Star Wars: Stories Worth Passing On
I avoided writing about Star Wars in the first two books for the same reason I avoided Star Trek, Harry Potter, & The Lord Of The Rings, because this type of devotional/inspirational book has already been tacked on those stories time and again. But with Star Wars coming back to us in such a big way, I think I've avoided it long enough.
As I type this, it is less than 24 hours before I will be watching The Force Awakens. I'm extremely pumped to see this movie, but even more so for my kids to be able to watch it in theatres as well. As besmirched at the prequels may be, I remember sitting in theatres and seeing the Star Wars opening credits come on the screen, and knowing it was a special experience. I wasn't old enough to watch any of the original trilogy in theatres and actually remember them, but I remember my first time seeing them. I was in my freshman year of high school and my science teacher often relied on movies over instruction, so for an entire week we watched the Star Wars trilogy, and I loved it. Fast forward 20+ years, and my appreciation and love for the series has only grown, but i'm pretty much a professional geek, so if I don't like Star Wars I'm pretty sure I'll get audited or something.
Even if you live geekery daily, sometimes you drop the ball. This is what I realized happened when my kids knew Chewbacca not from Star Wars, but from the Andy Mineo song "Paisanos Wylin." I had dropped the ball and I knew I wanted my oldest daughters to watch Star Wars The Force Awakens in theatres with me, but having never seen the original series I needed to resolve that. I ordered some fresh copies and we spent two nights watching them. /this reminded me that there are certain stories I plan on my children watching, because I just think they need to. Star Wars is one of them, eventually Harry Potter (probably before we head to Universal Studios), and our long running tradition of "Batman: The Animated Series," which we started watching nightly when one of my kids turned three until we make it through the whole series. There are also certain books I want my kids to read, like The Chronicles of Narnia, James & The Giant Peach, anything by Shel Silverstein, and, of course, the Bible. I also had a policy that my kids can't get their own video games till they beat the original Super Mario Bros. and after that they can't get a new video game till they beat the one they own (I totally slacked up on that, but still).
The things we pass on to children are powerful and can make a big difference. I was a latchkey kid, so I was pretty much raised up by what I watched on TV. Ninja Turtles, Batman, X-Men, Animaniacs, Dark Wing Duck, and anything else that came on after school pretty much were the things that shaped me. That may explain why I have a hero complex and a overly dramatic goofiness at times, but that's another chapter. I can only imagine though what it would have been like if someone intentionally gave me things to read, watch or experience. This is something scripture teaches us, especially in the book of Deuteronomy.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." - Deuteronomy 6:5-9
Moses drove this point home that we can't be passive in what we want the next generation to experience, and understand. This is a conscious effort. While I want my kids to know the faces each of the Doctors, to know what a Cylon is, and be able to flawlessly enter the Contra code, there are a little bit more important things for them to learn. Moses stated that the Word of God must first be on our hearts before we try and instruct others with it, but then he drove home that we need to take every opportunity we can to instruct our children. When we are on the go, or even just chilling, to be prepared to tell the stories. He even instructed them to make symbols as reminders. My house is full of symbols, I have posters, comic books, action figures and a ton of stuff all over the place that all means something, and frequently one of my kids will say "Dad who is this character?" or "What is that a picture of?" I don’t keep this stuff around just to pull a question out of them, but the fact is that the presence of those symbols in our lives does start conversation with our family.
So while we are finishing up the original trilogy Rosa, my oldest, starts getting excited during Return of the Jedi. She looks over at me and says "Dad, Vader is gonna become a good guy again, and be Luke's dad!!" I just didn't have the heart to break it to her, so I just said "Let's see how the movie turns out baby." So as Vader made his move to redemption and chucked Palpatine off the ledge, my daughter cried out in triumph, but then as Vader began slipping away, and I watched as the tears started to flow down my daughters face. She wept for Vader. I don't know how many times I'd watched this movie and never really cared that Vader died, but my daughter literally was falling to pieces. I reached over and pulled her in close to let her cry on me, and she just whimpered, "But he was becoming a good guy." I showed her these movies to check off something a list, and give her backstory for a new movie, but I almost missed the fact that this story is filled with valuable lessons that would impact her. In our spare room
(Spare OOm for the Narnia fans) there is a 3 foot tall Vader action figure a student gave me for Christmas. It's been here for a couple weeks, but today I walked in and saw Rosa with her hand on Vader having a moment. We started talking and I was able to dialogue with her about sin, consequences, second chances, and redemption. If sharing a fictional tale can have that kind of impact, imagine what the Word of God could actually accomplish in her life. But being a geeky dad and pastor I can often make the mistake of thinking our church's well-run children's ministry should take responsibility for instructing and teaching these things to my kids, but the reality of it is Star Wars, Vader, and the whole deal mattered more to my daughter because it came from ME.
Deuteronomy 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”
My middle child Bella, who is 5, watched Star Wars right alongside me and Rosa, and while she watched it, I don't think she was as impacted or retained as
much as Rosa. My 2 year old Carmen was also in on the viewing but I know she didn’t get a single thing out of the movie as she was flailing around the room like a spastic otter the whole time. I shared the movies with all three of them, but by the time Episode 8 comes out in 2017, I'm going to need to re-show them. Rosa will be gaining a better understanding, Bella will be familiar but finally seeing it for what it is, and Carmen will be just old enough to start to appreciate the story, and then by the time episode 9 comes around it'll be the whole process all over again. Moses reminded us to not only instruct the children, but to make sure that neither we, nor them forget what God has taught us. It needs to be something we repetitively instruct our children time after time. I'm pretty sure that even at 7 and 5, my big kids have already heard most of what a Children's ministry can teach them, but that doesn’t mean I'm going to tell them to stop attending. Even more so I need to be prepared to tell them the same stories myself and experience it with them.
There are certain movies and TV series I watch that upon viewing I fully understand I'm never going to watch it again, not because it was terrible or lame, but simply because it just wouldn’t be worth my time. On the flipside there are movies, TV series, comics, video games, and other things that I repetitively go through because it is significant to me and holds value and meaning. Doctor Who, Star Wars, Dragon Ball Z, Firefly, The Dark Knight, etc. -- these stories hold weight with me, so they get repeated. We should treat the Word of God with even more honor than our repetitive viewing selections.
Deuteronomy 11:1 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. 5 It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place,6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them.7 But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.
I'm a busy person, I'm constantly on the go, engaged, or preoccupied, so my children genuinely seem interested and excited to spend time with me, whether it's playing a game with them or watching a movie, reading them a book, or anything. They look up to me and love me. I know things will be rougher by the time they are teenagers, but the principle holds true. They want my guidance and input. There's never been a time I offered myself to them that they straight rejected me. The same goes for when I want to invest in them with something I love. They see that it matters to me, so they want to experience it for themselves. That's why they spent about 8 hours watching Star Wars with me this week, and will sit in theatres with me in a very short time. Moses instructed the people to remember that since we have experienced the power of God, the strength of God, the grace of God, and the love of God in ways that they haven't yet, it is up to us to instruct them on what God has done and who God is so that they can better understand them one day themselves not only by giving them the stories from scripture, but also by telling them what God has done in our lives as well. In the years to come my girls will remember sitting with me watching The Force Awakens in theatres, but eternally it's vastly more important that they remember that their father loved God, that His Word was on my heart, and that I thought the Bible was worth sharing as much as I shared my fandoms.
"The Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned" - Yoda