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Be ye warned: this article contains spoilers for Passengers.
I like to dream big. I’m not content reaching only one person with a project; I want thousands to admire my ambition, the project’s goals, and the passion behind it! I want it larger, grander, more memorable! And that doesn’t just go for decisions here and there—it’s how I try to steer the course of my entire life, for better or for worse.
I relate well to Aurora Lane, a colonist who wakes too early from hibernation aboard the Avalon, a ship taking her to a distant planet. There’s a scene in the film, Passengers, where she watches a video of her friends wishing her farewell. They are in their twenties at the time of recording, but because she’s been in hibernation for 30 years, she probably wouldn’t recognize them if she saw them now. She’s passed them by, a reality Aurora knew would happen, and one she’s embraced.
As a journalist looking to spread her wings, Aurora paused her life, leaving behind all she knew in pursuit of the big story. Her friends hope that she’ll find happiness in becoming the first reporter to document the tale of being a space colonist, but at least one of them suspects that she would find greater joy in a simple relationship. I can hear how Aurora might have answered because it’s the same as I would respond: “Not likely.”
When I was younger, influenced by Tom Clancey novels and the movies based on them, I intended to become a government analyst. Top secret clearance, the ability to influence international affairs, the significance of doing something that affects people and nations—that sounded important, and worth striving for. So I moved down that path, receiving the right offer from the right agency doing the right thing, exactly as I hoped.
But just as circumstances developed that paved the way for me to be involved in the intelligence field, they changed to make such a move unfavourable. I had young children at the time, and moving away from family, friends, and church to a place where we’d have to start over in more ways than one was too much of a stress upon my family. I called the agency and informed them that I wouldn’t be taking their job offer after all. I was a hard decision; I literally choked back tears during the rejection call.
My self-importance went out the window, and I returned to what felt like a humdrum job doing things of seemingly no significance. I, of course, valued my family, which is why I made the decision, but in all honesty, life with my little family at my little job seemed, well, too little.
Aurora must have felt similarly when she awoke and discovered that she wasn’t going to be able to return to hibernation. The dreams she had and the plans she made were dashed and destroyed. And even though Aurora begins to fall in love with her fellow passenger, Jim, aboard the lonely ship, she still thinks the whole situation is unfair.
At the end of Passengers, though, Aurora is given an opportunity to return to sleep and continue back on the path toward her goal, one that would assuredly win her acclaim, an exciting life, and perhaps a place in history. Would she choose all that or would she return to what the world might define as mundane—a lifetime with the man she’s in love with?
Aurora ultimately chooses to stay with Jim. She’s decided that love isn’t so mundane after all.
I never had the moment Aurora did, where the exact same opportunity was given back to me. But I’ve never tried to regain it, either. As I move forward in life, I’ve evaluated my situation many times, and through the struggle, through my broken dreams, through ups and downs, I’ve concluded that I was blessed beyond measure by staying right where I am instead of choosing my ambition. I’ve been able to raise my children in a good environment, develop relationships and do ministry in a church I love, and even develop at work to take positions there I never thought I would qualify for. I lost something great, but I gained something greater.
When I’m thrown off the diamond-laden path, it’s in the brush where I’m able to discover beauty I would have missed, opportunities I would have lost, and lessons I would not have learned. Little things I can’t see, that I deny or minimize, turn grand, like a tiny seed sprouting into a tree. If I’m listening, if I’m humble, if I’m open, I can be like Aurora, losing sight of my plans, but finding that joy often lives in the unexpected and the ordinary.
He can also be found, however, feeding his other nerd habits, including A Song of Ice and Fire. Charles also remains hopelessly stuck in the 90's, maybe best demonstrated by his unexplainable passion for The Phantom Menace.
A historian and director at a government agency by day, Charles joins in the work of college and digital ministry is his off-time, while growing each day in the round-the-clock charge of being a husband and father.
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