Staff Picks – Arrival

May 11, 2017
Note: Throughout this series one of our staff members will be giving you a recommendation and/or a brief review from the world of music, movies, TV or literature. Hopefully this will serve as a way to see inside the head of our staff members and direct you towards some listening, viewing or reading material for your own personal growth and enjoyment. Today’s post is from our youth pastor, Dave Hallahan.


Leah and I aren’t usually “movie buffs.” But thanks to a random date night and Redbox, this year we were able to watch several of the movies nominated for Best Picture. We’ve seen La La LandLionManchester by the Sea, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge and ArrivalArrival was easily my favorite.

Admittedly, it’s not the most exciting, action-packed movie out there. But compared to the depressing snooze fest that is Manchester by the SeaArrival might as well be classified as a Comedic Thriller. (Sorry, I just had to take a jab at Manchester by the Sea.) Set in modern day America, Earth is visited by twelve mysterious spacecraft. The movie revolves around linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) who have been tasked with interpreting the language and motives of alien visitors.

Arrival is everything you could ask for from a movie. Intriguing plot line (twists!), well-written & acted, and great cinematography. For those reasons alone, it comes with my strong recommendation. But there are two themes that really jumped out to me throughout the movie that make it even more worth watching.

The first was the theme of fear. As you could imagine, twelve mysterious spacecraft scattered across the globe is cause for fear. Throughout the film we see bits of news clips that sensationalize fear and prey on the emotions of people. As the different nations who have been visited by these spacecraft begin by working together, it’s not long before each nation begins to act independently out of apparent fear. I was struck with so much of what the Bible says concerning fear. Even in circumstances where fear is natural and responding in fear makes perfect sense, we – the children of God – are called to have confidence in our Father. Hopefully, we won’t face the same issue as the citizens in Arrival, but undoubtedly we have been, currently are, and will be faced with circumstances where we are tempted to act out of fear. Will we cave to that temptation or like the Psalmist will we have confidence in our shepherd? “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they are a comfort to me.”

The second theme, or idea, that jumped out to me was expressed by the main character, Louise, toward the end of the movie. She asks, “If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?” For sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t address how they got to that question in the movie. But even without context, I think we can see how this can be applied. If you could see your life from start to finish, would you change things? Think about your life now and what got you to this point. What if you knew this is where you’d end up 10, 15, 20 years ago? Would you have stayed true to the path or would you have changed things? These type of hypothetical can keep our heads spinning for days, entertain us for hours, or drive us nuts in self-reflection. But as Christians, it drives us to somewhere deeper. To faith.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” We know this. But how comfortable are we with it? With enough distance from hardships, we can often see how God was working for our good. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. It brings clarity and perspective. What if we had foresight? What if we saw all of our hardships before they happened? Would we still be able to put our trust in God? Or would we try to take control and avoid the uncomfortable parts of life? It’s hard to say with certainty, but I think there are certainly periods of my life – both past and future – that I would have avoided if given the opportunity. It’s easier to trust in my own understanding and ability to produce a good life for myself then it is to trust God to direct my paths. AND that’s without being able to see the future. If I saw the future, it’d be even easier to try and take control.

I’m thankful we don’t have that option. In wisdom, God did not enable us to see our whole life from start to finish. I don’t think knowing would lead to stronger faith in God, but instead would only support our desire to control our own lives. Louise’s response is ultimately one of faith, a response that – though my life circumstances are different from hers – I hope my life reflects. “Despite knowing the journey… and where it leads… I embrace it… and I welcome every moment of it.”

Or as the author of Hebrews expresses it, “…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus, who was able to see the end from the beginning, who prayed that if at all possible the cup would pass, had trusted his heavenly father. The pain and shame of the cross were his joy!

Check out the movie! It’s a good watch and it will leave you thinking. Thinking about fear, control and faith. Maybe spend some time reflect on your journey and where it’s headed. You don’t know the journey or exactly where it’s headed, but are you willing to embrace it and welcome it in faith?