I love the movie Bruce Almighty and every time I watch it I see new theological nuances and behavioural challenges in scenes and lines. I am not going to give a lengthy outline – go and watch and if you get time check out this fascinating interview with the director about art and faith http://splashurl.com/q9gbua6 suffice to say that Bruce is wrestling in a Psalm-like way with God over life in general and career in particular when God arrives and tells suggest if he can do a better job, to get on with it and passes on His attributes to Bruce. Getting God’s attributes would go to any young man’s head and it does, with him lifting ladies skirts on the street and drawing the moon in closer to heighten the romance and ultimate lust with his girlfriend GRACE who by the way is named for theological impact.
There are other threads in the plot, and many spiritual discussions are opened for discussion or closed to debate, but Bruce and Grace is where it begins and ends. Ultimately it is about the humbling of a man, any man, to see others as more important than him. It is a lesson in how to love. Bruce is all about himself and his career. There is a scene where having asked Grace to get dressed up and taking her to their most important restaurant Grace expects to hear the words “Will you marry me?” and gets “I got the anchor job” which he has used his divine gifts, again selfishly, to steal at the local news channel.
In the end Grace leaves Bruce and in his final surrender to God Bruce gets knocked down by a truck and eye balls God himself on the brink of judgement. There, at the end of his tether and the end of his pilgrimage, God asks him what he wants for Grace and Bruce prays a prayer that is insightful and Christlike, “I want her to be happy, no matter what that means. I want her to find someone who will treat her with all the love she deserved, for me. I want her to meet someone who’ll see her always as I do now; through Your eyes.” Bruce has put his own selfishness to death in order that someone else might be loved. This is when Christ’s redemption becomes personalised and realised in Bruce and that redemption does not only clear his sin slate clean but re-moulds him as a Christlike person.
I think of this parable of redemption when I listen to Iain Archer’s song Frozen Lake, from his gorgeous new album To The Pine Roots. This beautifully tender and fragile tune, sung at the top of Archer’s gifted vocal range is about living to love others; wife or the whole big world!
“I want to be someone who makes you feel beautiful
I want to be someone who does
I want to be someone who makes you feel beautiful
I want to be someone who covers you with love”
This is music as a prayer. Where Tolstoy spoke of art as intercourse between human and human, it can also be an intercourse in the depth one’s own meditating, reflective soul or between human and God.
What I was drawn to in both Bruce Almighty and Frozen Lake was the use of the word “someone.” There is a psychological need at the heart of every human being to be “someone.”In both of these pieces of art the “someone” is the one who lives to love, to serve others and indeed feed other people’s “someone-ness.” If we want to find who we are, it is not in living for what we want. Indeed, another great line in the movie is when Bruce tells God he gave everyone what they wanted in their prayers and God responds, “Since when has anyone a clue about what they want?”
The Bible constantly suggests that we will find ourselves when we give up what we think we want. Jesus asked what good would it be to gain the world and lose our souls, our very self? Paul was constantly writing to believers telling them to put the interests of other above themselves. In Philippians 2 he theologised this idea, perhaps quoting an early Church hymn, and inspired us to what discipleship really is – doing what Christ did in giving up everything for others. Then, like Bruce, we pray the right prayers. Then, like Iain, we become the “someone” we long to be; what God made us originally to be and what Jesus died that we might become again.