Up and Away

We don’t see a lot of movies in the theaters. Buying 6 tickets plus enough popcorn and soda to feed the Correia army is too expensive! We also tend to be Nazis when it comes to what we let our family watch, and combining those two facts leads to very few trips to the movies for our clan. However, every once in awhile we will go to the cheap theater near us when they are playing a movie the family will enjoy.

Sunday after church was just such an occasion. Laura was running errands and noticed that the Disney-Pixar film “Up” was playing at that theater, so we decided to take the family to a Sunday evening showing. Laura and I had seen it on a date night in July and enjoyed it, so we took the kids, got a 55 gallon drum of popcorn at the concession stand, and enjoyed it together.

The second time I watched the movie I really paid attention to the themes and the lessons that it taught. I recommend the movie highly to people of all ages; if nothing else, Dug is hilarious.

WARNING! PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know some important plot elements, then wait to read this post until you’ve seen it.

“Up” is a story about Carl Fredericksen. His life is turned upside down as a senior citizen when he sets out to fulfill a promise he made to his deceased wife when they were kids. Read a great plot synopsis here if you are unfamiliar with the movie and want an overview of the plot lines. If you haven’t seen it, read the overview before continuing! (that reminds me of the Choose Your Own Adventure books… “if you’ve seen the movie, turn to page 46. If you want to go read the synopsis, turn to page 67.”)

The big theme of the movie that struck me concerns desires and goals. Carl promised Ellie as a kid that he would take her clubhouse to Paradise Falls, and after her death he goes to amazing lengths to do so. Russell wants very much to get his “assisting the elderly” badge so that his dad can be there to pin it on him when he becomes a Senior Wilderness Explorer. Even the villain of the movie, Charles Muntz, lives his life to prove that the bird skeleton he brought to America long ago was not a hoax, spending decades tracking a live specimen down.

All the main characters in the film have to come to grips with whether the goals they have made for themselves are really taking them where they want to go. The first to realize the problem is Russell, who throws his Wilderness Explorer sash at Carl’s feet when Carl allows Kevin to be captured in order to save his house. He realizes that he can’t abandon his friend Kevin to achieve his own goals, putting the spirit of the Wilderness Explorers first.

Carl learns his lesson late in the movie. He allows Muntz to capture Kevin and lets Russell leave, all so he can get his wife’s house to Paradise Falls. As he looks through her adventure book, though, he realizes that the adventure that he thought she was waiting to have in Paradise Falls had instead been fulfilled in her life with him. It wasn’t the clubhouse in South America that she wanted so much as a life of adventure. Once Carl realizes that, he changes his mind, rescues Kevin and Russell, saves the day, and has the grand adventure in South America Ellie had wanted.

Charles Muntz, sadly, does not learn the lesson and ultimately falls to his death from his ship while pursuing Kevin to the end.

At the end of the movie Russell doesn’t get to spend time with his dad; Carl ends up pinning on his final badge. Carl never gets to live on Paradise Falls, though he has adventures with Russell and Dug. Neither of them get what they wanted when the movie began, though both end up with the desire of their heart. Russell has a father figure to enjoy his boyhood with and Carl has a grand adventure in the spirit of Ellie’s dying wish for him.

What a great reminder of the biblical difference between our desires for our life and the goals we set out to achieve them. We set out to provide security for our families financially, doing whatever it takes to make ends meet. When we do, though, how often do we ignore what God says in James 4:13-15?

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

How often do we think that we will be happy when we are married, only to read what Paul says in 1 Cor 7:32-35 and realize that marriage can’t make us happy. We think that blessing comes from our children, and while it can give us joy to see our kids happy and successful we tend to forget Ecclesiastes 6:3.

Instead, the words of Jesus have been ringing in my ears this week, no less so than when I watched Carl and Russell learn that their happiness did not come from the achievement that they sought. Luke 11:27-28 says it succinctly:

27 While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” 28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Whatever we think might make us happy or successful will not get us what we seek! Instead, it is only hearing the word of God and observing it that can bring lasting joy. Our marriage, finances, jobs, kids, and friends will only bring lasting joy if they are the means by which we obey God. If they are the source of joy we will fail, but if they are the means by which we seek in everything we do to glorify God and be obedient to Him, then we will have the desire of our heart.

Carl got the grand adventure Ellie sought for him. Russell got the father figure he needed. They only got it, though, when they gave up their vision of fulfillment and accepted what was given to them instead. How about you? Are you still chasing your vision of success or happiness, or have you decided to follow the Lord wherever He leads and be obedient to Him?

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