Sometimes, after a movie, I find myself walking out of the cinema feeling the same way I leave church services on good days.
I got this same feeling again when I saw Dunkirk. Nolan’s latest masterpiece centres on the desperate struggle of Allied soldiers against the German advance at Dunkirk.
Their only hope lies in a mass evacuation from France’s beaches – so they can live to fight another day.
I saw myself reflected in the faces of the defeated soldiers.
It’s been a difficult year for me. I’ve been struggling with my self-worth. I’ve asked myself endlessly: “Who am I?”
I’d been going to church, worshipping Father God for almost a decade – yet I didn’t really feel like I was His child. My identity remain centred on the things I did and the roles I played.
I knew that He loved me, but I felt like I wasn’t enough.
I still wasn’t as pretty as her. I wasn’t as talented as him. I felt I had to prove myself: Be more driven in life, have a better heart, say the right things …
There was no end to this performance treadmill. I could never get off. It was a losing battle from the start, because at the core of my being, I didn’t believe that I was loved.
The bitterness of feeling unworthy ate away at my heart, a potent mix of pride and shame.
Like the dying soldiers on the coast of Dunkirk, I needed to be rescued. I needed a saviour.
But I believed I was beyond God’s reach – too unworthy.
What I hadn’t realised was that that wasn’t an obstacle to God’s love – that is precisely the point of His love. I am entirely unworthy. And yet God in His grace reached out to me in love.
I had been fighting my own battles for a long time. At some point I was barely surviving, and in turn I started dying. At the lowest point in my walk, I heard God’s voice again.
I came to the end of myself, with nowhere left to go.
Ashamed of my sin and rebellious heart, I broke down before the Lord and asked for forgiveness.
I felt like the soldier in Dunkirk who boarded the train headed home, embarrassed at having to be evacuated from the front line, fully expecting to be met with ridicule by his countrymen.
Instead he met an blind old man who was handing out blankets to the rescued soldiers at the train station.
“Well done, lads. Well done.”
“All we did is survive … ”
The soldier was humbled at the old man’s gesture of kindness; it all felt so undeserved, I imagine. Which was exactly how I felt when God quietly said to me:
没事, 回来就好. It’s okay, you’re home now.
I imagine that when God says “it’s okay”, he’s not just saying it. I mean, He’s God – His word is life and truth. I see Him saying it as He raises His mighty hand, lifting the crushing weight of all that weighed us down.
Then I see His other hand, reaching out to us.
“When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.” (Psalm 138:3)
In my weakness, God gave me strength. He led me through the fog of confusion as we sorted out my life.
God spoke to my heart, and told me that He loves me. I had always known it in my mind, but He said it again for my heart.
My spirit surged in response to it. I was alive again. His voice dispelled all my fears. It quenched the flaming arrows which had kept me down for so long.
He helped me recall who I was in Him. I put on the armour and took up my sword (Ephesians 6:14-17). I knew how to fight again.
But Dunkirk was one episode in a long war. We may feel safe now, but we must expect other blows to be struck.
In response to the evacuation at Dunkirk, Churchill said: “Our thankfulness at the escape of our Army must not blind us to the fact that what has happened in France and Belgium is a colossal military disaster.
“And we must expect another blow to be struck almost immediately at us or at France.”
Soldiers on the front lines, deep in battle, won’t know when victory is theirs – all they know is that they have to fight for as long as they’re told to.
As Christians, we are in that unique position. We know that at the end, we win – Jesus will return. But for now, this is wartime – we have to stay alert (1 Peter 5:8).
We live to fight another day.