Actor Liam Neeson’s new movie, The Grey, is even darker than its title. I thought the The Titanic film was a downer after the boat started sinking within the first fifteen minutes. But at least its plot included the survivors. In The Grey, [Spoiler alert…]
a pack of wolves takes down each character one by one. The story implies that a man who stares down death without any eternal hope has the most courage. He is like a tree falling alone in a forest, and whether or not he makes a sound is up to him.
It reminds me of the cliche which describes faith as “a crutch.” The accusation here is that if you were not weak and wounded, then you could face death as it is–final, the end, kaput. Some people may use faith that way, but true faith… is not avoidance.
In my profession, I deal with death regularly; and during those moment of crisis, there is no professional distance. First and foremost, I am a trusted friend stepping into a painful scene. If I can be helpful at all, it is usually to guide someone to deal with what is really happening, not deny it. True faith is not a means of escaping the reality and pain. It does not inoculate a person from the thoughts and fears anyone may have, nor does it make difficulty less difficult. Faith is not a pain-killer.
Faith centered upon God is lined up with what is real and true. It does not allow us to ignore the difficult moment, even at the cost of pain. True faith is bent upon making us more responsible to reality and not less so.
In turn, faith makes us more aware of things about ourselves we would rather keep tucked away. It cracks through pretense. Although some may have a shallow faith that functions only as a crutch, others hide from true faith for a similar purpose, to avoid painful truth about themselves. Unbelief often masquerades as an intellectual, as though our deepest human questions were just cold problems to solve without any personal consequences, or investment. In my experience, there is always a hidden, personal investment.
I find it ironic when a story, book or film tries to dismiss man’s genuine, faithful quest for meaning as just some distraction or fairy tale. Even in its cold dismissal of eternity, The Grey cannot shake the fact that the human spirit is hungry for something that endures. Without intending to, the movie shows how any construct of virtue apart from a lasting foundation is certainly a house of cards–maybe even a crutch.