Two movies worth seeing for the over thirteen and not easily offended crowd are The Way, with Martin Sheen, and Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. While the character development and pace of the Way is reminencint of Dorthy's journey down the winding road toward Oz, and the flourecent characters and coming of age parties in Blue Like Jazz remind one of Animal House, upon relection both movies are spiritual pilgrimages of sorts. One is traveling a traditional Catholic journey, walking stick in hand, to the burial place of St James the Apostle in Spain. The other pilgrim is making his journey from an unexamined Texas Baptist faith, to the "most godless campus in America," at Reed College in Oregon.
And in spite of the contrast in their tone, both stories illustrate the conflict of having grown past the inherited tradition of one's faith. For Martin Sheen's character, the realities of life as a doctor have crowded out his childhood Catholicism, and left him as a busy, secular professional. When he ventures out to walk 'the Camino' he certainly doesn't expect to find any spiritual vitality in the old relics of past saints, the rituals of ornately vested priests and the humility of bearing his soul with other travelers. And similarly, young Don Miller, is quickly indoctrinated with the evils of his Christian faith, and lapses into the spiritual vacuum that seems to lay hold of his entire campus, before reconsidering his denial.
However, through self-discovery, and some sincere seeking both men find that God is at work in places both too ancient, and too atheist to be a part of His plan. (I won't consider that a spoiler, because pilgrimage stories that don't have their pilgrims make any progress wouldn't make it to DVD!)
Do the movies then paint a fuzzy picture of all people stumbling upon God's presence in even the least likely spaces? Certainly not. In fact the road is still narrow for these pilgrims, and the destinations of their companions is still very much in question. But for these characters that were sincere in their assessment of both self and God, they discovered that His presence can be found in places both wider and more familiar than the settings they grew up with.
These movies remind me of the promise that God gave through the prophet Jeremiah: "You will seek me, and you will find me, when you seek with all your heart." (Jer 29:12) May God grant us courage to continue our seeking as pilgrims on the Way.
Author: Cameron Lemons
Reflections from the pastor