Captain Reynolds: Lost In The Woods
At the beginning of the first episode of Firefly, you see Mal kiss his cross, say a prayer and go into battle. If you’ve ever read the novelization of Serenity (The Movie), it actually contains the opening scene from the pilot episode of Firefly where Mal kisses his cross before battle,
“His weapon already primed, Mal took a moment to pull the crucifix out from under his shirt. Kissing it he whispered a quick ‘Our Father.’ Mal wasn’t arrogant enough to think of the independence cause to be the same as the way Christ defied the Romans, but he was also wise enough to see the similarities...conformity was not a concept he could get behind, any more than Christ could.”
Just a few lines later it also states, “God and Zoe were the only two things in the ‘Verse Mal Reynolds had counted on, and neither one of them had let him down yet.” Then it happens, the war is lost, they are abandoned, and with it Mal’s faith. As they wait for rescue after battle Zoe states “Thank God” then you see the change “Sergeant Reynolds looked at her with as disgusted an expression as she’d ever seen on his face. ‘God?...Whose colors He flyin?’”
He didn’t just lose the war in the battle, he lost his faith. Not that he didn’t believe there was a God; Mal just didn’t want any part of Him. As he told Shepherd Book, “You're WELCOME on my boat. GOD AIN'T.”
We’ve all had those moments. Those moments when we truly had the wind knocked out of us by a situation. We have those moments where we feel like God truly wronged us by allowing something to happen to us. I remember the moment my mom died. I had just changed jobs, our family had a new baby, we had just moved, and then at the culmination of it all my mother passes away with no warning. That easily could have been one of those moments for me. My life is fairly accustomed to tragedy so I wasn’t shaken, but I have seen similar situations kill people’s faith in general.
It reminds of the whole “Soil” teaching of Jesus; “ 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” 18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and
understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’” - Matthew 13:3- 9,18-23
We know why Mal fell away, but there are people in our world who aren’t fictional captains with tight pants, and their situations are real and painful. We have to be careful in how we respond and deal with them. A standard harsh rebuke towards Malcolm Reynolds would get you shot, but in the real world if we approach someone slipping away inappropriately we could completely push them over the edge.
Jesus 1⁄2 brother Jude understands this, John 7:5, “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” Jude saw Jesus his entire life and still didn’t grasp it for a very long time. Jude goes on to write “22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” He knows that when we are plagued by doubt or distance from God sometimes we need someone to be merciful, other times we need someone to save us from ourselves and the damage we inflict on ourselves when we are oh so lost. I think Shepherd Book had that fine balance of Mercy/Snatching. We also have to be careful even in how we speak.
Colossians 4, “4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” When someone is lost in the woods, we need to make sure our words are clear, full of grace (God’s grace, not like fancy companion grace), and seasoned with salt, having the truth sprinkled into all we say. One word can truly rescue or destroy someone.
Once Mal had lost his faith in God, being lost was where he felt most secure. Inara: “You’re lost in the woods. We all are. Even the captain. The only difference is, he likes it that way.” Mal: “The only difference is, the woods are the only place I can see a clear path.” If you feel that way, if you feel like you are lost in the woods, and that it makes more sense to be lost than to follow God, please know that all it takes is to turn around. “Come near to God and he will come near to you...” James 4:8.