Sunday, January 30, 2011

What I Saw in "127 Hours" Is Most Powerful, If You Let It Be

Recently I had the opportunity, by accident no less, to see the movie 127 Hours starring James Franco.  I say by accident as we had intended to see a different movie, but the theater was having technical difficulties with the sound and we switched over to 127 Hours.  This movie is about a mountain climber who becomes trapped under a boulder while 'canyoneering' alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive.  It's based on a true story that many of us may remember in the news back in 2003, I believe.  I won't give the plot and outcome away for the sake of those that don't remember the media coverage at the time.

Let me just tell you what I could not help but see as I sat there in the theater watching it.  Several scenarios came to mind.  But first let me share what was playing on the screen.  Here was a man left alone with nature.  There was no one to help him.  He wanted to live life alone, not even telling people where he was going or what he was doing.  In everything he took on to do, he ignored the advice of experts and did it his way.  Now, trapped deep in a canyon, there was precious little he could do.  His situation got worse and worse.  His body and then his mind started to become affected by the accident.  Many scenes from his life from birth to the present kept flashing through his mind and often seemed to be relived there in front of his eyes in the canyon of death.  But what was I thinking as I watched this?

The camera work was so good that even though it was not 3D, I still felt I was right there within feet of his agony, but there was absolutely nothing I could do.   Like a young male teenager who sees a beautiful movie star walk a red carpet in front of him, or like a child in a Belgian chocolates store I could watch, but could not touch, even to help in case of the star tripping or the chocolates spilling to the floor.  That feeling alone when felt in conjunction with watching someone die, was very uncomfortable.

The first off-screen scenario that came to my mind was that of my father in his hospital bed on his last day of life, December 31, 2006.  His lungs had collapsed from all the cancerous growths in his body, and the doctors had, after speaking with us, just given him what was required to ease the pain but not try to delay the inevitable.  I saw my father stretching out his hands and uttering any sounds he could, begging for help and gasping for air.  In seconds, he was gone and it was over.  There was nothing more I could do.  In thinking about it this morning as I write, I am also reminded of my mother's death, twenty-four years prior to my dad's.  It was similar.  I had taken her into the hospital in the ambulance.  She was in coma.  Only this time I was not present when she died.  I simply got the call in the middle of the night from the hospital.  When I hung up the phone, this feeling of helplessness lingered for some time.

The second scenario that came to mind as I was viewing 127 Hours was the story of The Rich Man and Lazarus found in Luke chapter 16 of the Bible.  The rich man had died and ended up in Hades but he could see the poor man Lazarus (not the brother of Mary and Martha that Jesus raised from the dead in another part of scripture).  Anyway, the rich man (who lived life his way not paying attention to the rules) was begging Father Abraham to allow Lazarus who had also died and was resting in Abraham's bosom, to "dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off" his tongue, for he was "in agony in this flame."  The main character in 127 Hours was in the same situation, progressively dying from thirst and the director had great footage of the 'need for water' image.  That alone was worth the movie.  But you need to read the rest of this story of Lazurus to better understand why I related it in my mind to the movie I was watching (click here).

The final image I kept seeing was that of my friends and loved ones who at the time of their own death could not save themselves,  No matter how smart they were, there was nothing they could.  They had lost the game they thought they were playing and winning.  Doing it their way didn't amount to anything but insects crawling over their bodies and unanswered calls to a God they had never recognized as even existing during their lives.  I was not comfortable in my seat at all.

I immediately thought of an 82 year old neighbor living alone that had suffered a stroke this past week and was found by police four days later, still alive.  I had last visited him 13 months earlier, taking him Christmas dinner and visiting briefly.  I prayed in the theater that I would have one more chance to visit him in the hospital before he died.  I resolved to do that.  At the very least I would talk to him about dying, salvation through Jesus Christ, and what happens "One Second After You. . .Die".  That is, providing he was still alive.

I also resolved to continue to seek every opportunity I get to share my own personal experience -- with this movie, my life, and my God to whomever I get an opening to do so.  I will look for those opening much more fervently.   Seeing this movie last night may have started out to be 'by accident' but as the main character in the movie suggests in the end -- 'nothing is by accident'.

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