Monday, August 29, 2016

Strength in Weakness

     For fun, I rented the Sean Connery James Bond movie Thunderball. I always thought of him as the best Bond—looks, accent, demeanor (grabs and eats a grape in the midst of a tense cat-and-mouse scene), playfulness (fools with dangerous gadgets and gets chided by Q; flirts with the secretary), and droll delivery of lines (“She's just dead”—as if from over-dancing instead of a gun shot wound).
     Over dinner that night I said: “One scene in this movie they'd never, ever do in a current Bond film is have him cry for help. Remember that scene?”
     “On the stretching machine?” Pene said, excited.
     “Yeah, he's calling, 'Help! Help!' They'd never do that now. Why?”
     “He'd have a gadget to get him out,” said Braden.
     “Maybe, but why?”
     They made some guesses and eventually Deanne said it makes him look weak.
     “Yeah, that's the thing,” I said. “Today, producers give short-shrift to audiences. They think if they see the hero calling for help that'll signify weakness. But is calling for help really weak?”
     “No,” the kids said, reading my mind.
     “Why?” I asked.
     There was a long pause. “Because he needs help?” Pene suggested.
     “Yes. So what is calling for help when you need help a sign of?”
     “That he's in trouble,” said Deanne.
     “But what does that say about his character?”
     “That he doesn't want to die?” said Jaren.
     “So calling for help when you could die—what does that say about him?”
     “That he's willing to ask for help to save his own life.”
     “Does it take a strong or weak person to do that?”
     “Right! It's a sign of strength, not weakness to ask for help when you need it. If you're feeling bad like you're going to pass out or something, it's strength to tell someone or go see a doctor. Same's true if you're feeling lonely or depressed. Everyone needs help once in awhile. What happens when someone needs help but doesn't ask for help?”
     “He could die.”
     “Is that strength? No, it's dumb and weak because nothing is weaker than death.”
     I mulled it over for awhile and came up with something else.  “Apostle Paul said, 'When I'm weak, I'm strong.' What did he mean?”
     “He asked for help?” said Pene.
     “Yes, but why?”
     There was a pause. “Because he was dying,” said Braden.
     “Yes, but why did almost dying make him strong?” There was no answer so I continued. “When I'm strong, I think, 'I'm tough. I can do anything. I can handle this. I don't need God.' But when I'm weak, I depend on God totally. And we all depend on God all the time. Sometimes it's only when we're weak that we realize it.
     “If we go to God with a humble heart, we can defeat anything. I think that's what Paul meant, that when he's weak, he gets all his strength from God. And nothing is stronger than God.”
     Pene seemed the least convinced of all so before bedtime I asked her, “Who are the three strongest people in the Bible?”
     A long pause ensued. “Jesus, David, and...Esther?” she said.
     I nodded after the first two but said, “I would have picked Samson, but I love Esther too. She's very strong. Now, did they ever ask for help?”
     “Who did they ask for help?”
     “Because he's strong.”
     “Yes, but why would he help them just because he's strong?”
     “Because he loves them,” she said, voice catching in her throat.
     “That's right.”
     Later, I remembered that Esther asked others for help, too, namely, Mordecai and her husband-king. I couldn't remember all the details so I reread the relevant passages with Pene to rediscover that Esther had asked her Uncle Mordecai and the Jews to fast and pray for her when she went in unsummoned to king Xerxes and asked King Xerxes to save the Jews from Evil Haman's plot to have them exterminated. Pene even remembered that the Jewish festival Purim commemorates these events.
     It was an important lesson that I wanted my kids to always remember—there's no shame in asking for help—that came from an improbable James Bond source.

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