2020 Year-End Update from Carrie

Maybe pandemic life has left me easily entertained, but Pixar’s Onward had me from “hello.”

 The story follows 16-year-old Ian Lightfoot, an elf coming of age in a “post-magic” society (technology has been found “easier to use.”) Amid the standard high school hangups, Ian is adrift with grief and disappointment, having never met his father who died before his birth. To cope, he makes a self-improvement bucket list only to find every attempt just magnifies his insecurities and aches for his father’s presence. 

Can you relate yet? What a year to watch a magical edge-of-your-seat resurrection scene that results in… the unseeing, unhearing, unspeaking (albeit endearing) bottom half of his father, with a 24-hour expiration date. This should be great, except that it’s not—problems compound. 

 As the clock ticks down on the “visitation” day, Ian charts his fear of wasted time (not unlike myself) with another list, this time of things he wants to do with his father. As he drags around the “risen” voiceless legs of his dad on a high-stakes quest to bring back the rest of him, Ian resents his brother as the sun begins to set on the day. His older brother Barley is the opposite of risk-averse Ian, full of impractical gut feelings and time-consuming detours. I won’t give spoilers — but tension flies high, and the resolution is unexpected. 

Why was I so taken with this film in the midst of this year? I’m not entirely sure, except to say that loss and disappointment are real, and a slow burn. People are impossibly different, and relationship is hard. Resurrection is powerful. Presence matters — the full, real, whole-body kind. And in the Lord’s economy, often the most time-consuming detours are not a waste of time. 

Thinking of the chaos and disorientation that have “wasted” 2020 for so many of us in one way or another, I can’t help but land back in Genesis 1: the earth is “wild and waste,” and yet the Spirit of God is hovering over the face of the chaotic waters. In stark contrast to Ian Lightfoot and I, He does not opt for list-making. Instead, He speaks light — A light which John reminds us “the darkness does not overtake.” Not the darkness of a global pandemic. Not the darkness of logistical, economic, or political chaos. Not the darkness of our turbulent spirits or hateful hearts. 

In the Pixar film, Ian Lightfoot tries to give his faceless father the dignity of a coat and glasses, but tugging him around remains awkward. With no established channel of communication with his father, he shoulders all the problems and staggers under the weight. 

Barley, on the other hand, knows the father enough to have a language of taps that connects them at key moments. Though his character is lovably ditzy, his knowledge of both the father and the “supernatural” realm makes him a bridge-builder to Ian and, ultimately, to empower and redeem his story. 

Oh, Jesus, Light of the World! You are not an almost-risen, voiceless mirage; you are fully present with us, even in the odd twilight of 2020. Every story we hear reminds us of our world’s desperate darkness. Would you let us reflect your light to the lost, in spite of us?

As our little family of seven hopes to spend the winter holidays up north (Lord willing) for the first time in years, the Christmas nostalgia is strong. We also pray for you that this advent season will carry unique sweetness as you remember our Lord’s return and victory over all things sad and scary. May this year of detours not be wasted on us who know him, and may the beauty of Jesus our Emmanuel be something to savor and share. 

Thank you for supporting our family and this work of the gospel in the powerful medium of film. As we project what it will take for Jayson to stay uninterrupted in his role as Jesus Film’s digital products design lead next year, we are praying for $10,000 in year-end gifts, or an increase of about $850 in monthly financial partnership. If you’d like to give toward that gap, it would certainly give us lift. As always, we love hearing from you regardless! 

Thank you for your love and friendship in our family and our work. As always, we would love to hear from you! 


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