The Faith of Rey

I remember shortly after The Force Awakes came out, I took my then kindergarten aged son to a playground.   He started playing and recruited a couple of other children to join him.  One of the times when he ran past me, I asked what they were playing and he said, “We are scavengers, like Rey.”

            Rey is the primary protagonist in the most recent Star Wars movies.   Both of my children like the character of Rey, and I am inclined to agree with them.  However, Rey also has a lot of very vocal critics.  The most common complaint is that the character is over-powered.  She has too many good abilities and no weaknesses.  Some attempts have been made in other forms of media such as novels, to address these concerns.  It also should be kept in mind that the Star Wars universe is one that uses the Force as a convenient way to justify the power and abilities of their characters.   Given that Force connection, some of the critics have stuck to in-universe explanations for how Rey is overpowered and how even in a fictional universe where the Force is a thing she should not be able to do the things that she can do.   Ultimately, Star Wars is a work of fiction and everyone is entitled to how they personally feel about it, but in the context of Star Wars I think Rey’s abilities make perfect sense.  More importantly, they are a wonderful allegory to what it means to have faith. 

            The biggest complaint leveled against Rey is that she learns things too quickly.  She is able to resists Kylo Ren’s mind probe, and then right after that she is immediately able to use the force to influence the mind of a Stormtrooper.  Another example is, she spends only a couple of days with Luke Skywalker, but at the end of the Last Jedi she can move thousands of pounds of rocks.   This quick advancement is not as problematic as it seems.  In Empire Strikes Back, Yoda challenges Luke to lift an X-Wing out of a swamp, and Luke scoffs at the idea.  He states moving rocks is one thing, but moving a ship with the force is a much harder proposition.  This is a teaching point where Yoda tells Luke it is only different in his mind.  It is impossible, because he believes it to be impossible.   That is where the strength of Rey’s character is, she does not believe things are impossible.   In Empire Strikes Back Yoda famously says to Luke “Do or do not.  There is no try.”   Rey embodies this mantra.   She believes it is possible, and then she does it. 

            In order to be a Jedi, one must unlearn what they have learned.  Rey’s greatest strength is that she does not have this problem.   There is a valuable lesson to be learned from this.  In living a faithful life as a Christian, we have a lot to unlearn.   In the stories of Jesus recorded in the gospel, a lot of miracles happen because of faith.   Often in the gospels when Jesus heals someone he will say that it was their faith that made them well.   Peter pulls a very Rey like move and walks on water at one point.   Jesus credits that to faith, and when he starts to sink it is because he doubted.   There is another time when a man, hoping for a miracle to heal his son, seeks Jesus out.   This is a Hail Mary attempt, because he is not sure it will work.   His prayer is essentially to unlearn what he has learned and cries out “I do believe.  Help me overcome my belief.”   One of the lessons the gospels seem to emphasize is that a large part of faith is believing that through Christ the impossible is indeed possible.

            Now the Star Wars analogy only goes so far.  Rey’s amazing abilities stem from her beliefs but it is unclear what she believes in.  It is not stated if she trusts the Force even though she does not know it by that name or if it is only an amazing self-confidence and willpower that enables her belief.   When it comes to the Christian faith though it is much clearer, the source and focus of our belief is God.   It was a belief in the power of God working through Jesus Christ that led to the miracles of the gospels.   In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews this kind of faith is defined as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  It is this kind of belief that Rey portrays in the Star Wars movies, and this same kind of faith leads to all kinds of miracles. 

            Today this kind of faith in miracles should be found in how Christians pray.  That is not always the case.  Far too often, prayer is treated like a back-up plan.  It is a way to hedge our bets or worse it is treated like some sort of good luck charm.   How would the way we pray change if we truly believed that God not only heard our prayers, but absolutely answered our prayers?  How would the way we pray changed, if we honestly and truly believed and had the faith that through prayer we could tell a mountain to move and it would?   I think two things would happen our prayers would simultaneously get smaller and bigger.   They would get smaller because we would be less likely to pray for petty, insignificant stuff, like a good parking spot.   However, our prayers would get bigger.   We would be more willing to pray what my old campus minister called “God-sized prayers.”  These are prayers so big, so specific, and so audacious that they can only happen because of an act of God. 

            No matter what your thoughts are on the character of Rey, may you follow her example.  May you be willing to believe the impossible.  In your faith, may you be willing to unlearn what you have learned and truly believe that with God all things are possible.  

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