E.T. Phone Home

I recently went to a screening of E.T. and was struck with the audience’s clear affection for this classic movie. It was a free open air screening so a large crowd of families, couples and groups of friends had assembled armed with blankets, deck chairs and picnics. As the title appeared on the screen several thousand people broke into spontaneous applause.

Now before anyone gets too upset that I’m writing about an “alien movie” let me preface this by saying that the themes found in corrupt films often resonate with their audience precisely because they echo the story God is telling through history. In fact, I believe that fandom of certain cult movie franchises points to deep longings that are healthy and God given, but that have simply been misdirected out of ignorance. (Please note that I’m not implying for a moment that there is anything innately unrighteous about the film E.T. – I’m simply prefacing this out of consideration for the fact that my readers come from a wide range of backgrounds.)

As I watched E.T. I was struck by how it was a prime example of mass recognition of spiritual truth. In this particular case that truth was the protagonists strong desire to go home.

Let me explain. We are all very far from the home we were designed to live in. You see, this fallen world full of pain, disappointment, and ugliness is not the one we were made for. Our home was designed to be breathtakingly beautiful, perfectly satisfying, and deeply peaceful and safe.

Ever since the fall man has grappled with feeling like something is very, very wrong. For this reason we are continually striving to recapture a small glimpse of “home”. We do so through visiting beautiful places, through creating special moments with our loved ones, and through trying to make our dreams happen. Sometimes we’re blessed by an experience of life as it was meant to be when we accidentally stumble across a transient moment of beauty.

A little girl was sat next to me at the screening. She needed a lot of reassurance from her mom that the movie had a happy ending. It was surprisingly reassuring to hear her mom repeatedly assert “The story has a happy ending. E.T. is going to get to go home.” (Don’t tell anyone, but as the story became progressively darker I needed to hear that too!)

I could understand why this girl needed such reassurance. The tale of someone being cut off from the home they were made for and desperately wanting to return to it strikes a primeval chord in all of us.

Sometimes the situation we’re in seems so disheartening, so disorienting, so dark and inescapable, that the only thing that gives us the faith we need to keep going on is the truth that this life is not our ultimate home. Sometimes we need to be reminded that the story does have a happy ending.

So in those times when you feel like you’re far from the world you were made for I recommend taking a moment to flip to the end of the book. If you do, you’ll find that the story has a happy ending. If you choose to, you get to go home.

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