Sleepless in Seattle

(Or--from Annie’s perspective--Blissless in Baltimore)

 

In Isaiah 45:3 the Lord says, "I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, Who calls you by your name, am the God of Israel." I am fascinated by the vast array of places God chooses to hide His truth treasures. All it takes on our part is a willingness to go mining alongside the Holy Spirit to find these hidden riches in secret places.

In the movie Sleepless in Seattle I discovered just such hidden treasure.

Sleepless is a story about Annie who is engaged to Walter but who hears Sam’s voice--and the expression of his heart--on the radio and then cannot rest until she finds him. In her unconventional quest she does some foolish things, eventually breaks off her engagement, and finally does meet Sam.

To me Walter, Annie’s fiancé, represents *religion. Why do I say that? Because he seems so right to Annie. He is predictable, steady and conventional. She feels comfortable with him. When her mother talks about the magic she felt when she met Annie’s father, Annie has to admit to herself that her relationship with Walter doesn’t contain that element of mystery or magic. This is apparently the first seed of her discontent. I believe those of us with a religious past also have to hear of the reality of a vibrant and enticing spiritual relationship with Jesus and have to let some discontent with the status quo sprout within our hearts. If we cover our ears and insist we are fulfilled in our religiosity, we will never take the next step.

Annie took some radical steps to meet Sam (who, in my retelling, represents Jesus). Why did she do this? She learned of his existence and heard his voice and the message of his heart and was drawn to him. She tried to talk herself out of this foolishness but she found she couldn’t. We can’t be satisfied with religion after entertaining the hope of a relationship with Jesus. The movie, then, shows us the struggle Annie goes through to eventually break off her engagement with Walter and throw herself completely into the hope of something more. She had to let go of the old in order to fully embrace the new. Is this Jesus’ message when He speaks of pouring new wine into new wineskins for it would burst the old ones? God encourages us in Jeremiah 29:13-14a by saying, "You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you..." He knows it can be scary to let go of our religious traditions where we felt safe and knew all the answers. Who’s to say we’ll even meet Jesus anyway when all is said and done? After all, He lives so far away! (Annie lived in Baltimore, Sam in Seattle.)

Both the book of Acts and the rest of the history of the church are replete with stories of people who were compelled by the love of Jesus as Truth to leave the old and embrace something that seemed new and different--and probably scary--to them. Peter did it when he took the gospel to Cornelius, a Gentile, in Acts 10. Paul did it when he ministered alongside women. Martin Luther did it when he let go of salvation by works and embraced salvation by faith alone. What seemed to them to be new and different had been the truth all along, but had remained hidden to them-–a mystery, if you will-–until they opened themselves to the revelation of it. Proverbs 25:2 says, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings." Paul says in Ephesians 3:3-5, "In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets."

Annie’s quest to meet Sam was successful, as will be our quest to meet Jesus. It’s a promise: "The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you..." (II Chronicles 15:2b). He is our very great reward (Genesis 15:1)!

 

*Believers often say that Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship. But of course Christianity is a religion. The dictionary defines religion as "The belief in a superhuman controlling power, esp. in a personal God or gods entitled to obedience and worship...a particular system of faith and worship," and Christianity is that. But if the crucial relationship factor is not emphasized, one’s Christianity can deteriorate into what Jesus, quoting Isaiah, referred to when He said, "These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men" (Mark 7:6-8). This, then, is what I am referring to when I say "religion." I am speaking of a tradition of men that has the words but not the heart of true Christianity.

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