La La Land & Joy in the Pursuit of the Ordinary

I got completely wrecked Thursday night … by the movie La La Land. I’m often quite late to the party when it comes to pop culture. For instance, Dunkirk just came out and I desperately want to see it, but in reality will not see it for a really long time owing to the fact that I gladly parent a 5 and 3 year old (and have a wife who will never want to watch a war film with me). So its often a while ’til I see the latest cinematic works of wonder … unless of course they are made by Disney or Pixar in which case I am very up to date!

So we rented La La Land last Thursday. Three minutes into the opening sequence Teresa says to me, “Wait, is this a musical?” That was kind of entertaining in and of itself! But then we watched the film and I cannot put it any other way than to say it moved my soul. I make no pretense of being a tough good ole’ boy. I’m secure enough in my masculinity to wear pastels and admit I wept (and I mean wept) at the conclusion of that picture. I haven’t wept like that since “Feast” or the opening sequence of Up.

There is quite a bit I could say about the beauty of La La Land and it genius (such as its capture of the classic Hollywood music without it feeling trite or sentimental or in how the film develops its characters without requiring the principal characters to ever say much about themselves), but it is really the closing ten minutes of the film that so moved me in ways where I stood weeping and my wife stood laughing at me.

I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone so if you haven’t seen the movie yet stop right now and go watch it. I promise that watching that movie is a better use of your time then reading this! Once you’ve seen the film, you know by this point of the epilogue to which I am referring. Here’s what moved me so much. I knew from reading a few reviews of the film beforehand that the principal characters do not end up together. And from what I read, you should be ok with the ending because everyone is ok and content themselves at the end of the film.

Clearly, however, any critic or person who feels ok at the end of this film is living in a mass delusion and lie concerning their own existence! Sure, the principal characters will no doubt get on with their lives and be happy, but the final ten minutes of this film prove how they have missed out on the greatest joy they could have had as a result of their individual pursuits of idolistic dreams. Here’s what I mean.

Sebastian and Mia both have these personal dreams of what they believe will bring them joy in life. For Sebastian it is in owning a jazz club that maintains and perpetuates the grandeur of an art form from a time gone by. For Mia it is in achieving the fame and glamour of becoming a Hollywood movie star. They sacrifice their own relationship (in a way that at the time seems quite noble) in order to pursue what they were seemingly put on the earth to do. But then the filmmaker throws us for a massive loop at the end when we see what “could have been.” And we discover there that there was a greater joy and greater fulfillment and a greater dream to be had simply in pursuing the joy of “the ordinary.”

You see you and I struggle with each day in the mundane because we think that our days are just that: mundane, ordinary, uneventful, and unexciting. We fail to enjoy our days because they seem not as glamorous as what could be. But the reason for this friends is solely because we have made an idol of this world, expecting our days to give us something that only God Himself can! The great lesson from the book of Ecclesiastes is that our days themselves don’t give joy or fulfillment. God alone does so! But because He gives us joy, He is able to make our ordinary lives meaningful and fulfilling.

Maybe for you its drink or food or flirtation with that person or entertainment or drug that you turn to in order to spice up your life. Have you considered that there is great joy God has for you in the ordinary things of life? But that joy will only be found and known when we surrender our days to the Lord of all days, Jesus Christ. We are only able to enjoy the fullness and abundance of life itself when we are receiving it solely from the Lord of life.

The point is that if we desire true meaning in life, if we want purpose and fulfillment those things will be found nowhere else and in no one else than Jesus. To receive Him, though, we have to admit and believe that He really is the Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man whom the Father sent to save us from our broken, meaningless lives and bring us into the fullness of life that He alone can provide. And so, where are you? Are you the person who is trying to find meaning in your life through the pleasures of this world, pursuing some dream or idol or trying just to cover up your failures through some thing on this earth? Or maybe you know that these things don’t work but you don’t know where the answer is or if it can even be found? The claim and promise of Jesus is simple: Come to me and drink and receive true life! Will you find your meaning in Him? Are you someone who has come to Jesus in faith and yet you’re still struggling to live out that faith in the ordinary things of this world? If so come again to Jesus and ask Him to feed your faith, to give you wisdom, that you may live daily in the way that He calls you to do so? Whoever you are and wherever you are, may your wandering end and may you find what you’re looking for in Christ alone.

In Jesus there is no ordinary, for it is all extra–ordinary in Him, and there will your joy be found!

 

 

Postscript

I just checked all three of the above links to “Feast,” Up, and then La La Land to make sure they worked…I would not recommend watching them back to back to back. I’ll just say that.