The extraordinary can be found and experienced precisely in the ordinary life lived every day.
I recently saw the 2013 film About Time after having it recommended to me by two friends and a priest. Now I must admit, after watching the trailer I wasn’t exactly optimistic about what I was going to find in the movie in terms of Christian themes. What I thought was going to be a rom-com with some nice heartfelt moments turned out to be a beautiful and human story about the relationship of a father and son and the hidden joys of life.
For those of you who have not seen the movie yet, I won’t spoil it. The basic plot is that a young man named Tim, played by Domhnall Gleeson, learns from his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in their family can travel back in time. Gleeson’s character then goes on a journey with his new found ability to find the love of his life, who turns up in the person of Rachel McAdams’ character, Mary. The story unfolds as we see their relationship grow while Tim tries to get the most out of life by using his power to make every moment perfect and pleasant for those around him.
The Ordinary Life
Now that’s a pretty sparse summary of what happens, but it will suffice for setting the stage for what I found to be at the heart of the movie. Throughout the film we see Tim and his father talking about the best way to use their time traveling powers and how it affects their lives. Towards the end of the film, the two are having a conversation in which Tim’s father tells him the secret formula to living a happy life. The first step is to live an ordinary life day by day like everyone else, not changing things to make them better or worse. The second is to go back and live each day again, but this time taking the time to notice how sweet the world can be. We as the viewer experience the two steps in two montages, one that sees Tim angry, frustrated, and deflated by the end, and the second showing him encountering people with a smile, taking time to enjoy his surroundings, and laughing at what had annoyed him the first time around. And that’s the secret to a happy life!
Finding the Extraordinary
This way of life that Tim's father puts forward is a radical departure from the type of life that our culture presents as the ideal. We live in a world that says the best life is the extraordinary one, the one full of unique experiences and spontaneous thrills. We can only live this “full” life when we are young and not tied down by a family and a steady job. About Time flips this rather selfish and destructive worldview on its head. The extraordinary can be found and experienced precisely in the ordinary life lived every day. Friends, this is the Christian life. And just as Tim’s father gave him the secret to a happy life, Our Father has given it to us in and through His Only Begotten Son. Christ tells us that for those who wish to follow Him, to be His disciple, we must take up our cross daily. At the same time, Jesus says that His burden is light. A cross isn’t light, so how can that be? We must recognize the invitation that is being offered to us. It is the invitation to live each day for God in humble obedience and acceptance. Jesus is asking us to accept the gift He is giving us each day, to accept each day as God’s will and to open our eyes to the extraordinary grace He offers. Accepting this gift of His will does not remove the cross and its difficulties, but rather it opens us up to shifting our worldview to one of reception instead of grasping. It lightens the load and frees us to live joyfully as a receiver of gifts. And as we do this daily, beginning to see each day as the extraordinary gift of God’s will for us, we become comfortable carrying the seemingly uncomfortable cross we have been given. Brothers and sisters, this is the secret to a happy and joyful life lived in and with Christ.