Into the woods: Journeying Together

“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another… Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. ” (Romans 12:5-6 & 9-10)

Over the Christmas break I had the privilege of seeing the movie Into the Woods. After this first viewing I sat still in my chair as my mind quickly tried to memorize all the many moments that caught my attention, that affirmed my experiences, and that made me say: “YES! They get it!” This movie had such a large impact on me that I returned to see it again last week- hoping to catch all the nuggets of wisdom hidden inside this show.

Morals and truths are woven throughout this movie (originally a Broadway production). As some of the more memorable fairy tale characters: Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (from Jack and the Bean stalk), Cinderella, the Baker, the Baker’s wife, and many others go in and out of the woods they are changed, shaped, and formed… learning things that they “hadn’t known before.” As both the children and adults enter into the woods, they experience individual adventures that become connected as they interact with, share, and learn from each other.

Cinderella (a character reflective of a young adult) reminds Little Red Riding Hood and the audience that “no one is alone.” No matter what happens, even if people leave or when you have to make individual decisions, ultimately, “no one is alone.” We go in and out of the woods, meet new people, and have new adventures. Sometimes we are disappointed, sad, excited, nervous, or happy. We experience many things as we all make this journey together. And through it all- God’s promise to us is that we are not alone. We have the gift of each other- the body of Christ represents the gift of community.

When people of all generations, times, places, experiences, cultural backgrounds come together we experience the beauty of the whole- the complete body of Christ. Although the community might look different than we imagined we remember that we are all connected and that none of us journey alone. As we journey, we learn from each other- child from adult, adult from child. As our paths cross and as we experience these adventures together, we (as Jack proclaims) are changed. We “know things now that [we] never knew before.” We now have wisdom to share and insight to offer. When we share, we all learn and grow. In response- the body of Christ is strengthened and the world is changed.

We are all connected. We do not travel on individual paths, but on interconnected trails that lead all of us in and out of the woods together. Sometimes we might veer out on our own but when we pay attention we realize how our paths connect with the other ones. We are not alone, what we do impacts others. In the finale of this show, the Witch reminds us of how the decisions we make, the words we say, the things we do not only impact us but potentially impact other:

Careful the spell you cast….Sometimes the spell may last….Past what you can see….And turn against you…

Perhaps this is what Paul was trying to say in Romans 12: “We are one in Christ….individually we are members one of another.” Individuals, yet one body- called to love one another with mutual affection, remembering that because we journey together our words and actions teach, impact, effect, and influence the people around us.  As Martin Luther King, Jr reminded us:

  • “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to beThis is the inter-related structure of reality.” (Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation)
  • “Whether we realize it or not, each of us lives eternally in the red. We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women. When we arise in the morning, we go into the bathroom where we reach for a sponge which is provided for us by a Pacific Islander. We reach for soap that is created for us by a European. Then at the table we drink coffee which is provided for us by a South American, or tea by a Chinese or cocoa by a West African. Before we leave for our jobs we are already beholden to more than half of the world…. All life is interrelated. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” (King III ed. The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr, Second Edition, 18).

And so we continue on the journey. We go in and out of the woods always remembering that we are not alone. As we continue on the journey we remember the call-  to live in a way that respects and honors those who journey with us, to pay attention to the things we can learn from others, to be intentional as we seek to teach and guide others, and to always remember that God journeys with us giving us the strength, the courage, and the peace we need to live, work, support, and learn from each other.

Wondering together

I wonder…

  •  What you have learned from someone younger than you?
  • What have you learned from someone older than you?
  • Who looks up to and learns from you?
  • Who do you look up to/ Who are you shaped and formed by?
  • Who can you say thank-you to today?

Practical Application

This week take time to:

  • Pay Attention:  Watch and take note of persons who help, teach, and share Christ’s light with you.

  • Listen: Take time to wonder with your community. Whether sitting around the dinner table, in the car, or when you are out at coffee with family/friends- take time to listen to your community- what are they teaching you?
  • Give Thanks: Spend time in prayer with your family/friends/community, give thanks for persons who form you. At the end of the day take time to share your gratitude list with God: “God, today I am grateful for….” If you have children this can be done at bedtime as you tuck them in to bed.
  • Respond:  Choose a way that you/your family/community etc can respond to those who help you by helping others. Find a place to serve another person this week. Take time to say thank-you to your server, your barista, your cashier. Write a thank-you note to someone who has shown Christ’s light to you.
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