"Sometimes church is the place where we are the least honest, the least genuine, the least sincere," our United Methodist pastor uttered in an off-the-cuff remark one Sunday. "We come to church with a smile on our faces and tell everyone that everything is awesome."
Emmet and Wyldstyle learn about dealing with difficulties. Image property of The Lego Movie 2, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Upon hearing those last three words, I could not have been the only one to begin silently singing "Everything Is AWESOME!!!" from The Lego Movie:
Everything is awesome.
Everything is cool when your part of a team.
Everything is awesome,
when you're living out a dream.
When my mind snapped back into focus, I realized how right he was. Many of us have experienced a Sunday when we say we're doing well, but we're not.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part reminds us of the importance of staying hopeful and connected even in our struggles.
Not faking it
One of the places many struggle with sincerity at church is during the joys and concerns. We recognize the importance of praying for others, both those we know and those we don't. Yet asking for prayers for our fears, our worries, our doubts or much of anything that is going on in our lives, is difficult and a bit scary.
All too often we channel Emmet Brickowski, the lovable, optimistic hero of The Lego Movies. Prayer concerns? Who has concerns? Everything is awesome! That's what we're supposed to project at church, right?
When crisis returns to Bricksburg, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part offers a correction to that type of thinking. Emmet and his positive attitude have been taken away, leaving no one to balance everyone else's feelings of fear and hopelessness. The Lego characters express their worry in a revised version of "Everything Is AWESOME!!!".
In dire circumstances, Wyldstyle leads with a message of hope. Image property of The Lego Movie 2, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
"Everything's not awesome," they slowly sing. "Everything's not cool. I am so depressed."
One character wails, "What's the point. There's no hope. Awesomeness was a pipe dream."
Even Lego Batman, the body-conscious superhero, sadly sings, "Love's not real. I just wanna eat carbs. Pass the ice cream."
Wyldstyle, also known as Lucy, breaks through the sadness with a chorus of her own. She balances her concerns with the hope and optimism she has been learning from Emmet.
Everything's not awesome,
but that doesn't mean that it's hopeless and bleak
Everything's not awesome, but in my heart, I believe
We can make things better if we stick together
Side by side, you and I, we will build it together
Hope in struggle
In the biblical book of Lamentations, a similar song appears. Israel has just experienced exile and the destruction of the Temple at the hands of the Babylonians. In song, they name their very real pain.
I thought: My future is gone, as well as my hope from the Lord.
The memory of my suffering and homelessness
is bitterness and poison.
I can't help but remember and am depressed.
I call all this to mind—therefore, I will wait.
Then a voice of hope begins to sing:
Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn't ended;
certainly God's compassion isn't through!
They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:18-23 CEB)
We sing a translation of that last verse in a well-known hymn, "Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness, / Morning by morning new mercies I see" (United Methodist Hymnal 140).
In the biblical book of Lamentations we find a song of hope. Photo illustration by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications.
Throughout Scripture, people of faith proclaim hope in God's faithfulness even in their darkest times. We have a Savior who does not leave or abandon us, but walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.
When we are courageous enough to be honest, genuine and sincere with our church family, they can remind us of God's faithfulness, peace and promises. As Wyldstyle sings, even when everything's not awesome, it is not hopeless and bleak. Our God is with us, breathing new life into our darkest hour.
*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email.
This story was published April 24, 2019.