Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Anybody Want a Peanut?

"Mawage. Mawage is what bwings us togethaw today."

Next week, Amber and I will celebrate our 7th anniversary, so in honor of that, I thought I'd write about one of our favorite romantic movies, 1987's The Princess Bride. It's an adventure / comedy / fairytale that shows how "true love" can conquer anything, and it's one of the most quotable movies I've ever seen..

The movie begins when a sick little boy (Fred Savage) receives a visit from his grandfather (Peter Falk), who gives him a present: a book. "That's right. In my day, Television was called Books," the grandfather explains. "Does it have any sports in it?" the boy inquires, to which the grandfather excitedly explains: "Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes...true love...miracles!" While the boy is less than enthusiastic, his grandfather begins reading aloud to him The Princess Bride, S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, and slowly over the course of the film, the boy comes to be enthralled by the story.

'The Princess Bride' © 1987 Twentieth Century Fox
Cary Elwes and Robin Wright in 'The Princess Bride' © 1987 Twentieth Century Fox

Like any good fairytale, this is a love story, but the young lovers are separated early in the film when Wesley (Cary Elwes) goes off to seek his fortune and is murdered by pirates. Young Buttercup (Robin Wright) is devastated. Five years later, she is selected to marry the evil Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon), though she does not love him. On her engagement day, she is kidnapped by three men who plot to kill the princess and start a war. As they flee to a remote land, however, they find that they are being pursued by another ship. Though they don't know who is following them, and they do their best to stay ahead, the ship continues to draw closer and closer. When the kidnappers reach their destination - "THE CLIFFS OF INSANITY!" - the pursuing ship is right on top of them. As they begin to scale the side of the cliff to escape, a masked man follows close behind them!

Though it takes Buttercup a while to learn the identity of the masked "Man in Black", it doesn't take the audience long to recognize him. It is Wesley, somehow back from the dead!

In the scenes that follow, Wesley overcomes all the odds to rescue the princess, defeating Inigo, the swordsman (Mandy Patinkin), felling the enormous strongman, Fezzik (André the Giant), and outsmarting the mastermind, Vizzini (Wallace Shawn). But not realizing who he really is, Buttercup wants nothing to do with him at first. She even tries to kill her rescuer before she recognizes his voice.

Although it's not a perfect analogy, as I watch these scenes, I am reminded of the grace of God, which goes out in search of those who are lost and taken captive by sin. Like the shepherd searching for his lost sheep and the woman who turns her house upside down until she finds her lost coin (Luke 15:3-10), the Lord reaches out to us when we can't do anything to save ourselves. Just as Wesley's ship was already in pursuit before anyone else knew the princess had been kidnapped, so the grace of God is already at work for us before we ever realize our need for a savior. We may not always see at first that God is involved - just as Buttercup and the others initially failed to recognize the Man in Black as Wesley - but that doesn't take away the fact that he is there, overcoming every enemy to be reunited with us and to lead us to safety.

Reunited at last © 1987 Twentieth Century Fox
Lovers reunited at last © 1987 Twentieth Century Fox
Wesley: "Why didn't you wait for me?"
 Buttercup: "Well, you were dead!" 
Wesley: "Death cannot stop true love. 
All it can do is delay it for a while."
 Buttercup: "I will never doubt again."

Not knowing the masked man is her lover, Buttercup pushes him down a steep bank, wishing he was dead. As he cries out to her on his way down the hill, however, she realizes who he is, and throws herself down after him. As the couple is finally reunited and they express their undying love again, I think of Peter, who betrayed Jesus before the crucifixion perhaps because he didn't fully understand what the Lord was doing (Mark 14:66-72). But after Jesus was resurrected and the two reconciled, Peter became faithful to the end (John 21:15-19). Tradition says that Peter was eventually even crucified upside down for his faith!

If Wesley up to this point has been set up as a sort of modern-day type for Christ, that image is only solidified by the rest of the film. Wesley walks side-by-side with his lady in the Fire Swamp, rescuing and protecting her from all sorts of dangers along the way (compare to Psalm 23). Eventually, he is killed and miraculously raised from the dead yet again before saving Buttercup one last time from the hands of Prince Humperdink because he loves her (see Romans 5:6-10). And by the end, Wesley proves that what he said at the beginning was true:

Wesley: "Hear this now: I will always come for you."
Buttercup: "How can you be so sure?"
Wesley: "This is true love. You think this happens every day?"

Likewise, we can be sure that Jesus will come for us because he has said so (John 14:1-7; Revelation 22:20) and God is faithful to his word (Isaiah 55:10-11; Matthew 24:35).


As a little aside, let me say that, while the tale of Wesley and Buttercup's romantic love points me to the great love of Jesus toward us all, the love of Jesus also points me back to romantic love. In Ephesians 5, Paul talks about the relationship between husbands and wives. A lot of people get hung up on Verses 22-24, where Paul says a wife should submit to her husband because he is the spiritual head of the household, just as Christ is the head of the church. But to get to Verse 22, you have to go through Verse 21, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Paul's instructions to women are by no means a license for men to belittle their wives or treat them as slaves. And to make this extra clear, Paul goes on to instruct the men in Verses 25-33:
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy... In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church - for we are members of his body. 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' ... [E]ach one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." (NIV)
The love and example of Jesus should inspire all of us to become better husbands and wives for our spouses.

I am so thankful for the wife God has given me and the seven years of happy marriage we've shared thus far. God's grace brought us into each other's lives, and I know our mutual love and respect, along with our faith in the Lord, has been what gives us both the fuel we need to face each day.

Amber, you're my Buttercup! 
Being with anyone else would be... INCONCEIVABLE!!! 
Happy Anniversary!

But I digress. Back to the story...


The little boy at the beginning of the movie wasn't very excited about the present his grandfather gave him, but by the end of the film, he begins to love his gift, and he tells his grandfather, "Maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow."

We, like the grandfather, have a wonderful book filled with fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles, and so much more. There's a reason why the Bible is one of the best-selling books of all time!

Many people today don't take the time to read our book because they think it's boring or they'd much rather do something else. But the Bible is filled with exciting stories that all point to the true love God has for us that overcomes all the odds. It's more than just a fairytale. The living Word is God's love story, and it empowers us to transform our dirty, messed-up lives into something beautiful.

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true 
and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. 
It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 
God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work."
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)

Peter Falk reading to Fred Savage © 1987 Twentieth Century Fox
Peter Falk reading to Fred Savage © 1987 Twentieth Century Fox

If you've experienced God's love firsthand, don't be afraid to share with others the story of what Jesus has done, both as explained in the Scriptures and as shown in your own life. People can't resist a real-life "love conquers all" story. Maybe when you're done, others will even invite you, as the little boy invited his grandfather in the movie, to tell it again!

I'd certainly like to hear your story. How has the love of Jesus transformed your life?

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