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Restoring Relationships (and the Force)} ?> Like all relationships, the ones in Star Wars have their challenges.
In A New Hope, the first meeting between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in almost twenty years isn’t as emotional as I imagine it should be. After all, Obi-Wan basically raised Anakin before eventually slicing his legs off. Emotional stuff. Instead, they simply speak a few short utterances to each other in cold tones. There’s no love between the two; their cords have been completely cut, and as such, they no longer see each other as human. For Obi-Wan, Darth Vader is “more machine now than man,” and for Vader, Obi-Wan is just another obstacle to tear through.
In this bond built a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I see a challenge being forced upon me, to look at the broken relationships in my own life and think about how they became that way, and what I might do to repair them.
In an imperfect world, we’re all bound to have broken relationships. I’ve said many things that have hurt others, and people have driven me away, too, either by cruelty or by simple indifference. The thing is, the longer I let time pass without reconciliation, the more bitterness will take root, and the harder it becomes to heal the damage. The task of pulling it up becomes too daunting to even try. And soon, the person I’m split from has become a memory to me. Any relationship we had dies, wasted and transformed into a nothingness, like the emotional space between Vader and Obi-Wan.
Of course, it doesn’t just take realization to reconcile; it takes action. And action requires selflessness. I find that whatever reserve of that characteristic I have in storage is hard to access when I’m upset. And in that way, I’m more like Kylo Ren.
In The Force Awakens, Ren carries a deep-seated bitterness inside of him, a rage that he’s apparently carried for years. He has a chance to repair his relationship with his dad, to forgive Han for whatever pains he has caused, but the anger runs deep. In effect, he chooses himself, at the cost of his own father. It is fascinating to me that Ren refers to the light side as “temptation,” refusing to ignore its call and focus on himself instead.
It’s not just the act of being selfless that makes forgiveness difficult; for me, it’s also the pain that comes with forgiveness. Why should I forgive someone who has hurt me, opening myself up to more hurt? Or why should I humble myself to admit that I was wrong when I was at fault? What if they don’t forgive me?
For Luke Skywalker, restoration with his father means pain–both physical and emotional. In Return of the Jedi, the Emperor tortures him with force lightning when Luke gives grace to Darth Vader rather than exacting vengeance. Luke made a selfless choice and has done what all these other characters could not. Instead of seeing Darth Vader as a darkened menace in a helmet, Luke sees him as “father.” Some might see his actions as stubborn and idiotic, but they were, in fact, brave. He put his life on the line because of faith. If Vader hadn’t seen someone believe in him so much, he probably wouldn’t have been able to find anything left of Anakin Skywalker within him.
Luke makes the sacrifice that restoration costs. Unlike Kylo Ren, he lays down all the bitterness on the mere hope that his father, one who doesn’t deserve mercy, will change.
Little did Luke know, of course, that he was critical in fulfilling the prophecy that would see his dad bringing balance to the force. By reaching past discomfort and rage and instead demonstrating love, Luke is able to restore his dad–not just into the Skywalker family, but as the savior of an entire universe, as the one who defeated the Emperor of the Sith. As for me, while I may not save a galaxy, I, too, have the ability to forgive. And in doing that, I can mend hearts and rebuild relationships, one broken piece at a time.