Rebellions are Built on Hope

As we welcome in a new year, we inevitably think about new beginnings. Resolutions, goals, fresh starts, hopes for the year to come. You might even say…new hopes.

Yes, it’s a post about Star Wars.

If you haven’t seen the latest Star Wars film yet, Rogue One, you should immediately seek out your nearest showing. I may have seen it twice. I may have cried twice. Ok, fine. More than twice. What can I say, movies often make me blub a little.

I cried because there are some tragic events depicted in this film, but mostly because of two things; nostalgia and hope. Nostalgia for my childhood, linking my experience in 2017 to all the other times I’ve watched the rather magnificent Star Wars movies (originals of course.) Nostalgia for the late, great, Carrie Fisher. Nostalgia for 1997, when I saw the films in the cinema for the first time, perhaps the first memorable movie experience of my life. Perhaps nostalgia for a simpler time.

Nostalgia is a powerful cultural and emotional force in our society and our popular culture today. It certainly is in my life. It brings with it a pleasant warmth, much like a G & T, along with the cosy glow of fond memories, of ‘simpler times’ (whatever that means.) Yet, much like drinking too many gin and tonics, it brings a kick too. It reminds us what has changed, what has been lost, what we don’t like about our world today. Seeing a certain Princess at the end of Rogue One, took me back to seeing the film for the first time and loving this character. Seeing her before her adventures had begun, particularly in the light of Carrie Fisher’s sudden passing, reminded me of the fact that I could never go back to a time before Star Wars. A time before 2016. A time before Brexit, angst, fear, Facebook, uncertainty, Trump, whatever… That brought a tear to my eye in that happy/sad kinda way.

Nostalgia is a powerful force, an emotional one. Listening to 90s music on Spotify. Rocking those vintage trainers. Watching that favourite movie, again. Or indeed the inevitable sequel (or prequel, spin-off or reboot.) These things are good. They regularly provide me with little bursts of joy. But nostalgia alone doesn’t take me anywhere, doesn’t improve anything in my life. Are we not supposed to build on the past, rather that retreat to it? Does nostalgia help us or hinder us? Is it just a guilty pleasure or does it actually hold us back?

I need to be careful not to spend too much time dwelling on the past, staying in the safe and familiar place of what I know, what is comfortable. I need to ensure that I take steps in faith, with confidence, towards something new, even if that’s scary. Even though there are bound to be uncertainties and challenges ahead. I need to trust that the future will be OK, that there are things in the future that I need to work toward. In short, I need to have hope.

One of the wonderful and tragic things about the story of Rogue One is the fact that we know that none of the main characters are in the original Star Wars movies. We know that they are not especially important to the sweeping narrative of the original trilogy. In short, their prospects don’t look great… Yet they keep going.

We do know that their mission if of the utmost importance to the beloved characters we have yet to meet. If they fail to steal the plans to the Death Star, Luke Skywalker simply won’t be able to blow the whole thing up (oops, spoiler!) The fact that we know the plans will be stolen by film’s end doesn’t stop Rogue One having one of the most thrilling third acts I have witnessed in a while, as the rag-tag rebels jump over impossible hurdle after impossible hurdle to get the plans into the hands of our favourite princess. They keep going, even as characters are dispatched cruelly, striving forward with unstoppable hope and belief.

This brings me back to crying in Star Wars. The hope presented in the film’s final scenes led me to hastily wipe my damp cheek as the lights came up in the cinema. Hope that the Empire could be defeated. That hope that a Princess, a smuggler and a Jedi knight could defeat the monochrome forces of evil and conformity, made me feel something more powerful than nostalgia. It made me think that, even though I don’t have a light sabre, I could do the same. I could make a difference. I could rebel.

Thankfully, the hope that I have is secure not because of any vague premonition or mind trick. I have a God who loves me, who has promised to prosper me, who has a place secure for all who trust in Jesus. Plus, I have the Spirit as my strength and shield. I have a great hope, giving me even greater confidence for the future. I don’t need to stick to the familiar patterns of sin or fear, I can move forward, sure of my Father’s love and protection.

So, rather than just looking back to the safe and comfortable, I need to rebel. Whether that’s by making a new resolution, goal or habit, by taking a risk in my career, or just taking more time to spend with people (and less with Netflix), I’m planning to rebel more in 2017.

After all, rebellions are built on hope, and what more secure hope is there?