My favorite part of this year’s Academy Awards ceremony wasn’t when Jennifer Lawrence tripped over the stairs after her best actress win. It was actually when Hugh Jackman, in a flash, raced to her aid. He was like lighting. After seeing his reflexes, it’s hard for me to believe that Wolverine is just a character Jackman plays on screen.
I look forward to the Oscars every year. You just never know what’s going to happen. It’s gotten to the point where I won’t look at Facebook because I tape the show and don’t want to ruin any surprises. I mean, what’s the point of watching if you already know that Daniel Day-Lewis is going to win for Lincoln?
I’ve always loved stories. As a child and teenager, my brothers and I used to put on productions for our whole family. My favorite person to play was Abraham Lincoln. It’s amazing how we could detail his whole life in a fifteen minute presentation. The last scene of the show always ended the same. I sat center stage in a rocking chair, laughing hysterically at an imagined Ford’s Theatre play. My brother would sneak up behind me like a silent film actor, pull out a toy gun, and then loudly yell “BANG!” In an impressive feat, I reacted to the shot while shooting a packet of ketchup into the crowd. It worked best if my parents brought French fries to the show. As I got older I graduated to film and began producing my own home movies.
The reason the Oscars, and subsequently movies in general, are so popular is because humans desire a good story. For me, creating and producing a story was a euphoric experience. The only problem is that a great story requires something bad to happen. Conflict must arise. All the good movies have it. Bradley Cooper is estranged from his wife in Silver Linings Playbook, Lincoln details the president’s fight against slavery, Ben Affleck has to sport a Justin Bieber haircut for Argo. Imagine what each of these films would be like without conflict?
“Argo details the incredible story of how American hostages were fed caviar by the Iranian government and then immediately set free.” Sounds like a best picture winner to me.
For any film to be successful, there must be conflict. Conflict is crucial to story. Donald Miller, in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, says this about conflict:
Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller (31).
Seeing conflict as part of a grand story doesn’t mean we think that God is the author of sin or that we even look forward to difficult circumstances. It should, however, cause us to see conflict as an opportunity for growth rather than the end of life as we know it.
James, the brother of Jesus, seems to have this same perspective about conflict.
Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4, ESV).
Count it all joy? Really? Joy? Are we using reverse psychology here, James?
With each conflict we face in life, whether it is occupationally, relationally, spiritually, or financially, we are given the opportunity to create a beautiful story. Heroes are born in the trenches, not sunbathing on a beach. Hostages were taken in Iran, the Thirteenth Amendment was on the verge of being squashed near the end of the Civil War, Bin Laden went in hiding. Yet in each of these tragedies, a beautiful story was created.
One day we will all die. It might not be by an assassin’s bullet like Lincoln, but it will happen. When it comes to this world, no one gets out alive. Will we leave a great story that overcame conflict or will we leave a story of defeat that ultimately garners no awards? Let conflict improve you, not destroy you. The next time a difficult circumstance comes your way, decide to tell a story that will one day make a great movie.