A friend mentioned being mindful of all the great art, movies, books made around our most recent turn of the century—and making sure your kids don’t miss them. Which reminded me of two nights ago, when my husband and I introduced Chariots of Fire to my two young adult sons.
They’ve loved Vangelis’ music all their lives, so it was fun to see their faces light up at those (now anachronistic) opening credits.
I have a REALLY soft spot in my heart for Chariots of Fire, for a number of reasons. But the main reason is that it was the movie that brought my mom back into the movie theater. When she was a teenager, going to movies was considered a not very “Godly” thing to do.
In addition and at the time, her brother, her only sibling, was dying of heart disease related to having rheumatic fever as a young child. So she started bargaining with God for her brother’s life. She promised God a lot of things during that time, and one of those things was that she would never enter a movie theater.
Her brother passed away when she was a young adult, and by that time she understood the futility of the kind of bargain she was attempting to strike. But she still felt like she’d made a promise. So we didn’t go to movies when I was a kid—we saw them when they came out on television years later.
When my siblings and I became teenagers and started seeing movies on our own (mom never made us feel guilty about that) we also became my father’s companions to movies. He would pick one of us who he thought would really enjoy the movie he wanted to see, and we’d get to have some dad time and see a great film. Two of my fondest memories are:
1) Seeing The Man From Snowy River for the first time, and the simultaneous shock of wonder my Dad and I breathed in when those horses galloped over that cliff. 2) Having tears in my eyes listening to Robert Duvall sing that lonely, longing “On the Wings of a Dove” in Tender Mercies, and looking over to see Dad wipe away a tear, as well.
I think we saw both of those movies at the Bagdad Theatre https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagdad_Theatre. Dad didn’t see many movies because of Mom, and if he was going to go to a movie, he wanted the full, gala movie experience.
When Chariots of Fire came out, I think he saw it first, with my older sister. But his mom wanted to see it, so he prepared to go see it again with her, and he really wanted my mom to come along. My impression was that he’d never pressured her or made her feel bad about not going to movies before that, so this desire had impact for Mom.
It was hard for him—two of his greatest pleasures were my mom and experiencing the art of motion pictures—and to be in a position where he couldn’t combine those two things… My mom knew this. I’m sure she thought hard about her decision. I’m sure she prayed about it. And in the end, she went.
Which seems ironic, at first, since you could see Chariots of Fire being a movie about sacrificing something important because you’ve made a promise to God.
But what my adult mom understood, that the child had not, is that God “desires mercy (or love) more than sacrifice.” Which also ties into the larger themes of Chariots of Fire—giving avenue to one of the greatest lines in movie history, when he tells his sister that he’ll go to China as a missionary.
But first, he would go to Paris to compete in the 1924 Olympics. And then he says a line that has resonated with me my entire life, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”
Mom believed that God wanted her to be obedient, yes, but more than that, He wanted her to be fully the person, full of mercy, love and grace, that He created her to be—that was how she glorified Him. That was her act of worship.
And in that moment, she refused to allow a childish promise to a God she didn’t really understand, to stand in the way of what she knew was right. In that moment, she leaned in fully to her adult understanding of who God was, in order to love her husband well.
And I’m sure she felt His pleasure.