Pastor Chuck's Takeaway

Monday morning theological reflections


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GONE GIRL: Terrific Movie, Twisted Marriage

What is this? “Gone Girl” is one terrific movie that focuses on one twisted marriage. Ben Affleck stars in this disturbing and suspenseful plot twister that was just released. The story is centered around a couple on their fifth anniversary, Amy Elliot and Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). When his wife, a trust-fund baby, disappears, Nick is a person of interest. As the plot unfolds and the back-story is filled in, we meet a couple that seems to dream of destroying each other. They both alternate between being the villain and the victim, especially in the national media spotlight. While Amy is cold and calculating from the start, Ben’s manipulative ways and soulless shallows are revealed more incrementally. However, they both are exposed as equal-opportunity liars and cheats. What makes the story intriguing to me is the questions it raises about how well do we really know the person we married. It also makes you wonder how our marital relationship changes us, sometimes in destructive as well as constructive ways. Let me paraphrase one reviewer by stating, “It is so absorbing yet not very deep, memorable, edifying, or that much fun to watch.”

What does this mean? Personally, I thought it was fun to watch and “Gone Girl” certainly generates conversation. It makes you think of people you may know who are in basically toxic relationships. Might be the couple’s chemistry or the domineering personality trying to change or control the other, but it’s clear “two are NOT better off than one” for our “Gone Girl” couple. Most of us don’t have marital relationships with co-dependents, borderline personalities, or sociopaths.  But, I would guess most of us have been in a toxic relationship or two. It feels so dangerous and addicting while being combustible and destructive to your emotional health. It is not necessarily that the other is evil, sometimes it is just the couple chemistry. A biblical example of such a twisted relationship is David and Bathsheba. King David’s lust for the beautiful Bathsheba morphs into adultery, murder, conspiracy, and cover-up. Scripture contains such tragic stories as stark reminders. If it can happen to a pillar of faith like David, then it can happen to any of us sinners, too. Good for us to be watchful (not suspicious) in our own relationships.

What is the takeaway? Ecclesiastes 4: 9 states, “Two are better than one, for they have a good return for their work.” Pastor Walt Wangerin suggests a healthy marriage is like living with an honest mirror. Your spouse is to an accurate reflection of who you are and who you are not. In an honest and balanced relationship, it is like the light comes in to create a place of safety and freedom.  This keeps you accountable when you are going astray or getting an inflated ego. It has the power to lift you up when you are feeling battered, sad, or inept in the world. Conversely, it occurs to me an unhealthy relationship most likely reinforces self-deceptions and instead of letting in the light, encloses the relationship in darkness and shadows. “Two are better than one, for they have a good return for their work.” The holy and hard work of marriage is far beyond raising the children, pay the bills, do the dishes, and get ready for retirement. Frederick Buechner eloquently captures this, “A marriage made in heaven is one where a man and a woman become more richly themselves together than the chances are either of them could ever have managed to become alone.”

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