The Last Jedi: Hiding From Our Failures
What's up with Jedi running away from their problems and living in desolation and isolation? Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, had beef with the script for the Last Jedi because he believed that Jedi never give up and that HIS Luke would never quit. But that doesn't seem to match the pattern. After the debacle with the Senate and the slaughter of the Jedi, Yoda went into hiding in a swamp. That's right – a swamp. Of all the places to hide, he picked a swamp, like a tiny less annoying Shrek. Then we see that after Obi-Wan took the high ground and qualified Anakin for better parking, he ran off to the desert. Sure, he was sticking nearby Luke, but still he was hiding away from the world, all by himself.
Then, whether Mark agreed with it or not, we end up with Luke Skywalker out on his mountaintop ocean hideaway at the Jedi temple. Sure, he had Porgs and a small army of creatures keeping the place tidy, but the great Jedi master was off alone living in hiding, just like Obi-Wan and Yoda.
Luke also faced darkness and failure, and just like his predecessors, he hid from his darkness and failure. They all had their moments where their world was overcome by darkness, and as we have all seen, the division between light and dark is a big deal to the Jedi.
The division between light and dark is also a big concept to believers as well. John writes, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth" (1 John 1:5-6). When Luke was faced with his moment of darkness (the idea to murder Kylo in his sleep), he betrayed himself, the Jedi, Kylo, and the truth. While we may not actually attempt to slice people open with laser swords when we choose to walk in darkness, we also are betrayers. We betray ourselves, God, and the truth.
Just like Luke, we fail. In those moments, we aren't who we are called to be or claim to be. While we all experience that darkness and failure, we have to choose to actually overcome it, not run away to a swamp or a poorly run rocky vacation resort. In our lives, we may not be able to literally run away and hide, but we find other ways. We shut ourselves down from our friends, our families, churches, small groups, and sometimes even God.
Darkness may have entered our lives or our world, but that isn't any reason to hide, no matter how badly we have failed. Just like the Jedi, there is light and darkness in us, but we see in the book of John that the darkness cannot defeat the light. We don't need to live like our darkness has overcome the light. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5). Even in my moments of darkness, I need to remember that the light overcomes. It's so easy to see it the other way around, much like Luke did. We can believe that our darkness overshadows or in some ways nullifies our light, but it's not true. We may have moments of failure, but that shouldn't cause us to hide. As Yoda stated in The Last Jedi, "Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery, but weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is."
Another reason why we can't hide is that it simply doesn’t work. Think about this: how many lives were lost because Luke Skywalker hid? If Luke had confessed his darkness and stayed and fought with the resistance, the First Order might never have existed. Those planets decimated in The Force Awakens might still be around. All Luke accomplished by hiding from his conflict was adding more pain, shame, and guilt to it. Darkness only overcomes when we stay out of the light. Rey called Luke out on the fact he had closed himself off from the force, which is a sad concept all together. With us though, we tend to try and close ourselves off from God and think much like Luke, or any toddler covering their face with their hands. The reality is that we are hidden when we are completely visible. No matter how hard we may want to, we can't hide from God.
As the prophet Jeremiah shows us, “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD" Jeremiah (23:23-24). We sin, we fail, we are engulfed in shame, and our instinct is to hide from the one being that will still accept us and bring healing. This has been the case from Adam covering himself with leaves, all the way to Peter in the depths of his denial. Luke acted like cutting himself off from the force somehow hid him from the consequences of his actions and the shame they brought, but instead it just placed him in a greater place of pain. In the same way, when we try to hide from God, we end up in the same place.
Luke wasn't just hiding from the force though; he was hiding from the people connected to it. He was hiding from Kylo, Han, Leia, the Resistance, and everyone that held "Luke Skywalker" as a legend. In our lives, we may try to hide from God, and even though we can't, He is easier to ignore even if it is only self-deception.
The more practical way we hide is from the people who connect us to God. We hide from church, small groups, people who walk alongside us in faith, friends, family, and especially the people we have failed. In reality, we are hiding from anyone that knows our sin and shame. We are hiding from anyone that reminds us of our failure. That fear and hiding ends up making us hate ourselves. We see in 1 John 2:11 that hating others blinds us when he writes, "But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them." This is the hatred and bitterness that turned Ben Solo to Kylo Ren, as he clung to the bitterness towards Luke and used it as an excuse to delve deeper into the dark side. There was already darkness in him, but his hatred blinded him to see the way out beyond it.
It's easy to recognize and take steps when we have conflict with others. It is somehow harder for us to actually process when the person we are in conflict with is our ourselves. Luke's self-hatred blinded him equally. Even if no one else is involved, I think that scripture is equally true. When we are in a place of self-hatred, loathing, and shame, we are equally blinded. As long as we are allowing the conflict we have with others or even ourselves to linger over us, we will continue to be blinded by darkness.
Stop hiding. If hiding is the dark side, then coming forward is the light. As believers, we hear over and over that we are to forgive others, and that God offers forgiveness to us, yet we allow that fear and shame to keep us from embracing it. We need to realize that our God is bigger than our failures and any of the people who are actually following Him will offer us that same forgiveness. God's presence should be something that causes us to come out of hiding, not to remain in it.
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18.
Just like the force should have made Luke, Obi-Wan, and Yoda bold, God's love should empower us to move beyond the darkness of our own failure and shame.
Sometimes, it's hard for us to take those steps forward on our own, and we need people to come walk us out of the darkness. I love that that is who Rey was in the story. She guided Kylo to let go of his bitterness, hatred, and to turn back to the light. She guided Luke to step out of his shame, self-loathing, and to be the hero they needed him to be. She spent the majority of the movie trying to guide these two powerful people out of the darkness that was consuming them. That's a lot like what was foretold of John the Baptist in the book of Luke when the author writes, "to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace" (Luke 1:79). John would go on to guide people in darkness to the path of peace. He would guide those that were lost in sin and shame and guide them towards repentance, life, and Christ. That is the ministry that John had, and that's also the ministry that we have. Like Rey, when we see people caught up in the darkness, we guide them back to the light, not out of condemnation or judgment, but so that they can actually experience life and light. It was Rey's persistence that pushed Luke forward to finally rise up, and I hope and believe it will be Rey's persistence that brings Kylo to the light the same way that Luke brought Vader.
Sometimes we are Kylo. We are lost in the darkness of bitterness and hatred towards others and it blinds us and robs us of life. Sometimes, we are Luke and we are lost in our own sin and shame, and that blinds us and isolates us. If you are in either of those places, please know that forgiveness and grace leads to life. You only hurt yourself when you hold on to unforgiveness, and hiding from your failures only brings more failure and pain. If you aren't in either of those places, then it's probably your turn to be Rey and find those in darkness and guide them to a path of peace and life.
Consider this the textual equivalent of Rey holding the lightsaber out to Luke, it's your move.