OK, I’m a bit late. This motion picture musical starring Hugh Jackman came out before Christmas and I only got around to watching it for the first time recently. At least my team members are more on the ball – they’ve adapted a few of the songs from that fantastic soundtrack and have already used them as crowd gatherers on our recent tour in Albania.
And why not? The energy and raw emotion of the score and lyrics – even if it’s part of what I call the ‘we are the world’ genre – seem to have tapped into those God-shaped longings I believe He’s fashioned in the human heart. Doubtful? Read the comments under the different soundtrack uploads on YouTube. The comments on YouTube are usually dangerous territory but the passion poured out for The Greatest Showman score show to me the God-sized hole in every human heart – emptiness expressly fashioned by God – that He wants to fill with Himself. I see this in three ways in The Greatest Showman:
1. A longing to be loved
The lyrics of “This is Me”, arguably the main anthem of the film, expresses at first the rejection experienced by one of the show’s ‘freaks’:
I am not a stranger to the dark
"Hide away," they say
"'Cause we don't want your broken parts"
I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars
"Run away," they say
"No one'll love you as you are"
The vulnerability of her own brokenness speaks to her other outcast colleagues who join with her defiantly to declare:
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Theologian Jackson Wu has written his own blog on the honour/shame culture inherent in this song. But at the same time, it is a worship song to humanism. Instead of ‘For HE is glorious’, it is ‘WE are glorious’. Rejection keeps us from pleading, ‘please love me’ so we defiantly love ourselves. Psychologists would applaud this, and indeed, there is some truth to it. But the problem is that this is a God-shaped longing that HE wants to fill. Self-esteem, no matter how defiant, is often temporary. But GOD has loved us with an everlasting love, far more secure, safe and trustworthy than the love of any human or even ourselves.
2. A thirst for a purpose
One of the reasons I love “The Lord of the Rings” is the concept of a community on a quest. It’s also what makes being in TACO so exciting – we are a community on a quest to expand the Kingdom of God amongst Muslims. We were created for this. So were you. And so were those who don’t yet have the Spirit of God. You can see this in The Greatest Showman:
“It's everything you ever want
It's everything you ever need
And it's here right in front of you
This is where you wanna be (This is where you wanna be)”
“A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it's gonna take
A million dreams for the world we're gonna make.”
The concept of a dream, a goal, a quest is prevalent in music, literature and art. It’s God-created. Which is why our spirits also are stirred when we see the cinematic yearning and excitement of a new quest. But the adventure God has in mind for each of us is far more exciting than any of the quests people create, even if their names are Hugh Jackman or Steve Jobs.
I’m told this is getting too long – until I see you in Part II, where does your love come from and what is your quest?