During the time when I called California ‘home’, I had the opportunity to mentor an incredibly dynamic young woman. Her name is Stephanie and she’s positively radiant. Really, she is, I’m not just saying that. This woman is has a refreshing, unassuming presence
about her – she listens with a
calm confidence, speaks with a depth beyond her years, and has a capacity for artistic creativity that is second to none. And I had the honor of mentoring her, how did I get so freaking privileged?! During this West Coast Pilgrimage I’ve been lucky enough to spend a couple days with this dashing young woman; now 24 years old, a college grad, happily married, and holding a steady job sketching out insanely talented graphic designs. She’s seriously cool.
Stephanie has always had a knack for asking insightful questions. The first night we connected, she inquired with a sincere curiosity, “Now that you’re in your 30’s, what piece of advice would you give to me, a young 20-something that has so much life to live?”
Good grief. That’s a really big question. Maybe it felt so heavy because I knew she was genuinely seeking my advice. It wasn’t a flippant request for a some cheap fortune that’s found within the crumbles of a stale cookie. No, Stephanie is a woman of intention, and she really wanted a word of advice. For a moment I thought, “Who the hell am I to give advice to such a pure soul?” But when I was finally able to dig my gaze out of my own belly button I realized, “Who the hell am I not to give advice?” Sure, I’m a clumsy disciple; I’ve F’ed up, hurt others, lied, cheated, rebelled, manipulated, and all this before lunch! But far more importantly, the place from which I wish to offer advice is not from my rank-stained rags of brokenness, but from the bottomless well of scandalous forgiveness.
The bit of advice I wish to offer my girl comes from two of my favorite films. Elizabethtown, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Yes, I’m giving advice from Hollywood creations – but these creations are brilliant (even if in nobody’s estimation but my own).
I’m a words person. I believe they have great power and if we allow them, they can breathe new life into our bored, tired souls. Whenever I hear a new song, the first thing I do is look up the lyrics. I’m in a very serious relationship with AZLyrics.com. I listen for words before melody. And if a movie wants to make it into my top ten, then disarming philosophical quotes are definitely required. Words matter. They can kill or they can inspire. And these words that I wish to pass on to my girl, well I believe they inspire.
So first, let’s visit my friend Claire Colburn. I adore her character in Elizabethtown. I resonate with her. In fact, I think we’re related. Yeah, I’m pretty sure we’re sisters. In this film, she says to her friend (who experienced a failure of colossal proportions),
“I want you to get into the deep beautiful melancholy of everything that’s happened.”
There are two types of people in this world. Those who respond gracefully to painful struggles, and those who respond proudly. Those who respond with grace, well they are the ones who grow in wisdom, compassion, and humility. Those who respond with the pride of a peacock grow calloused, hard-hearted, eventually mastering the art of blaming others. I wish for my girl to respond with grace. Struggles, failures, and epic screw-ups are a guarantee in this life. Failure is not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’. We’re f’ed up individuals and life is a messy adventure of free-will. Failure hurts, but it’s going to happen. Sin sucks, but we do it. Pain is real, but it hold promise. To you, Stephanie, when you experience real, hard, struggles, I encourage you to “get into the deep beautiful melancholy of everything that’s happened.” Let it grow you, soften you, fill you with wisdom, and may you hold fast to the promises that are woven in life’s great melancholy.
And secondly, I want to impart the adventure found in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In this film (which, not that you really care, has recently made it’s way to the #1 spot in my list of top ten) Walter Mitty works for LIFE magazine. It’s an incredible film crammed full of epic photography composition, quotes, and courageous adventure – all the things that stir my soul. In reciting LIFE’s motto, Mitty says,
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”
Could there be a more inviting motto? Nope. So, Stephanie, I encourage you to remember this – God has gifted us with this one life. We are given but a few days in this splendid world, and these days can be as beautiful or as mundane as we make them. We are invited to partner in the mission of God in bringing the Kingdom here – to this world. I hope for you to accept this invitation with unquenchable fervor. I want you to see the world – with your eyes wide open and an unbridled spirit. There is so much beauty in this world, and your very presence is that which helps make it beautiful. You have a unique capacity to empathize with others, that is a gift our world so desperately needs. Draw closer – draw ever closer to Christ, to the pulse of life, to the heart of humanity, and use your heart of hospitality to allow others to experience this great wonderful world. Stephanie, get into everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen. Draw ever closer.
Sure, it might be horribly cheesy to quote movies to my girl when she asks for advice. I totally own that. But, hey, I’m a words person, so what else would you expect? A bible quote? “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, blah blah bla…” I’m sorry, but that’s boring. While I think Jeremiah is crazy cool, I guess I want to give my girl something different. I want give her a story. I believe the great thing about quoting these two films is that they speak to the heart of the human experience. And these quotes are bound to a story -a story of adventure, courage, exploring the great unknown, struggle, and boundless beauty. Stephanie Grace, this is the kind of story I wish for you.