I recently saw the movie Flight starring Denzel Washington. I hardly think there is a finer male actor than him, other than Morgan Freeman. Yes, I must give these men props for being part of many of my favorite movies. Their reputation is solid enough in my movie viewing history that name alone sells me on whatever new release they star in.
So that is how I decided to watch Flight this weekend. My roommate suggested it in lieu of a Madea movie that was unavailable. All she had to say was “it stars Denzel Washington” and I was on board.
I have to say, the movie took me by complete surprise. I wasn’t expecting it to be mostly about one man’s struggle with addiction. It was still a good movie though. It had an honarable ending and I imagine there will be recovery programs using clips in their programs or ministries.
The thing I’ve been thinking about recently with regards to this movie is the actual plane crash. It’s scary to think of pilots who suffer sleep deprivation or have substance abuse issues, yet we so easily put our trust in them. They are the pilot, after all. They have trained well, clocked countless hours, and successfully landed their planes 100% of the time. Until the crash, they are 100% safe and trustworthy. It seems easy in this light to trust in the pilot.
None of us like to think of that slim chance of a wreck though. Movies like Flight or Cast Away, with dramatic plane crash scenes, can really put the fear in us or make us wonder what we would do in the event of surviving a crash. How would we act and react? How would we be forever affected?
Humor me for a few moments and imagine now that you’ve just survived a plane crash…
You’ve been knocked unconscious for an unknown amount of time. Your eyes flutter open and you try to clear your vision. As you fade back into awareness, you gradually take in the surrounding chaos and find that the blood you see on others is but a mirror of your own face trickling a sticky warmth. The ringing in your ears, which you had not initially noticed, starts to lessen. New sounds begin to press upon you. They are human but somehow not. You recognize this cacophony of nightmarish noise as moans of the half-conscious, screams of mortification at the sight of death, cries of agony, sorrow, and varying degrees of pain.
It assaults your senses, piercing the mental fog which had previously kept your own cries unheard. You are shocked to realize that the strange whimpering pounding in your head has been coming from your own smoke damaged throat.
Smoke … and a lot of it. It brings a further clarity born of instinct to get away, and fast. As you move about, struggling to push open luggage and unresponsive bodies off of you, you key into the lethal fire behind the smoke. It is all around you, and terrifies you. It scatters your thoughts once again, and you flop about frantically, stumbling to your feet, trying hard to forget the excruciating pain in your chest and limbs.
You can’t see a way out at first. You are too confused. Your eyes are filled with soot, smoke, blood, and tears. Then something grabs your hand. In your panic and stupor you try to break free, but then realize that it is another human hand. Someone is trying to pull you away from the wreckage. They are telling you there is a way out. You shake the oppressive fog once more in a surge of instinct veiled by hope. You follow this person because you haven’t seen any other way. But as you make your way forward you see two other locations where survivors struggle to push towards.
You hear a voice “Do not go that way! Everyone! Over here! This is the only way out!” You look up to see a battered man dressed in a way only a pilot is dressed. He is the one calling out to everyone, frantically pointing to what he claims is the only way to safety. “Do not go there! You will die trying to escape that way! I know this plane, I know how it is positioned. Trust me when I say this is the way. Grab everyone you can and get out now!”
What would you do here? What do you think most people in this scenario would do? I’d like to think that most of us would trust the pilot. Clearly in this scenario the pilot cares for the passengers. Otherwise he’d be off the plane himself and out of harms way. But he is there in the midst, beckoning every soul who desires to live to exit the way which he knows for certain is safe and secure, the only way out of that precarious mess. Perhaps he knows the other escape routes people search for are positioned right above the fuel, waiting to explode, or by a wing that he’s examined that will surely break under human weight, crushing to death those who sought that exit.
Can you imagine if people in the midst of this peril suddenly started shouting at the pilot, blaming him for being so exclusive? Or what if en masse the passengers all dropped the helping hands tugging them towards safety and accused them of being co-conspirators in this “one way only” mentality? Who in their right mind would do this? Who would refuse the wisdom of those who know the way to rescue and continued life?
Perhaps by now you see the parallel. Jesus himself said that he is the only way to God, by implication to heaven and eternal life. Yet an entire world of people shake angry heads and fists at God, Christianity and Christians for this exclusive claim. They maintain there are plenty of other ways to reach the same end. God and his followers are reduced to narrow-minded bigots bent on their way being the only way.
But like the pilot in this scenario, Jesus is shouting for everyone. He excludes no one. He beckons the entire world, past, present, and future to follow this only way. He is the All-Inclusive, bending knee, reaching hands, and bowing divinity for the sake of inviting every single person to partake of forever life. He is exclusive, yes. He knows he is the only way. But he will not rest until everyone has been included in the chance to hear his voice through the fog of sin and broken humanity, through the fire of deceitful “other road” philosophies and claims.
I am so glad that God does include everyone, and that he never once fears the humiliating accusations of mankind who would think him brazen, self-seeking, and arrogant for telling us that he is the Way, and the Only Way. That, to me, is goodness. It is the most honest and earnest open-handed invitation into the life we were made to live.