"Catch And Release" & "God Grew Tired Of Us"
Both are about people dealing with grief and emotional displacement. Both are about how easy it is to say, "You need to move on with your life," and how difficult that is to do. In both, the hardship comes in unexpected places, and so does the relief. In both, the redemptive part is how people love one another.
In "Catch And Release," Gray (Jennifer Garner) is a young bride grieving on her wedding day, because her groom was killed during his "bachelor party," a white-water adventure turned tragic. She finds the sympathy of the mourners something less than consoling. She retreats to her job, and her house, which she already shared with her fiancée, only to find that his three best friends are also staying at the house, in order to make sure she's OK. The dynamics among them provide the grist for the complex relational tangles, which keep shifting as events unfold. She discovers that her fiancée not only had money that he did not tell her about, but a secret life, complete with another woman and a child somewhere else. She's confused, angry, and doesn't know what to think. She realizes that others knew of the deception, and kept her in the dark. She learns that she has a reputation of being "perfect," which made her fiancée want to go somewhere else occasionally, so he could relax and let his hair down. She's trying to sort through her old feelings for the fiancée she thought she knew, and her new feelings about his best friends. And she's trying to figure out what to do now, with the rest of her life. We root for her because she seems both genuine and vulnerable, like a lost puppy in a new world.
John Dau and Daniel Abul Pach are also lost puppies in a new world. "God Grew Tired Of Us" is a documentary about them, as two of the thousands of other "Lost Boys." They fled from Sudan during the civil wars as children, running away at night while their village was being attacked and burned by government (Muslim) troops. They stayed together while trekking to Ethiopia to a refugee camp, and then, when that government toppled, journeying to Kenya to yet another refugee camp, where they stayed for nearly a decade. Finally, some refugee organizations got together to bring some of the "Lost Boys" to the United States.
There have been many "discovery" movies made about aliens experiencing our culture for the first time, many of them comedies. This is real. We watch them take their first ride in an airplane. They are introduced to running water, electricity, grocery stores, refrigerators, and freezers. They apply for work visas, and are assigned menial jobs, which they are delighted to have. They stay together in apartments, then are told that they intimidate the community when too many of them walk around together, so they must live separately. They become accustomed to the American culture, but ask questions like, "How is Santa Claus connected to the birth of Jesus Christ?" They get lonely. They have survivor guilt; continuing to think about the people they left behind in the refugee camps. They miss their friends. They wonder if their families are safe, and where they are. They wonder if they will ever have families of their own. John says, in reflecting on his experience in Africa, "I think God grew tired of us, and our violence against each other. In the Bible, it says Jesus Christ will come again, and God will judge us for what we do here."
The men are also shown unabashedly playing on swings together, and pushing each other and laughing like boys, as if the concept of "macho" is alien to them. They form a "little Parliament," where they can spend their afternoons outside, in the nice weather, and just be together, chatting and singing in their native language, and sometimes even dancing together. As they begin to save money, they both send it back to friends and family, and also organize "Lost Boy" reunions in places like Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Phoenix, Arizona. Eventually, John is reunited with his mother in an airport hallway, and Daniel returns to find a wife from among his people (like the sojourner Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for Isaac from among his own people, Genesis 24). In the end, all you need is love. And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you make.
Questions For Discussion:
1) Why is it that people in the United States seem to care less about what happens in Africa than other parts of the world?
2) Are there things you have kept from your spouse?
3) Have you ever discovered "surprises" about people you thought you knew after they died?
4) If you were introducing our culture to an alien, what would you have a hard time explaining?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas