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Fear Not Love: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Rejection} ?> There is no bigger jerk in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 than the loud-mouthed, quick-to-anger, genetically-modified and mechanically-inclined Rocket Raccoon. He steals from the Guardians’ clients, making enemies where they could have had allies; he pushes his friends away when they try to talk to him; he retreats into loneliness against all common sense.
“Are you trying to make everyone hate you? Because you’re doing it perfectly,” Peter Quill says to him. And Quill’s right—Rocket seems to be doing everything to reject the ragtag family he’s become a part of, a family who accepts him for who he is.
Why? Why would someone throw away love and companionship when it’s offered to them?
The answer resonates with me deeply—it’s fear. Rocket is the only one of his kind and his life has been filled with loneliness as a result. He’s gotten used to fending for himself. He’s become accustomed to the isolation. Now suddenly he is surrounded by people who care about him and the fear sets in; the fear that they will change their minds and reject him, the fear that he’s not worth being accepted for who he is.
This kind of anxiety can overwhelm all logic. His actions—his seeming desire to make every situation worse and get under his companions’ skin—don’t make sense. But the fear is strong with this one. It drives him to extremely illogical decisions.
Though irrational, I understand Rocket’s feelings perfectly. The very beginning of a new relationship, either romantic or platonic, is new and exciting. It’s fun getting to know the other person and surprising them with your own quirks and personality. It’s when a few weeks or months have passed—when the relationship is formed but still growing—that I start to worry. Just like Rocket, who was fully confident in the first movie but faces emotional turmoil in the second, I am overcome with doubt about my own worth.
Part of this fear is grounded in a past of experiencing rejection—so it’s not wholly irrational. But just because I know what that emotional pain feels like doesn’t mean I have the desire to go through it again; the same pain experienced over and over again is a nightmare. Those feelings can impede my ability to be vulnerable, which actually hurts the very relationship I am trying so desperately to hold on to. The fear can make me second guess my actions and feelings all the time. It can make me constantly on the alert, watching for any minute sign that the other person may duck out of the relationship. It can make me try to shut the other person out before they do the same to me.
As magnificent as they are, Quill, Gamora, Drax, and Groot are human (well, humanoid. Some of them. Sort of), meaning they make mistakes. They won’t be perfectly loving, perfectly forgiving, at all times. There is going to be a cycle of hurt and forgiveness in any relationship. My fear is based on the “what if” belief that this cycle will inevitably break down no matter how many other examples I have of strong relationships in my life. And that there will be no way to restart that cycle once it has broken.
This fear isn’t valid because I’m projecting something onto the other person—what they think of me and what their future actions will be—and that’s not fair to them. The fear makes the dynamic all about me, and that shouldn’t be the case. In order to have a meaningful relationship, I have to accept the love and friendship offered and recognize it takes vulnerability for them to reach out like that, too. As Quill well knows, it takes two to tango.
Because I believe God made us to be in relationship with each other, I know we are expected to fail at it and forgive, love each other, and not let fear rule us. While fear is part of my baggage and I can’t stop feeling it—no matter how many times I read the words “Fear not!” (Gen 21:17, Isa 41:10, Dan 10:18, Joel 2:21, John 12:15, etc. etc.)—the act of doing so remains challenging. At the very least, I can choose to not let it dictate my decisions.
When Yondu speaks to Rocket in Guardians 2, telling him he understands Rocket’s motivations because he spent most of his life in fear and regret, Rocket gets a glimpse of a lonely future if he continues to push people away. Yondu spent years raising Quill as his son, yet never deepened the relationship with vulnerability until the end of his life. Yondu’s words were a warning.
The plucky friends of Rocket Raccoon are willing to forgive and that certainly helps his decision to take a chance, to come and get their love (as the lyrics say). It’s these deeply vulnerable bonds with each other that make life worth living and to me they reflect our relationship with Christ as it is meant to be. While I may not be a mischievous raccoon, I can find joy in that vulnerability, in loving others, and in letting them love me in return.
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