Out of Control

Still thinking about Where the Wild Things Are

Talking to friends on the way home from the movie I said that I often felt completely out of control and vulnerable as a kid—kind of justifying the lack of resolution at the close of the film. A friend quickly countered saying, “I never felt that way.” Someone else in the car chimed in, “Did you go to high school?”

In this movie, Max is adrift. He has no security, no anchor, no protection. Every moment is rife with anxiety and fear. Will he be eaten? Can he trust the people who claim to love him? Even the most playful, happy moments like sleeping in the pile are complicated by potential tragedy—as we’re reminded when the pile settles and Max finds his foot pinned beneath layers of giant monsters.

I remember the way I felt when my grandmother died (I was seven, and she was in her early fifties. We were very close.).  I remember feeling like anything could happen—like I had no way to control whatever came next. A year later my grandfather had a heart attack in the car after picking me up from elementary school. He asked me to help steer because his vision was blurry. I assumed he would die.

I don’t say this because I think my life was hard, I say it because I think my life was normal. I think being a kid is often times about being vulnerable, about not understanding the fallen world around you, about not being able to fix the brokenness, about feeling completely at a loss.

And maybe—at least in some way—that’s a good thing. When we’re adults, we start thinking that we can control the chaos, that we can take charge of our circumstances, that we can fix the problems and even the people in our lives. But we can’t.

I really like how Max just gives up at the end of the movie, how he just goes home leaving everything pretty much the same as it was before he got there. There are small changes, yeah, but Max didn’t fix everything. He didn’t fix much of anything.

If you’re not a Christian, this movie is depressing because it says you’re not in charge. Things are broken, and you probably can’t fix them. But if you are a Christian, this movie is a reminder that you don’t have to fix everything—or anything.

I don’t like feeling vulnerable, unprotected, scared. But without Christ, that’s the only thing that makes sense. My daughters could die tomorrow, my husband could leave me, I could go insane—I know it’s true. I’ve seen it happen. Life is dangerous and unpredictable.

But I have a King—and He’s not a little boy pretending to have magical powers and He’s not me pretending to have control. He’s God and He’s in charge and that changes everything.