The Star Wars saga has transcended my life, literally. In 1977, my fourth grade class put on an unscripted stage production of the original movie, and because I had shaggy blonde hair and looked the part, I was cast by my peers as Luke Skywalker. The irony was, when I donned the white smock and strapped on the light saber, I had not even seen the movie. Though short of sinful, movies were frowned upon in our Pentecostal home and by the time by parents acquiesced several months later and allowed me to see Star Wars, I was already well acquainted with the story line.
I was immediately hooked and over the years I have seen each installment of the saga numerous times, anticipating each new episode with expectations that were probably unrealistic for any filmmaker to achieve. Every Star Wars fan has an idea of where they would like to see the storyline proceed, and when “The Last Jedi” (the most recent installment) was released, much of the talk centered around Luke Skywalker and his role in the trajectory of the story. As the curtain dropped on “The Force Awakens” (the movie in the series prior to The Last Jedi), the aged hero of the galaxy far, far away was seen living in exile on the planet Ahch-to and being handed his lost light saber by the emerging heroine, Rey.
The early scenes of “The Last Jedi” picked up this moment right where it left off. Many, myself included, believed Luke would happily and willingly take young Rey under his wing, train her to become a Jedi and once again rid the galaxy of evil as the ambitious visionary we remember from our childhood.
In a poignant and unforeseen moment, Luke tossed the light saber over his shoulder and walked away, wanting nothing to do with Rey or the Jedi. Luke the legend had become Luke the curmudgeonly old man. He was bitter….angry….wallowing in his failures and now skeptical that his life’s work had even mattered in the big picture of things. Beyond his personal misery, he had come to believe that the Jedi religion to which he had devoted his life was nothing but an empty and vain pursuit that was long on hope and short on victory. Even the sacred Jedi texts were called into question as to their value. After all, as Luke points out to Rey, the Jedi were the ones entrusted with discerning the dark side, yet they had failed to stop Darth Sidious from manipulating the political system, dissolving the Republic, taking over the galaxy and creating Darth Vader. By the time Rey arrived on Ahch-to seeking a mentor to help her find her place in life, Luke had basically given up on everything he once believed in: his faith, his hope and his vision.
As a middle-aged Pastor with 25 years of ministry under my belt, I was moved beyond words by Luke’s story in “The Last Jedi.” I have battled feelings of failure for many years and at 49 (though still in my prime years), I spend a lot of time reflecting on my failures and what I could have done better along the way. To be fully transparent, there are moments when I have climbed into a self-made exile, withdrawing from friends and family, and wondering if everything I have given my life to is nothing more than an empty pursuit. Much like Luke in “The Last Jedi,” I wonder if I’ve made any difference at all in raising up the next generation of leaders who will carry on the work of God’s Kingdom. Holding on to faith, hope and vision is an ongoing struggle.
The beauty of Luke’s story in “The Last Jedi,” however, is that he is somehow able to dig deep into his soul, rediscover what was lost, face his greatest failure and strike another blow into the heart of the evil agenda of the enemy. Staring down his enemy near the end of the movie, he boldly declares, “I am not the Last Jedi.” Luke’s faith, hope and vision were restored, but first he had to dig deep and remember where his strength really came from.
That’s what I’ve had to do over the course of my life and if you find yourself in a similar position, regardless of your vocation, it’s what you need to do as well.
It’s what we all need to do when retreating into a self-made exile would be easier. It’s what we need to do when we begin questioning the foundational truths upon which our lives were built. It’s what we need to do when we find ourselves wondering if we really are making a difference and imparting what is necessary to the next generation.
2600 years ago when Jeremiah lamented over the destruction of Jerusalem, he showed the people of God how to dig deep and remember.
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:19-24 ESV)
As long as we understand that God is with us and that His love and mercy are unceasing and new every morning, we have hope. Our vision as ministers for Kingdom impact is not predicated on our surrounding circumstances, past failures or perceived inadequacies. God has never abandoned us or failed us. We have simply failed to dig deep and remember when the war rages in our soul.
The stakes for not doing this are high. Like the fictional Star Wars universe, the battle of good vs evil rages perpetually and each generation has to find a way to overcome darkness with the light of God’s truth. We are simply Jedi Knights of sorts who must never give up the fight in spite of difficulties and failures. Ultimately we can stare down our enemy and boldly declare that we are not the Last Jedi and that we will continue to impart to the next generation whether we see tangible results or not.
One generation will declare Your works to the next and will proclaim Your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)