only see him once or twice a year. It didn’t hurt that we were on his enclosed front porch – in an environment that was created for conversation.
We sat facing each other in wicker chairs. His taped up Bible lie on the table next to him. He does his devotions out there each morning, which means it is his holy place – the place where he meets with God.
I felt grateful to be welcomed in.
His toy dachshund wasn’t so sure if he should welcome me or not, so he alternated between begging for my attention and barking at me. But ultimately, he seemed to decide that if I was good enough for Allen, then I was good enough for him.
As I glanced at my watch one last time, I was reminded of what John Sowers wrote recently about front porches in Portland being built outward-facing for relationship and communal living. Go check it out if you have a chance. It’s a good read.
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