“Wonder” is Worth It

Kirk Walden 1st Faith, Culture & Values Leave a Comment

The lovely Mrs. Walden and I don’t get out to movies too often. With two young sons (ages 10 & 8), a “night at the movies” is quite an undertaking–especially when I’m often on the road (or in the air).

If we do go to the movies, it’s usually to see something with the boys; which likely means an animated flick.

But last week was different; when our home school friends decided to check out Wonder, I was pleasantly surprised to find out there would be real people on the screen. I figured with Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts playing lead roles, I could handle even a kids’ movie for an hour and a half.

Yet Wonder is truly a movie for all ages. Based on the New York Times best-seller, Wonder is the story of Augie Pullman, born with a congenital condition affecting his face. Dozens of surgeries help, but as he enters the fifth grade–and a public school for the first time–the film revolves around the challenges he–and those around him–face.

I love movies which challenge me to be better, and which show me a glimpse of what the kingdom of God will be like. For me, Wonder accomplishes both.

One teacher (Mr. Brown, played by Daveed Diggs) shares “precepts” with the class; one being, “When given a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”

It’s a precept which may not be universally true, but more often than not, it’s great advice for life. Too often, those of us who call ourselves “Christian” want to make sure we are “right” about this theological concept or that one, overlooking the “kind” part because . . . well, we are right.

If we don’t watch out, we exempt ourselves from “kind” because we are talking about TRUTH. Yet, the moment we decide being right is more important than simple kindness, we lose our opportunity to convince another of what we believe.

Jesus wasn’t always kind, but he saved his anger for those who valued religious authority (and the political power and prestige that went with it) over things like loving God, loving others and servant-hood. When Jesus was among regular people, he chose gentleness and truth–a wonderful combination.

Wonder gave me other life lessons, such as, Be careful before you judge someone, Kirk; you never know what they are going through. Some characters in Wonder deserve a bit of judgment; but throughout the movie we are taken into other characters’ back stories, giving us a glimpse of why they are struggling with a situation. It’s fascinating.

And without giving away the story, my favorite character might be Mr. Tushman, Auggie’s 5th grade principal. In one scene he takes a non-politically correct approach to handling a fight, choosing character over the rule book. If my boys are ever in that setting, give me Mr. Tushman (played excellently by Mandy Patinkin).

Some movies just make us better, if we pay attention. Wonder is one of those movies.

In an hour and a half, I got a peek at the type of person God wants me to be; and at the type of people God wants to inhabit his kingdom when it truly comes. If I get a minute, I may go see it again.

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