Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
Matthew 19:26 (NLT)
I have been thinking lately about how Jesus speaks to us in our confusing modern world. So, naturally, I thought about the movie Labyrinth (grin).
Labyrinth is a fantasy movie by Jim Henson (the Muppet guy) that came out in 1986, smack in the middle of the ‘big hair’ decade. And oh, the hair is big! The story centers on Sarah, a teen (played by future Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly), who accidentally wishes her adorable but bothersome baby step-brother Toby into the hands of the Goblin King (played by eternally hot rock star David Bowie). Sarah has to navigate the treacherous goblin maze to save her brother, aided by a dithering knight on a sheepdog steed and a troll who has made a deal with the Goblin King to sell her out. Oh, and Sarah only has thirteen hours to save her brother before he becomes a little goblin forever.
The goblin realm is alternately ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Monty Python bat-crazy’ (MP alumnae Terry Jones co-wrote the script). Sarah uses her wits to conquer the maze, which includes such unpleasant places as ‘the Swamp of Eternal Stench’ and an endless junk yard ruled by a greedy old woman weighed down by the trash hoard she carries on her back. But the heart of the movie is Sarah, a young woman trapped in the deceitful, unreliable ways of the goblin maze, just as she is trapped in her equally unreliable earthly life. Her absent, self-absorbed actress mother has no time for her, and her well-meaning but clueless father and step-mother don’t understand why Sarah resents babysitting her step-brother, the result of a new life she never wanted nor asked for.
Sarah’s real life world has fallen apart, and she feels resentful, vulnerable, and lost. Which, as we all know, is when the Goblin King likes to strike.
When I saw Labyrinth I was in my mid-twenties, navigating a job that had taken me to a city far from my home and Christian support. My pay was too small, my hours were too long, and I’d just been dumped by yet another a guy because I wasn’t rich or fashionable enough for the glittery lifestyle. I felt, well, resentful, vulnerable and lost. Then I saw this movie, about an imperfect girl navigating an impossible maze against an overwhelmingly powerful foe, and still coming out on top. At that time in my life, I needed an example like Sarah’s to remind me that even unprepared, woefully inadequate people can triumph over evil with the help of friends, brains, and the courage to take a step into the unknown.
Jesus speaks to us in many ways. Through the Bible. Through prayer. Through church and friends and yes, sometimes through tough times. In 1986, he spoke to me through a nutty fantasy movie about stolen babies, trolls, and a very fetching Goblin King in an awesome fright wig. Like Sarah, I was lost. Like Sarah, I was facing a task for which I was ill-prepared (new job, unfamiliar city, attractive but empty lifestyle). Sarah was bound for failure, and yet, at the end of the movie she had conquered the trials of the maze and stood before the Goblin King. “You have no power over me”, she told him.
Labyrinth tanked in theaters. Mr. Henson died a few years later, believing this film was a failure. But it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. It wasn’t ‘box office boffo’, but it changed my life. Because of it, I was able to say to my job and my soul-sapping lifestyle, “You have no power over me”. Take that, Goblin King!