I have been a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies ever since I caught Chicken Pox back in 1987. He was nothing to do with me getting ill of course, I was working at the Lee Abbey Conference Centre in Devon at the time and I think I caught it from a visiting guest there. I went home for three weeks as I was pretty rough, and whilst at home I found my dad had taped a collection of Mr H’s classics on video. (Remember those VHS days?) So I worked my way through the collection – Vertigo, Rear Window, Suspicion, Rope, The Trouble with Harry, Notorious, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Psycho. I remember particularly liking The Trouble with Harry, a kooky comedy about a troublesome body being buried and dug up several times.
Hitchcock, who was known as the master of suspense, was once asked if he was actually afraid of anything himself. He replied that he was afraid of plenty of things, which was why he could make such terrifying films. He knew what fear was. He had experienced terror and so could recreate that for others.
It’s easy to look at others and think they are infallible experts. Superhuman perhaps, above normal experience. But we are all human. Various artists and actors have said in interviews that they fear being ‘found out’, being unmasked perhaps, as frauds – not great artists or actors after all. We do well to avoid putting people on pedestals. Hitch was as easy to scare as the rest of us. In fact his knowledge and experience of fear was what made him a great filmmaker. Weakness is a shared language. And a powerful one too. It taps into the very heart of what it is to be human, though it’s a costly language to use. It leaves us vulnerable and open to criticism. Which is why artists often express their troubles and weaknesses through their art. It’s why Jesus used stories to unlock the people he met. He knew that those with open ears, eyes and hearts would find themselves in his profound tales and make a response. On one occasion a bunch of uppity religious folks got all upset by one of his stories. Not because he had accused them of anything, but they saw themselves in the tale and were challenged. (Have a look at Mark chapter 12 verse 12)
I wonder when a story last affected you in some way? I watched an episode of Downton Abbey this week, one in which a character grew ill and died. Watching the reaction of the family and servants was powerful. The story has stayed with me. We live in a frightening and difficult world. You don’t need me to tell you that. One of the great things about prayer is that we can express our fears and anxieties. Prayer is not about having great faith and answers. It’s about a growing relationship. An honest struggle, a wrestling match with life, the world, ourselves and God. As Jacob found at the river Jabbok in Genesis chapter 32 verses 22-31. We can bring our hopes, longings, questions, anger, frustrations, courage, doubts and terrors. We can lay it all out. Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door. Using whatever words or silence or songs help us. And to quote a famous, deeply honest prayer from someone who came to Jesus when life was hard and fearful. ‘I believe, but I also doubt, help me please in my unbelief.’ (Mark chapter 9 verse 24)