Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary. Among my gifts to her was a night off to do whatever she wanted to do--whether shopping, talking, or skydiving, the night was hers to decide. We left our son with some friends for a few hours and off we went. After dinner, she made her choice. "I wanna see a movie." And so despite the fact that movie-going is not on my idea list for anniversary date night...off to the movies we went. There was not much that we cared to see so we chose the newest film starring Denzel Washington, Flight. I remember seeing the preview and thinking to myself, that looks good. But boy was I unprepared for the emotional roller-coaster that this film was gonna take us on.
On the surface, flight is about well...flight...and (in particular) a gifted airline pilot named Whip Whitaker (Washington) and his heroics in a plane crash, but the movie is really about addiction and how that same pilot (gifted as he is) is a reckless, yet functional alcoholic, and drug addict. I was disturbed that I related to this concept all too well. I have known many functional drug addicts, but I was unaware of the depth of difficulty of such a thing until I met my father.
(Even now I am reluctant to share this, but I write with the hope that someone might benefit.)
I met him in 2004 and as we parted from this our first real meeting, he asked me to borrow $10 and then for a ride to a seedy neighborhood. I dropped him off with a puzzled look, but without a second thought. I was just happy to finally meet the man. Hindsight is 20/20. He was battling a serious drug habit, yet was surprisingly functional. At the time he was serving in the student life department at Morris Brown College (an HBCU) and when it lost its accreditation he moved on to Morehouse College. As far as I know the bottom fell out in 2006 when his dad (my grandfather) died in 2006. I don't know all the details but I do know this. When you mix broken relationships, unemployment, grief, depression, and drug addiction, you get a dangerously deadly cocktail. Back to Denzel and Flight.
There was a very strong theme in the movie that suggested that the plane crash was "an act of God." Then, a number of characters (on numerous occasions) attempt to put it in perspective for him suggesting that the tragedy made manifest God's intention to save his life and help him save others.
I wanna take a second to clear up one thing; especially in the wake of the terrible tragedy in Newton, Connecticut last week.
God does not cause disaster, tragedy, and trauma.
Nevertheless, with limitless power He is able to orchestrate all events so that it may result in greater good than grief (see Rom. 8:28). God is a big boy. He can handle the accusations and blame leveled at Him by those who know Him least. But that still does not make Him distant, vindictive, malicious, or maniacal.
(Narrator steps down off of soapbox)
Now back to Flight.
I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it, but would like to see it. However, I will say that this was the most vivid portrayal of the dynamism of addiction than I have ever seen. I highly recommend it. It is very difficult to watch in that it has some very "graphic" scenes, but it is still a very important and powerful story. I fear that I will actually spill the beans, and so I should probably go ahead and close this, but let me first say this. Over the past few months, I have been doing a lot of writing and work about trauma, grief, and the like. I am convinced that God can use any event or experience to take us to higher heights and to draw us closer to Himself.
My father Charles T. Charlton Jr. pictured
here ca.1982, committed suicide on 1/4/11.
There are so many unanswered questions I have about Whip. What led him to drink? Why couldn't his family help him? How did he fall so far? Why didn't he get help sooner? But I think that's the point of the movie. Those questions are left unanswered to inorder to painstakingly illustrate what rock-bottom looks like. And so with that said I must say, if you are experiencing difficulty coping with life and the hand that you've been dealt, please get help. If it's something considerably small (yet difficult still) like worrying or doubt, talk to someone like a friend or family member. If the trouble is more serious like insomnia or depression, or even more serious as with drug abuse or domestic violence, please seek professional support. Take it from me, there are many people who will thank you later.
When my father committed suicide it rocked our family. No one close to him could say that they didn't know he had some struggles, but we were all still shocked and devastated by losing him. We all still miss him, and we wish he could've gotten the help he needed. He would have loved to see how smart little Christopher is becoming. He did see me get my masters degree, but when I receive me my doctorate, he wont be in the stands. He can no longer visit me on spring break. And I can no longer call him when the class assignments are piling up. You can get help. You can win at life. You can beat this thing...no matter what it is.
Your wings have been clipped by circumstance and tragedy, but you can...you will learn to fly again. You've been grounded and your flight delayed because of the the things you have done and because of the things that have happened to you, but maybe God allowed it because He wants to teach you how to truly fly high. You just wait and see.
"But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
God specializes in bringing good out of your grief. He loves to see you gain victory over hardship. He longs to get you your wings back. He wants to get you back to FLIGHT.