La La Land-What do you think of the ending?!
I wrote this discussion of La La Land and pointed out several spiritual connections and messages we can take from the movie, but as my mother and I later discussed the movie and our thoughts about the ending, I realized I had really missed what was, for me, the most significant lesson. So, warning, there are spoilers here as we talk about the ending, but I think there’s a really meaningful application to our lives with the Lord. One that, frankly, I haven’t been able to get out of my head since my mom and I talked.
In a nut shell, the movie, based on the previews, appears to be a romance. And frankly, it felt like a romance… all the way through the movie, until the end, where suddenly, it wasn’t really a romance anymore. Mia and Sebastian meet at the beginning, share their dreams, fall in love as they sing and dance… it’s beautiful. It’s such a high, happy, beautiful thing that I was a bit concerned—where else could it go from there? Sure enough, things unraveled. Their careers took them in different places and they let each other go to pursue those careers. Fast forward a few years, they bump into each other again. Both have finally made it, their dreams for their careers had come true (largely because of each other, really). It should be a happy thing, but it’s really sad. She’s moved on. He seems to regret letting her go. As a viewer, it’s sad. You’ve spent a couple hours watching their relationship grow and pulling for them, and suddenly, the rug is ripped out from you, too, as you watch them see each other and think about what might have been with a touch of sadness.
The movie felt like a romance, but I’m not sure that it was. The movie actually tells you, in the very first scene, what it’s all about. There is a song that opens the movie and it tells us what the real story is. It’s about people, dreamers, who are pursuing their dreams and hoping that they might meet the right connections to get there, hoping that a stranger in the crowd just might get them where they want to go. (More on that in this discussion.) In that respect, the movie absolutely delivered. We see two dreamers, Mia and Seb, who meet a stranger in the crowd (each other) and that stranger helps get them where they dreamed of going (and arguably were supposed to go). The romance was never the point of the story, only the device to get them there.
I felt a little cheated, to be honest. But then, I had to think that that was probably the right ending. I have to know that if I go watch it again I’ll probably really like it. Why? It’s the same movie. It’s just that my expectations will be different. I was disappointed because I was watching (and wanting) a different story than the one they were telling. If I go and watch the right story, I might really like it.
And then it hit us (my mom and I) – THIS IS REAL LIFE. So often I am disappointed because I expect God to be doing a certain thing in my life, writing a particular kind of story in my life and I have to realize, He’s really not. I may feel like God is doing a really poor job of writing the story I want, but that’s only because he’s not writing that story in the first place. He’s writing another story and He’s writing that one beautifully. The problem is, I’m missing it because I’m so focused on the story I had in mind.
Like the romance in La La Land, God uses things in our lives to move the plot (and us) along. Sweet and beautiful things. Things that are so wonderful we are willing to drop plan A and make that the focus of our story instead. But when those things have served their purpose, God often removes them from our lives and we’re left confused and empty, wondering why that failed, wondering what our lives would be like if we’d stayed that course. It can feel so bittersweet, or even worse, the more we are holding on to that wrong story in our heads.
If you look, you can see examples of this playing out all throughout scripture, but let’s just look at Jesus’ life. The disciples were absolutely confused and hurt and disappointed when they found out He was not there to become King and take over the world. Looking back, we can see that scripture had indicated that He would come to die, (just as the movie told us right out what kind of story it was), but they had missed it. They had seen what they wanted to see and missed the whole picture. Yes, Jesus would be king, but not at the time or in the way that they had expected. They didn’t want to except that Jesus had come to die. That was a really disappointing story when what you thought was that Jesus would come and set you free from Rome’s rule.
If the story was that Jesus was coming to be a king then and there, then it was a bitter failure. BUT, what a sweet success the real story is. That Jesus so loved us He died for us. That Jesus defeated not the Roman rule, but Satan’s…the rule of sin and death. It’s beautiful that Jesus didn’t just set a people group free, He set all mankind free, on the inside, so that the outside didn’t have to matter so much. I’m sure it was disappointing to live through, but with a little hindsight, no doubt the disciples realized what a beautiful story it really was. And now, we can see that it’s the perfect story, the right story.
It might, admittedly, take a little hindsight in our own lives to come to a place of appreciation for the story God is writing in us. I know we can be disappointed when things don’t go as we expect. We don’t have the luxury of hindsight, or of watching the story a second time to adjust our expectations. We have to live in the moment, taking what comes our way with faith that God IS good and He IS in control and He DOES love us. If we can truly grasp those three truths, then we can roll with the changes in our story a little bit easier, trusting that God is a good author who writes good stories, accepting that maybe we’ve been watching a different story than the one God is telling.