Originally written August 28, 2012.
Serenity‘s crew has lost Wash–their pilot and Zoe‘s husband. They defeated the demonic Reavers. Broadcasted the footage that could change the ʼverse. Buried Shepherd Book who died for defending them. Managed to disarm and convert The Operative sent to eliminate River Tam, the teenaged girl with the broken mind and a special gift. All thatʼs left now is to patch up–the ship and themselves–and move on.
Mal: Think she’ll hold together?
Zoe: Sheʼs tore up plenty. But sheʼll fly true.
Mal: Make sure everythingʼs secure. Could be bumpy.
Zoe: Always is.
Iʼve been living in 2 Chronicles for months. Specifically 2 Chronicles 18-21. Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, is one of my favorite Old Testament characters. He made a marriage alliance with the king of Israel. Ahab then asks if Jehoshaphat will back him in a war. J-phat is willing, but first asks Ahab to inquire of the Lord. Ahab agrees, and brings out enough prophets to make the Macy’s Parade look like an epic fail.
But in the midst of all the sooth-saying, and lot-casting, and whatever other shenanigans the prophets were putting on, J-phat was still not quite convinced that this was a move he was supposed to make. So he asked Ahab if he had any other prophets of the Lord besides the FOUR HUNDRED they had already heard from. And Ahab replies: “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord . . . but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil.”
J-phat insists on hearing from this dissenting prophet and what Micaiah tells them, nobody wants to hear. He prophesies absolute destruction. So Ahab has him thrown into jail, and is so confident in his prophets and in himself, goes to war anyway. I won’t tell you how the story ends because you’re going to want to read this one for yourself. Only one of these men returns. Jehoshaphat.
A seer approaches him and tells him that heʼs not all innocent either, and he better check himself. But since he made a good choice here and there, God was going to spare him because he set his heart to seek God. He made some changes in his kingdom, appointing judges and warning them against the dangers of partiality and taking bribes.
But the happy ending doesn’t come. Eventually Judah themselves are under attack by three clans, a multitude of them, coming from all directions.
There was no time for Jehoshaphat to make a marriage alliance with another kingdom and use his own prophets to convince his would-be allies of a victorious outcome. Here is where it gets really good.
“Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.”
“And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said, (a whole lot of things, but he ended with this) “. . . we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us.”
“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
“Meanwhile all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon [a bunch of them with really weird names]. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. . . . You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”
After that, the people of Judah sang and praised and worshiped REALLY LOUDLY. It says that. Right there. They were THAT loud.
In their terror, they sang. In the face of possible annihilation, they praised. Even as the multitudes and hordes gathered around them to wipe their names from the face of the earth, they worshiped. Loudly.
I don’t do these things. I do other things. And I do them loudly. Like complaining. Whining. Dwelling in self-pity. Blaming God. Believing lies. Finding comfort in all the wrong things and all the wrong people. Trying to control everything I can by obsessing and fretting and problem-solving. Giving in to despair. Sinking into hopelessness. Getting really angry. Becoming completely paralyzed by anxiety.
I do these things because I don’t know what to do. At that moment, in whatever situation, I am so helpless I shut down and wall up. I don’t know what to do, because my eyes are on me. I’m a survivor. That’s what I do. I do what it takes. I get it done. I make life work by solving the problem and averting the disasters and controlling the uncontrollable. I make life work by being perfect. By trying to be perfect. But I’m so tired now. And I’m tired of surviving. I can’t make life work at all.
I can’t make my mom not die. I can’t get Mike’s job back, the one we thought was a dream come true, a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, the one we moved to Chicago for. I can’t make my daughter, Phoenix, not have so many diagnoses, not have so many letters that describe her “condition,” not have so many demanding, exhausting, bewildering, invisible special needs.
I can’t make up for the eight months with no health insurance that led me to wean myself off Paxil, making me so vulnerable to the harrowing, debilitating depression already waiting for me. I can’t, on my own, restore the friendships that were so suddenly shattered by misunderstanding and stubbornness.
I can’t take back the mistakes I made that would have seriously threatened, and most likely destroyed, a weaker marriage to a lesser man than my forgiving, gracious, supernaturally loving husband. I can’t make the whole solid year of disappointment and loss and grief go away, like it never happened, or won’t ever happen again.
For months, I would lie awake at night as the tears pooled in my ears, with my chest caving in from the sheer heaviness of anxiety, whispering this prayer of Jehoshaphat’s. We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you. Sometimes it was all I could say. For days at a time.
Jehoshaphat and Judah were delivered that day. They survived to see their enemies lying in a field, defeated and destroyed. But there was a condition. They had to show up. And sing. And while they were singing God saved their lives.
I don’t sing nearly enough. I’m not good at it, especially when I’m alone and there’s no one else around to carry the tune for me. But I love to sing with other people. And I need those people around me, the ones who can sing through the storm.
So back to Serenity. My point is this. Not one of the crew could have saved themselves, let alone most of them, including the countless strangers whose lives depended on the success of their mission. The one who managed to land them alive, their pilot, navigator, cheeky sidekick, died in the attempt. They lost business partners, allies, and friends, including friends who had become family. They nearly lost their livelihoods. They came very close to losing the ship that made them a family and gave them a home. They battled unspeakable evil and lived to tell the tale. The war they waged became a song, a song they sung together to save their lives. They showed up. They showed up singing. And their song was their salvation.
The question Mal asks, “Think she’ll hold together?” is directed at Zoe, and it seems as if he’s asking about Serenity; if the ship that carries them will hold together, will hold them together. But the longer Mal looks into Zoe’s eyes, you know what he’s really asking. Zoe lost Wash. Her husband. Their anchor. Mal’s asking Zoe about her, does she think she’ll hold together in the loss and grief and despair? She looks him dead in the eye and answers him without hesitation. “She’s tore up plenty. But she’ll fly true.
At the end of Serenity, Mal is at the helm with River Tam, the burden that endangered them becoming the one who makes them family. He’s teaching her the finer points of piloting.
Mal: “ . . . it ain’t all buttons and charts, little albatross. You know what the first rule of flying is? Love. You can learn all the math in the ʼverse, but you take a boat in the air you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of worlds.”
“Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you sheʼs hurting ʼfore she keens. Makes her a home.”
River: “Stormʼs getting worse.”
Mal: “Weʼll pass through it soon enough.”
The battle is not mine, it’s the Lord’s. And what He asks of me is to stand firm, hold my position, and see the salvation of the LORD on my behalf. And he has given me an army to stand with.I have friends who have become my family and they helped me sing to save my life. They keep me showing up, going out there, tell me to sing louder to drown out all the other voices in my head. The ones that threaten me with hordes and multitudes and certain death. We’ll pass through it, usually not soon enough for me, but we will pass through it. When the other voices die down, I hear the promise. The one I keep and the one that is made to me. She’s tore up plenty, but she’ll fly true.