Friday, January 18, 2008

"I Know Kung-Fu"

I've always loved the movie The Matrix. I watched it many times before I was a Christian, but now, as a Christian, I love to watch it and see all the references that have found new meaning.

In the movie, it is 200 years in the future in a time when machines have taken over the world. At first, men tried to disable them, but the machines became too smart and adapted to using the sun as an energy source. Humans then tried to render them powerless by destroying the sun to remove their "battery". But then the machines took over and began harvesting the energy found in the human body.. They created human farms, growing humans with the sole purpose of extracting energy. To subdue them for this task, they plugged each mind into a digital program, a fake world, called The Matrix, which was designed by machines to become a virtual reality that humans believed to be the real world - a world where what they see, taste, hear, touch and smell, is actually electrical signals programmed into their brains, a control mechanism that rendered them unaware of their true surroundings and easily subdued for energy extraction.

In this movie, there is an underground resistance to the artificial intelligence. This resistance is called the Children of Zion. These are people who have become "unplugged," literally and figuratively, to this fake world. They are lying in wait for fulfillment of the oracle's prophecy - that there is one who is being sent to save them, to release them from this bondage by helping them destroy the machines and take back control of the world.

Morpheus, one of the leaders of the resistance, comes to believe that he has found the man who will set them free. His name is Neo. Morpheus says to Neo: "You are here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life – that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me."

Then Morpheus tells Neo what exactly the Matrix is: "The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth – that you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch – a prison for your mind."

Then he gives Neo a choice: "Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. After this, there is no turning back. You take this blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. Or, you take this red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

Neo, hesitates just a second, and then swallows the red pill.

Instantly Neo is unplugged from his machine and truly born again, so to speak, from the pod he was hooked up to in the machine's human transformer farm. He is weak for days and has to be cared for intensely. In one conscious moment, he opens his eyes and reels from the pain. "Why are my eyes so sore?" he asks. "You've never used them before," is the reply.

I feel this movie can be a parable of the Christian faith. In the same way, we are all born into bondage. We all know there is something wrong, but we don't know what it is. And we begin to seek. Some of us earlier than others. Some of us never follow through. Others of us get to the point where one day we find ourselves sitting across from someone who is offering us a choice – the blue pill of ignorance, or the red pill of truth? Some choose the blue pill. Romans 1:25 says, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator." Sometimes it is easier to take the path of ignorance. It requires less work and responsibility. Others choose the red pill, get a set of new eyes and are shown the truth.

Morpheus soon brings Neo to the underground, to the other Children of Zion, and he begins to understand the true state of the world "out there", underneath the mask of the program. They are on a ship that Morpheus leads, a ship called the Nebuchadnezer, where they spend their days learning and training, and eating gruel and trying to remember what the sun looked like. Neo wakes up one day and walks to the control center where he runs into a worker named Cypher. Cypher turns to Neo and says, "I know what you're thinking, cause I've been thinking the same thing since I got here – why, oh why, didn't I take the blue pill? I know that world isn't real, but you know what? Ignorance is bliss!"

The enemy notices the discouragement in Cypher and eventually, they break down the worn out man. They want him to hand over Morpheus to them so they can obliterate the resistance completely. In exchange, they agree to wipe Cypher's memory clean and return him back into The Matrix to live the rest of his life in blissful ignorance. Cypher agrees. As he is killing off different members on his way to reaching Morpheus, one of the characters asks him why he would do such a thing. (Lu)Cypher answers: "I'm so tired. I'm tired of this world. I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of this ship, of being cold, of eating the same goop every day! Morpheus tricked us! If he would have told us the truth, we would have told him to shove that red pill right up his @$$. You call this free? All I do is what he tells me to do. If I gotta choose between that and The Matrix, I choose The Matrix."

Part of me can understand how Cypher feels. Trying to hang on to hope of some future rescue while facing day after day of stark reality. Psalm 33:20 says, "We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield," and Romans 5:5 says, "Hope does not disappoint us." But Proverbs 13:12 echos the feelings that Cypher seems to be trying to express, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." Deferred hope, hope that is promised but seems so far away, begins to look more like hopelessness the longer the wait. And that discouragement breeds heart sickness. Tommy Tenney describes this holding pattern: "So many of us are living in a space between the Already Promised and the Not Yet Delivered. We don't like living in the tension between our first cry and God's final response." Amen, brother.

I feel as if I am living between the Promise and the Delivered. God promises that if I seek him and follow him, that he will give me my hearts desire, that he has a plan to prosper me, that I will have an abundant, fulfilling life, that I will receive the things I ask for, that I will be blessed and prosperous and that my suffering will be for only a little while. Yes, I know that he didn't promise me a perfect world. He said that in this world, there will be troubles. But sometimes I want to scream as the psalmist often did "How long, Lord!?" Especially when I look around and see so many people, others Christians and especially so many non-Christians, getting all they could hope to ask for. And I find myself starting to think like heart sick Cypher, thinking back to the "Good ol' Days" when ignorance was bliss.

After Neo realizes the magnitude of the truth that he has been shown, he asks one of the others, "I can't go back, can I?" She answers, "No, but if you could, would you really want to?"

Sometimes I want to ask the same question that Neo did, although I know there is no way I can really go back. Because even if I tried, I know the truth. And unlike Cypher's deal, that truth can't be erased from my mind. I could never go back to the things I used to do. Ignorance is bliss, but unfortunately not a round trip ticket. So now, here I am, with two unappealing new choices: the pill that keeps me waiting and hoping, choking down the same boring gruel most days and trying to remember what the sun looked like, or the pill that sends me back, with now opened eyes, to an ignorant world that I would no longer fit in with either. Granted, one has the promise of hope and the other does not, which makes it a pretty clear choice. Unfortunately, in either, I am left heart sick. This is my quandary.

It's frustrating days like this that I am tempted to wonder if I should have taken the blue pill.

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