Aliens have crash-landed on earth and begun to take over the planet. Major William Cage goes into action with the army to try and defeat them, and in so doing discovers that he somehow has the ability to be killed, and immediately travel back to a point not long before he went into battle. No matter how many times he dies, in battle or training, he immediately backtracks and wakes up alive and well, on a stretcher. This gives him and special forces warrior Rita Vrataski time to try, try and try again, honing their skills, and learning a little more each time that Major Cage bites the dust.
I’ve no idea how many times Tom Cruise dies in this move, but it’s an awful lot. Maybe more times than John Wayne bit the dust in the whole of his on screen career. It’s brutal and exhausting for him. But Vrataski is determined that Cage should use his unusual ability to gain success over the deadly enemy. Without Cage’s insights and repeated attempts they may lose the war. Endurance is perhaps one of the key elements in the Christian story. Time and again heroes of the faith have to stand firm and try again. Joseph dreamt of leadership, but first he was sold as a slave, wrongly imprisoned, forgotten by those he helped, and left to languish for years. Many of the Biblical heroes fight, lose, fall… and pick themselves up. They got knocked down, they get battered, but they keep on going. Paul describes this in one of his letters. ‘We are pressed on every side by troubles,’ he says, ‘but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We’re hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.’ (2 Corinthians chapter 4)
Just like Major Cage. Bashed, battered and bruised. But back on their feet. I want an easy life. I want my faith in Jesus to make everything easy. But it is not like that. Life is difficult. It brings with it many trials, troubles and temptations. Like Rita Vrataski, Paul grabs us and urges us not to give up. Not to lose heart. This Jesus we follow has walked the way before us. He was knocked down. He went to the brink of suffering and death – and worse – he went deep into that dark country. But he rose again with hope and healing in his scarred hands. He understands. He knows it’s hard. And he can help us take the next faltering step.