by Heather Bock
On Monday night, for a late Mother’s Day present, Greg surprised me with a movie he thought I’d like. I had never heard of it before: La La Land–a movie with fourteen Oscar nominations and six wins. It started with people spontaneously jumping out of cars, dancing, and singing in perfect choreography on a packed freeway in Los Angeles. I do love musicals, but I thought at first, “What is this??” It didn’t take long for my skepticism to fade away. He was right–I really like this movie. It’s original, beautiful, fresh, nostalgic, and full of symbolism. For a symbolism lover like me, watching this movie was like going on a treasure hunt. In addition, I could relate to the characters and their struggles. Also, its lack of sensualism despite being a robust love story was refreshing.
The film is about two young talented yet frustrated artists, one an actress, one a pianist. Each has a dream, each struggles to reach that dream to the point of almost giving up, and each encourages the other to follow that dream. They are passionate about their dream, and they inspire others with their passion.
As I watched this movie, tears came to my eyes as I recognized my struggles in reaching my own dream in these characters’ struggles. Publishing a book is obviously different from finding a part in the right show or opening a successful jazz club, but it has a lot more similarities than you might at first think. I felt the ache of the main characters as they worked so hard and yet seemed to make no progress towards their hope–an ache I’ve felt before. I felt the warning in the storyline for my own future as a writer as compromises are made–an easy path to take if I don’t stand firm.
I have sacrificed for my husband’s dreams (although it’s not a sacrifice when you love the person deeply). He has given up much for my dreams, as well. As long as these dreams are God-given, this willing sacrifice is beautiful and good.
However, (and this is a spoiler, so be aware) I felt the emptiness and deep sadness when the characters realize the consequences of putting their dreams before each other. The director lets them have a long time of dreaming about the happiness they might have had if they had chosen each other instead, but he leaves them happy with the choices they ultimately make. They seem to come to terms with their life story and are satisfied with their sacrifice of each other.
Sometimes God does call us to leave someone we love behind to follow His call–the dream He gives us. After all, I just read Matthew 10:37 where Jesus says, ” ‘He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.’ ”
However, God calls us to a high level of relationship when we are joined in marriage. The characters in La La Land are not married, although they might as well be with the level of love they have between them. I am married, and even though my husband has sacrificed for my dreams, if that sacrifice goes so far that it tears us apart, I believe the dream has become too important.
La La Land places our dreams above all else–makes them sacred. It even makes it seem like if we work hard enough and long enough and sacrifice enough, we will realize our dreams and fulfill our longings. God asks us to place Himself above all else by loving Him and loving others. Sometimes working toward and obtaining dreams fleshes this out; sometimes letting go of dreams is what is needed. The very next verse after the one I already quoted says, ” ‘And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me’ ” (Matt. 10:38). Taking our cross represents dying to ourselves and sometimes our dreams.
So I will continue to chase what, as-of-now, I believe is a God-given dream of publishing the Bible study I wrote. I will be encouraged by movies like La La Land that show characters who pursue dreams through much hardship and who help each other when the hardship seems to be too much. I will continue to sacrifice for the ones I love as they chase their dreams. However, I will be prepared to give up my dream, no matter how hard that will be, if I am sure that is what God calls me to do.