Last night we watched The Tomorrow War and it hit me the same way – again. There was a strong aha moment the first time I watched it as well. I thought to myself, “This is important, Don’t forget this.” And then I forgot.
In the movie the main character, Dan Forester, was a high school science teacher and beloved father, and was good at both of those things. But he wanted another job, he wanted to work in a prestigious job for a ranking company. In his own words, he felt like he was “meant to be someone important.”
In the original timeline of the movie, we discover that Forester’s disillusionment with the disparity between who he was and who he believed he was meant to be in terms of “importance” led him to split up with his wife, lose touch with his daughter, and ultimately die at a young age, alone and unhappy.
How often does our search for meaningfulness stop us from seeing the meaning in our lives right in front of us? As Forester said that he wanted to be someone important, his daughter was snuggled up with him adoringly, and his his loving wife sat at his side. He already was important. He was chasing after gaudy baubles when priceless gems were already his.
I’m reminded of the story of Midas, whose greed led him to make a deal that everything he touched would become gold. Joyfully, he ran from stone, to stone, touching them and turning them into gold. He would never want for anything again! In hsi joy he grabbed his daughter and twirled her around, only to discover with a start that he had turned her into gold as well. He had everything he ever wanted, but lost the most important thing, the daughter he never valued enough.
There is a story in the Bible that reflects this fruitless chase after the wrong riches. Check out this story of Lazarus and a rich man from Luke 16:
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
There is so much to unpack in this story. Why does Lazarus have a name but the “rich man” doesn’t? What is the significance of the rich man still expecting to be served by Lazarus even in hell? And is this a literal depiction of heaven and hell? And not to mention the mic drop: “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”*
But what I’d like to focus on today are the vain pursuits of the rich man. “Son, …in your lifetime you received your good things.” Wealth, respect, appearances, and luxury were at his fingertips every day. He received the reward for his labors. For a fleeting moment. But Lazarus’ reward will be eternal.
I hate to admit it, but I struggle with wanting the same things the rich man wanted. Like Dan Forester from The Tomorrow War, I want to accomplish more than I am. I want to be as respected as that woman over there. I want to teach crowds of thousands of people. I want. I want. I want. All while my God has already put his stamp of approval on me (Eph. 1:13-14) and my family stands by my side.
I believe wholeheartedly that my worldly desires and the accompanying discontentment blind me to the meaning in my life in the real things. Here and now. My loving God. My husband, kids. My church. My friends. Why aren’t they enough? And is this really the message I want to send to them? Of course not. So how can I overcome this nagging discontentment, like I’m meant to do something bigger?
In the new timeline created by the Tomorrow War we discover that indeed Forester was meant to be someone important, but not in the ways he was so desperately chasing. He wasn’t meant to be the great ranking scientist he thought he was called to be. Instead, he was meant to work together with his daughter (to stop the aliens and save the world, of course), following the course his life took while keeping his greatest assets – not his scientific mind, but his relationships with his loved ones – in their proper place as his top priority.
“If Satan’s basic game plan is pride, seeking to draw us into his life of arrogance, then God’s basic game plan is humility, drawing us into the life of his Son.”
-Paul Miller, A Praying Life
Satan may try to lead us away, dangling the carrot of pride. You deserve more, he says. (Or the flip side of that coin, the pride of false humility, in which he says, You’re beyond hope.) But God holds fast, whispering, You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you, and that is enough. (Isaiah 43:4 and 2 Cor. 12:9)
You and I matter. We are important. But we don’t have to frantically grab for a name or our own worthiness as though they may be snatched from us. If we are Christ’s child, then our identity is secure, he has given us a name, and the worldly riches we may or may not acquire no longer enslave us.
Father, please help me be content with the life you’ve given me.
I need your help daily. Please help me fight those messages that talk about “going after your dreams,” which for me create discontentment with where I am now.
Please deliver me from chasing after gaudy baubles when priceless gems are already mine in Christ.
Please help me be here now and serve faithfully and joyfully in the life you’ve given me. Help me to take each new step each new day and trust the destination to you.
*Check out Timothy Keller’s sermon about this passage: https://youtu.be/kMRCjvUXVEo