Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wall*E - and the Promised Land

I recently re-watched Wall*E and, as is my recovered discipline, been reading three chapters a day of the Bible. Right now, I am in Deuteronomy, where God is reminding the Israelites precisely Who He is and why He chose them - not because they were good, but because the lands they were going to take over were a moral wasteland, full of corrupt people.

I also saw in Wall*E this diligent little robot who's lonely and working hard, and just wanting one day to find companionship and love. The problem is, when his dream girl arrives, she's far too powerful and magnificent for him to handle. She can fly and can blow huge oil tankers to smithereens. The poor little janitor robot has no hope of winning her love. He's terrified of getting too close to her, of angering her and getting blasted to bits.

Part-irony, part-slapstick and all love story, Wall*E was a CGI Charlie Chaplain. There are scenes in this wondrous star-spanning love story that take your breath away with its glory (I am thinking of the scene in which the returning scout ship cruises under the rings of Saturn and Wall*E reaches up to scatter the ice particles).

When God chose the Israelites, they were much like this robot, working tirelessly, never seeing the end of their labors yet simultaneously hoping one day He would rescue them. They didn't know when it would occur, but they hoped it would. One day. Some day. Maybe.

Then when God showed up with mighty signs and wonders, the Israelites were so scared of Him, they begged Moses to go talk in their stead "lest we die!"

God was not there to destroy them, but to save them, to bring them into a land "flowing with milk and honey" (in modern parlance, a "land flowing with cheese pizzas and chocolate bars"!) But seeing all the power He had sure put the Israelites on their haunches!

I want to make a quick aside: I note that we can never "outgive" God. Jesus said "Give and it shall be given unto you"; even Buddhists recognize this principle and call it "karma." When God gives the Israelites "cities [they] did not work for", it was because - perhaps - they had been slaving away for the Egyptians for four centuries. They had been building pyramids all these years, and so when they left, they got to "move in" to very, very nice digs AFTER clearing it out of so much evil. Again, while God says its NOT a reward for "being good" (cf. Deuteronomy 9), I submit it may be 'back wages' for their physical labors.

What connection is this to Wall*E? Well, as the Israelites found out, it is sooooo easy to be 'over-blessed' and forget 1) Where you came from, 2) How you got there, 3) the Reason you were blessed and 3) Where your real blessing is.

You see, Wall*E arrives on a starliner full of gluttonous, lazy human beings that is simply stuck orbiting the sun generation after generation. What should have been a short cruise of 5 years had become a 700 year 'house arrest'. They'd forgotten they were only supposed to be there for a season, while their true home, Earth, was being cleaned up. They got comfy and became obese, shallow and weak. They had become shades of their true selves.

Enter Wall*E with EVA and the rescue of humanity's soul begins. They disrupt everything, and humans are constantly tossed out of their comfy chairs. But soon they talk to each other, not just their computer screens.

As an American, I appreciate the self-deprecating irony of Wall*E (much like Over the Hedge, another great poke at our sedentary lifestyle). I have to keep my heart and mind grateful to God for his material blessings but never let them overshadow the best part -

- being loved and known by Him.

We get can get very comfy in this world, and forget this is not our home. Like the humans did in Wall*E. Like the Israelites did, either wishing to return to Egypt or ignoring Him once they got settled in.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall be comforted." Jesus said that. He means that if you find this world depressing, that's GOOD - because it is not your true home.

I think God is very, very generous, but blessing us materially is dangerous business in a world destined to end. Even if nothing Earth-shatteringly cataclysmic happens, we are destined to pass away and live in a "new heavens and a new Earth".

Cheer up, little worker 'bots. God will provide. But don't be surprised if its through a great and awe-inspiring adventure that scares your pants off. What needs you must have met are more internal than external, as Wall*E and the Israelites found out. You can have joy if you know you are loved, its far more wonderful than any worldly blessing.

Or as the old Puritan said, smiling as he sat down to a meal of some paucity: "Bread and water... and Jesus too!"

Ask God to show you His love today and be rescued from all the materialism that surrounds you.

You'll be in heaven, I promise. First on the inside, then on the outside.

Amen.

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