"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."
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 pretend we're doing well, but we are 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 we struggle to ask for prayers for our fears, our worries, our doubts or much of anything that is going on in our lives.
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 comes again 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 the feelings of fear and hopelessness. The Lego characters express their worry in a revised version of The Lego Movie's song.
"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 her song. She has been learning about optimism from Emmet, but balances it with her concerns.
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 the destruction of the Temple and exile 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.
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).
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.
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This story was published April 24, 2019.