Clive Staples Lewis was a celebrated Anglo-Irish novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, lay theologian and Christian apologist whose impact and influence lives on.

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Landing the Big Fish

August 1st, 2005 | Skip to comments

I watched Big Fish again two nights ago. The Tim Burton film. I wanted to compare it to my experience of watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Big Fish is about big issues. Issues bigger than movies and scripts and screenings, career moves, and Oscars. It’s about big ideas, big decisions, big consequences. It’s about not only what we do with our lives, but what our lives consist of after they’re lived, whether there is anything left over, and, if so, what those who read them or listen to them do with them, think about them, act upon them.

Big Fish, like Moby Dick, is about God, or at least as much about God as Tim Burton’s imagination allows it to be. It’s about God the way Time Bandits and The 12 Monkeys and What Dreams May Come and Contact and Mosquito Coast are about God. About whose imagination is bigger–ours or God’s. And the answer is easy. His. But he remains the elusive, evasive, mysterious, Big Fish we all seek, whose stories we want to get straight, that we can hardly believe are true, that we wish were true, deep down hope are true, but aren’t sure, and keep asking Him to tell us the truth, because when we hear it, we think we are being put on, because We Know no one could live a life that exciting, filled with not only Giants and Twins and Danger and Finding One’s True Love and Holding on to Her No Matter What, and so we blink, and we sigh, and we say, “No, Dad, tell us the truth this time, this time.” And so we carry him out into a big lake and we say, swim, swim, swim away.

And then we finally realize He has been telling the truth all along and we have been living miserable lives because we didn’t believe Him, didn’t believe Him about Himself, and if we can’t believe that, then we can’t believe things about ourselves that we want to believe are true. Things like we can live Noble, Caring, Nonjudgmental, Dangerous lives that bring Freedom, Hope, and Courage to others who are trying to believe but can’t, and can’t because they won’t, and need to see a movie or a person or a story that reminds that deep down they do believe it but don’t know how to act like they believe it because they have never seen anyone act like that.

Except in the movies. They need to know that there is a worse danger beyond “living a lie,” and it is not “living a life” at all. So we need movies like Big Fish but more importantly, we need people who believe what they believe about God and themselves to act on it, to be astonished when people, especially their kids, don’t believe the Tall Tales about Him and Them. That we have made friends with Giants, run away to the circus to find out true love.

Big Fish is God’s Story. Edward Bloom believes. He comes to the circus (earth) and finds his True Love (the church) and nothing, not anyone, neither demons, nor this life, nor death, can separate him from this love–not even his children, who don’t believe Him. His Stories Stand. They are (as the two movie marquees say at two points in the film): “From Here to Eternity” and about “Identity.” Ours and His.

That’s the Big Fish to me. And I believe.


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