The Dark Knight: Loving Sacrificially, in Steadfastness, and in Secret

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This is quite embarrassing, but I must confess–I had no idea that Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises were connected films. In fact, I didn’t even know the first and last one existed until this year…

But that’s besides the point. My unforgivable ignorance does not take anything away from this three-part masterpiece by Christopher Nolan. If anyone hasn’t seen these bad boys, you should really make the time investment. I missed out on this treat big time, but  I am so glad I spent 3 straight nights catching up on 8 hours-worth of cinematic greatness.

Yet oddly enough, it wasn’t the performance of a lifetime by Heath Ledger or the heart-pounding story line that resonated most deeply with me. Rather, it was simply a few small, simple, yet profound lessons about love. And from this film, I think I saw 3 major aspects of love put on display by Batman (who I believe is a very Christ-like figure if we analyze the film closely).

Love is Sacrificial
Quite frequently, love is cheaply presented and defined as a mere feeling, something that just comes and goes. Though in many ways, this isn’t exactly false, it’s certainly not a complete picture. In the bible it says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Here we see that love is a decision, an action, a commitment and a sacrifice we consciously and willfully make to those we claim to love.

In the last film of the trilogy, near the end of the film, Batman knew the bomb was going to go off. Without hesitation he decided to lay his life down for the people of Gotham, by sending this bomb out of the city. If you watched the film, you would know what happened, but in any case, he made that decision knowing the state of the people that lived in the city he unconditionally loved. Many of them were not deserving of this act of kindness at all. He had all the reasons in the world to just bounce and call it a day with Anne Hathaway. But still he chose to lay his life down to make a way for the people he loved. In the same way, Jesus showed us what love ought to look like when he died on the cross for the sins of all mankind. He proved it with His sacrifice. Love is sacrificial.

Love is Steadfast
I referenced the bible earlier because if we really wanna know what something was meant to be like, we gotta to back to the source, namely God. Only in this case, if we wanna know what love is like, God Himself is it. In 1 John 4:18, it says that “God is love” meaning that love is an integral and inseparable feature of God’s existence, character, and being. We learn more about this in John 3:16  where it says that “For God so loved the world that He gave is one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.” On the old rugged splintered cross, drenched in His blood,  Jesus remained steadfast towards us and told the Father, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Here we see that even at the peak of his humiliation, He chose to show mercy and did not waver in His commitment to those He loved.

In The Dark Knight, Batman was condemned falsely for the crimes of Harvey Dent. He was persecuted despite doing nothing wrong. Even then, He continued to watch over the city he loved as they trampled over his noble works and spat in his face. Whenever the city was in need, he always showed up and never wavered. He never took a day off. Truly, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, “love bears all things.” Love is steadfast.

Love in Secret
In the Matthew 6, it tells us to give to the needy, pray for others, and fast–but in secret. These are all acts of love that ought to be focused on the receiver, not the giver. But sadly, we often aren’t concerned for the well-being of others, but merely the gratification and glorification of ourselves. In the bible it says that those who seek the praises of men will get it–but that’s all they’ll get. Jesus wants us to do good, but even when no one’s watching. Yet in reality, we know God is always watching and that’s enough.

In the Dark Knight Rises, Batman tells Blake to wear a mask when working alone. He explained that it’s not for his safety, but rather, “to protect the people you care about.” I know I’m taking this quote a slightly out of context, but I think that when you truly love someone, it doesn’t really matter whether they know or not. The mere sight of their well-being is enough. I think the best example of this is seen in the closing minutes when Lieutenant Gordon begs to know who Batman is. Though he does end up telling him indirectly, he basically tells him that it doesn’t matter whether he gets recognized for it or not. He was content with setting a good example for future heroes of Gotham. Love is in secret.

The Sad yet Hopeful Reality
Though I’m sure this is all makes a whole lot of sense, these are difficult principles to live out. There’s a deep longing in our souls for recognition and affirmation which makes it hard to love in secret. On top of that there’s a big love for ourselves that makes it hard to surrender our will and see the interests of others as greater than our own. And loving imperfect people is especially hard, so hard that we want to give up at times. Yet the reality is that though Batman doesn’t exist (though he probably can) Jesus does exist and He loved us perfectly in every respect. Just as the city of Gotham built a memorial statue to recognize Bruce Wayne’s sacrifice and contribution, we ought to make a living memorial of God with our lives to not only remember His great act of love displayed on the cross 2,000 years ago, but to also revere Him, and ultimately retell of Him and rejoice in Him.

This post isn’t really meant to be jam-packed with insight, but it’s just some observations I made from watching these 3 films haha.

 

 

 

Van City Shenanigans: Adventures with Gramps

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Has anyone ever gotten “voluntold” to do something? You know, when your boss is like, “Alright, who wants to run this errand for me?” and then after a haunting moment of silence some punk calls your name out for you. Awesome eh?

I mean, it really depends on the context because it ain’t always bad. How things turn out is one thing, but being voluntold in itself ain’t pleasant.

And trust me, I would know.

I had one of those days (sort of). Shortly after the winter semester ended, my parents asked me if I had plans during the month of August. Out of curiosity and a hint of suspicion I questioned why they had asked. Turns out they were already in the process of planning a trip to travel around Western Canada.

They asked me after they planned it.

The plan was for me to travel with my grandpa. Just grandfather and grandson, rolling out into the wild west. Wouldn’t that be nice? Like, don’t get me wrong, I was certainly down to travel with my gramps, I just wish they could’ve asked me first.

So when August 21st finally came, I boarded the 12:10 PM flight and headed to Vancouver, BC.

During the trip, God revealed no shortage of insights to me, but here are just a few that really hit home for me:

The elderly become kids again
When I was young, my grandpa used to always hold my hand and take me to school. But on this trip, in a way, the roles became reversed. Now I was holding his hand and taking him to places. Time really flies doesn’t it?
This next thing might be exclusive to him because he’s a die-hard chinese food eater, but what I found was that his eating habits resembled that of a child, if not worse. Like, after volunteering at kids’ camp during the whole month of July, I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with picky eaters till the next camp came around, but oh boy was I wrong. Like, my gramps would not even go near a bowl of salad. It got to the point where he didn’t eat any vegetables for 2 whole days because the only veggies available were raw salads. This guy just wouldn’t eat his veggies.
I found all this collectively mind-boggling because we were born in a state of vulnerability and over time, we gain a considerable deal of independence and self-sufficiency. But as we grow older, we eventually become more dependent and child-like again. In vulnerability we were made, in vulnerability we will return. In a way, I find that we were designed this way to be humbled and know that our days are numbered and that things always come back full circle. What we boasted about in our youth will look foolish in our old age and the things we boast about in our old age will sound foolish to our youthful selves.

Generational Gaps
First, I just wanna thank God that I was graced with another opportunity to share the gospel with my grandpa during this trip as it’s not everyday that I get to do that. However, there were many moments of shock that seriously knocked me out of my groove. For instance, I was shocked to find out that my grandpa’s worldview is actually quite polished and complete. It’s clear to me now that he is a self-professed atheist, a big believer of evolution, and on the political side of things, a left-wing extremist (in my opinion). He strongly believes that I have been brainwashed by western ideologies and that I’ve been deceived to believing in the existence of a deity. His ideas were preached heavily during the Maoist years in China so considering that, I’m not too surprised. Little if anything I said got through to him based on what I observed, but hey, if God’s willing, even a mountain like this one can move before my eyes and that’s exactly what I’m praying for.
Another thing that was difficult to deal with was his anxiousness. Perhaps I take Philippians 4:6 very deeply to heart so I tend to be less anxious than most people, but I just never thought someone could be this anxious. My grandpa would literally scan through an entire buffet and just jump to the front of the line, even when he knew that we would have ample time to eat. He would even bud into conversations with the tour guide just to ensure that we weren’t left out of anything. He just constantly worried about whether we were getting ripped off, if we were gonna get to places on time–just a bunch of things he had no control over. I would even say that he has a lot of FOMO, like a lot. But I have a big hunch that this comes with age because since things are moving slower for him it might make him feel like he has to keep up with the pack. However, I do hope he comes to terms with the reality that we actually don’t have a whole lot of control over our lives and to embrace that as liberation.

My Cantonese is garbage
This I always knew so this isn’t anything big. But I think I never really took in how bad it really was. It took an encounter with some tourists from Hong Kong to really smack me in the face. I realized that in a way, I do know how to say everything, just not in the smartest ways. I got called out numerous times for my “interesting” speaking habits. But yeah, I really need to work on this haha.

This trip wasn’t exactly an escape into the land of peace for me, but more of a luxurious opportunity that helped me find true peace in God. I would say that made the whole trip really worth it. Surely I don’t wanna undermine the incredible awe provoked by the breath-taking scenery though. The ginormous trees I came across reminded me of His might, the waters of the peace found in Him, and the from the captivating landscapes, His artistry. The beauty and meticulousness of creation boldly points to a Creator.

On a funny note, when I look back, it’s kind of crazy how so many people spoke to me about the exact same topic. “You’re such a good boy, accompanying your grandfather!” I heard that so much, but I always reminded them: “I didn’t volunteer, I was voluntold.”

But regarding the less eventful shenanigans, hours upon hours were spent on the bus each day. Listening to pre-downloaded sermons was a big time-killer for me. Most of them were spoken by John Piper and one sermon that really hit home for me was one about the 5 relationships that Christ has brought peace to and the necessity of having peace before using power given by Him to carry out our ultimate purpose of glorifying Him. Another sermon I liked was spoken on Psalm 127 which shed insight on how to rest in God’s sovereignty and power and the fact that embracing that truth is a key to true rest. They’re pretty old, but I recommend giving those a listen as they’ve really stuck with me ever since.

But despite all that I can gladly take away from the trip, this tour didn’t come without hiccups. My grandpa and I surely had our fair share of arguments and what not. For the most part though, God supplied me with great patience and encouragement from other tourists which really powered me through it all. And without hesitation, I can say that I’d definitely wanna travel with my grandpa again, but ideally on a tour with more experiential, hands-on activities as opposed to just sightseeing which can get boring if done for 8 straight days as we did.

Yeap, that’s all for now haha.

Shalom!

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Rethinking the Father-Son Relationship: A lesson learned from an unlikely bunch

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What will probably be one of the most important lessons I’ll ever learn in life finally came through to me.

It clicked for me in late July, so it wasn’t too long ago. And oh, how I wish I could say I learned it from the words of my parents or a soul-convicting sermon delivered on Sunday at church–but either case would be far from the truth. In fact, as shocking as this may sound…

I actually learned it from a couple of kids.

Yes.

The ones that can walk and talk, poke and joke, and ask questions they shouldn’t be asking(yet).

So last year I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at a summer kids’ camp that a friend of mine was organizing. For the whole month of July, two days each week, I helped out with a group aged 8-12 and I must say–it was an awesome experience. The kids were shockingly teachable, weren’t wasteful with food, respected one another, and just behaved like absolute all-star kids. Like, you have no idea. I was so impressed that I shook hands with a mother of one of the kids in my group to commend her for what I knew was the epitome of Godly parenting.

And so, with the addition of this priceless panorama of joy-filled memories, I thought to myself: I have to help out again next year! Or so I thought…

Unfortunately, I signed up for a totally different ball-game. This year’s batch of kids were nothing short of monstrous–a nightmare dreamers would pray for deliverance from. These kids were wasteful with food, made filthy jokes I never thought kids at this age would understand, disobeyed me just for the sake of it, had little respect for other kids (not to mention the teachers), and were just plain brats altogether. When the main camp organizer asked me to nominate the best-behaved child in our class, I just shook my head and told her: “We’d be picking the best out of the worst.”

These rascals simply drove me nuts. My temper neared breaking point on numerous occasions, but one instance caught me really off-guard. That is when this dialogue took place:

Me: Guys, stop yelling. Lets use our indoor voices okay?
Kid: Jackie, we don’t like you, we want a new teacher!
Me: …

After that last piece of dialogue, my heart just sunk. It kind of reminded me of when the Leafs gave up a 3-0 lead in a single period and lost 4-3 in overtime to the Bruins. I remember I just walked up straight upstairs after the game to my room and sat there, staring at the blank ceiling, trying to think of excuses to get them off the hook. I mean, it didn’t make me want to hide from life, but in those first 20 minutes, I really felt lost, heartbroken. All the time I poured into supporting them just trickled down the drain. I was in disbelief.

So when the kids said what they said, it actually made me think: How does God feel when I prostitute myself to things and people that I know cannot fill the void in my heart? I can’t even imagine. Like, I wonder. Pouring all my time, money, thoughts, and strength into someone. You know what’s good for them, and that’s exactly what you give them. But in the end, they reject it all, and go on seeking things that’re bad for them. How much would it hurt a father to watch? What I basically did, was cut off my relationship with my dad and put other things and people in His place. That’s why I can now better comprehend the anger of God in the bible when His people seek after other gods and mock His commandments.

To say the least, this interaction made me deeply ponder about the recent sins that I had committed. I tried to complete myself by investing in worldly, adulterous passions and looking back on it now–I’m sickened by myself. Like, it must’ve ripped the heart of God right open when I went out like the Lost Son (Luke 15) looking for worldly treasures when His greatest possession had already been given to me–and that’s Himself. He came in the form of His Son Jesus Christ who died on the cross 2,000 years ago to save me from my sins to reconcile me back to Himself, while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8).

According to the apostle Paul, in 2Corinthians 5:17, we have been declared “new creations.” The righteousness of Christ is clothed over us and we’ve been regenerated. The Father has taken us, His lost sons and daughters back! We do not have to go out to seek other things. We ought not to return again to the pig pen, the places where darkness dwells. We ought not to return to our old vomit. The heart of the Father only breaks more when we do.

The fact is that rejection of a child towards their father is hard to take. Even as someone who was just a teacher over these kids, I got a glimpse of how hard it would be for a father to take those words. It’s hard. And so what I take home from all this is that when we do, say, or think something outside of God’s desire for us, we’re not just breaking rules and commandments, but we’re making a statement on how we view our relationship with Him. When we sin, we’re essentially saying that He’s a bad father and as a result, we end up looking for other wells to meet our cravings, only to find that we’ll only thirst again. The reality is that it’s about more than just rules, but a relationship.

Praise God for using these kids to teach me such a simple yet profound lesson. It has made me rethink every action as proclamations on my relationship with not only my heavenly Father, but also my earthly father. Like, when I come home late with poor reasons, or wait days before I actually do what he says, what do these actions really say? it just shows a lack of love towards my father. As I said, it’s not so much the rule-breaking, but the relationship straining part of it.

After this lesson hitting me, there’s been a major shift in how I view all of my actions. I’ll probably talk more about it in future posts, but until then…

Shalom readers.