Monday, March 3, 2014

The Grey

I was struck by the moment toward the end of The Grey where the three surviving characters share their first names.  There are two "Johns" (soon to be one) and a "Peter" at the end.  Is this coincidence?  The movie begins with Liam Neeson's character saying that he's where he belongs, at the end of the world with ex-cons and drifters, with the dregs of society. As he says that, he passes a gaudy neon cross on the wall. It's an image I'd forgotten by the end of the movie, after an hour and a half of jump-scares and wolf howls, but it's a momentary image that sets a secondary level of the story in motion. It hints that those names may not be coincidental. Or that they may be, at least, providential.

That vision of the cross marks the beginning of a journey to the cross that Ottway has no idea he's been on.

After the wolves and the environment take their toll, only two are left. As these two walk on, the aptly-named Peter strengthens his brother.  He knows what John was thinking. He knows that John had considered suicide, and he challenges him.

At the end, John looks over that suicide note and then into the distance. His mind seems to change. His wife again tells him - from a hospital bed, we see - not to be afraid. She isn't just telling him not to be afraid of her death but to not be afraid of life. Not to be afraid to live through her death and after it.

John calls out to God, challenging Him. "I need it now, not later! Now! Show me and I'll believe in you until the day I die!" He decides God won't help him and he'll do it himself. Yet God has been helping him. God works through others, like John's wife and Peter.  Has John been listening? At the end, he seems finally to be. He puts the letter aside and takes up the challenge of the alpha wolf. He is ready to fight. And, putting on the signal watch, he is ready to survive.

God works within us, as well, and often silently. Post-credits, we see John laying over the alpha wolf. Perhaps he was mortally wounded, but there is reason to believe he was not. (He stays with the wolf he hunts at the beginning of the movie, as well.) How can John be sure that all that strength to survive has come purely from himself?  He prayed, however it sounded. Like Job, he was at least talking to God, rather than only about Him.  God will answer even poor prayers, though His answer is not always the one we want or expect. He answers nonetheless, and He gives us strength not to avoid our struggles - or even always to come through them - but to shoulder them well.

Through the entire movie, John has been walking toward the wolves' den without knowing it. He has been making his way, step by step, to his test - his fight with the beast - his Calvary.

Every day we wake, we can choose to go "once more into the fray", to shoulder the cross put before us - the loss of a loved one, an accident, a failure, a fear. Each day we walk a small road to Calvary, living that day and dying to it as it ticks away. Living despite the struggles and dying to ourselves. And, in the end, if we fight and win - with God's grace - that last good fight, we die to live again.

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