Sunday, March 18, 2007

Talking Vegetables & Spider-Man 2

On my recent trip to San Diego I received an interesting Biblical message from two unusual sources. I was in California for the Children's Pastor's Conference. One of the speakers at the conference was Phil Vischer. Mr. Vischer is an interesting guy, besides being the creator of VeggieTales, he's also been involved in puppet ministry (me too) and he's from my hometown...the Holy Land of Wheaton, IL.

Vischer has a new book called Me, Myself, & Bob which I'm currently working on. The speech he gave I'm sure is the abbreviated version of the book. I had heard him give this speech before (on a CD from another conference), but it's still a great speech.

To shorten a long story, Vischer started VeggieTales and it became huge. The most successful direct-to-video series ever. However, for various reasons, the company was heading toward bankruptcy. The day after the premiere party for their first theatrical film, "Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie," many of the folks who were cheering the night before were laid off. Vischer talks about how he couldn't understand how God could allow this ministry that was reaching millions of people around the world to fall apart. After the dust started to clear from bankruptcy, lawsuits, and all sorts of other unpleasant things, Vischer began to see that the important thing is to put God first in everything. Sometimes that means even giving up our dreams.

A few days before I saw Vischer speak, I heard this same message from an even more unlikely source than a man who creates videos about talking vegetables...the movie "Spider-Man 2"

In "Spider-Man 2," Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) is struggling with trying to be a regular guy. He's failing his college classes, he keeps loosing job after job, his best friend is mad at him, and he feels guilty over being responsible for the death of his uncle (from the first film). Worst of all, he can't be with the girl he loves. Being with Mary Jane is his dream, the thing he wants the most. These things are such a struggle for him because every time he hears a police siren he's compelled to jump into the red and blue jammies and save the day. Remember "With great power comes great responsibility" and all that jazz.

As the movie progresses, Peter even finds his super powers beginning to disappear. The way I see it, he's so worked up about all the things going wrong that he's no longer effective at using his gift. Eventually he decides that he doesn't have to be Spider-Man anymore. He gives it up to try and be normal. The scene where he makes this decision is pretty amazing. He imagines himself talking to his dead uncle, who's death he feels responsible for. As I watched the scene I imagined Uncle Ben as being the voice of God as he tries to encourage Peter to do the right thing. "Take my hand, son" he even says just before Peter tells him that he doesn't want to follow his Uncle's dreams for him anymore. Of course, at the end of the film he realizes that even though his dream is to be just plain old Peter Parker, normal guy and boyfriend of Mary Jane, he has to lay down that dream to do the right thing. His Aunt Mae gets him thinking about this when she tells him "Sometimes to do what's right we need to be steady and give up the things we want the most, even our dreams."

This same dilemma presents itself in the story of the film's villain, Doctor Octopus. When we first meet Doc Ock he's not a bad guy. He's a brilliant scientist working on an invention that will benefit all mankind, a inexhaustible power source. Seeing his work succeed is Ock's dream. However, his experiment goes horribly wrong, resulting in the death of his wife and having four tentacle-like mechanical arms permanently fused into his spinal column. Deciding to see his experiment succeed at any cost, Ock turns to a life of crime in order to get the resources he needs for his work. It is during the final confrontation between hero and villain that Spidey passes on to Ock the lesson that his Aunt passed on to him.

"Sometimes to do what's right, we must give up the things we want the most, even our dreams."

We all have dreams, but God's dreams for us are always better. Sometimes our dreams match up with His, many times they don't. Sometimes God takes away our dreams, that's what happened to Phil Vischer, but when we're willing to give up our dreams, and put God's dreams for us first, then He can start to use us.

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