Please excuse the interruption from the 30 Days of Prayer series. There are some posts that just cannot wait. =0)
Last night I had a neat opportunity to see a pre-screening of Wonder. It hits theaters around the country today. Truly, I am thrilled beyond belief to say that the movie did not disappoint. Instead, it went far beyond what I had even expected of the film.
As you may remember, only just this year we changed up our home’s rhythm and placed five of our seven children into public school after 7 years of homeschooling. Not all of them remained, but my fifth grade daughter is one who did. Much to my delight, her class read through the book Wonder throughout the first semester. She really enjoyed it.
So I was excited to learn that there was an opportunity for the class to enjoy a private pre-screening of the film that the school had worked out a deal with the local theater!
There was no way I was going to miss the opportunity either.
Here’s the official movie trailer, which brings me near tears each time I see it. I knew this movie was one not to miss….
Wonder: A Wonderful Must-See Family Movie
If you are unfamiliar with the plotline of Wonder, let me explain. It is a movie about the inner-workings and experience of family with a deformed little boy. He is entering into school, middle school, for the very first time after years of being homeschooled. The movie reveals the trials, struggles, and triumphs of the journey towards independence and autonomy for children most often seen as different. In addition, it conquers the simultaneous journey for those who love and care for these children, too.
Wonder does an excellent job of emphasizing the right things, such as kindness, patience, acts of love towards others, integrity, and honor. But, it also does an amazing job to bring to light the harmful effect of words and bully activities. I am thankful to say that this is not just another film to try to confront the issue of bullying. Rather, it instead sheds light on living in Love, which eliminates bullying naturally.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
This distinction to me is a critical one, because instead of focusing on the darkness to try to eliminate its presence, the movie centers on the actions of light, which are of God, that eliminate darkness without additional effort.
Throughout the movie scenes of courage, integrity, honor, and compassion are readily shown as the better way, even if understanding is not yet present.
There were several incredibly touching scenes in the movie that my mommy heart completely and entirely understood. In the early scenes of the movie, the main character, Auggie, is dropped off by his loving family at the gate of his new school. Up until that time he had been homeschooled by his very intelligent mother, played by Julia Roberts (one of my all-time favorite actresses!)
The mother had put off much of her own personal work in order to care for her sick son after his birth. But, as he went off and ventured into school, she too began a new season of growth and opportunity.
At this particular scene, as the family stood by watching their now middle schooler enter into school, a lion’s den of sorts for a boy so clearly different, my heart filled with the familiarity of it all. My mommy heart knows exactly what that event feels like.
Five plus years ago, our lives drastically changed when within the span of ten days our then 22-month old son changed from a normally progressing little toddler to a shaking, slurring, drooling, uncoordinated crawling one. His eyes began to roll around in his head. His body shakes uncontrollably. And, even when he regressed to crawling once again, his arms would not always obey his brain’s signals to move. So, he often fell face first into the ground.
My mommy heart struggled so much in this time.
I captured several videos in our progressive journey with our son, though we have not kept up in recent years. Here is a video of him after initial misdiagnosis, before we had confirmation of the chronic syndrome we now know he has.
It was a very, very long season of pain.
We never found a cause for his condition- Opsoclonus-Myoclonus Syndrome, an incredibly rare disorder that affects only about 80 people a year worldwide (affects 1 in 10 million people), most being children younger than 2 years old. In about 50% of all cases, a neuroblastoma is found and treatment includes the scary words like, “high-dose steroids” for a two year old, “chemotherapy,” “immunoglobulin therapy,” etc.
Though we decided to forego conventional treatment and work to restore his systems holistically through diet, supplements, and homeopathic detoxes, the journey was a long and emotionally painful one.
Only this year did we feel that he was emotionally ready to enter into school for the increasing assistance he needs with his cognitive delays. And, the first that I put him onto the bus to head off into the unknown, my heart was in my throat. Will they be nice to him? Is he going to be bullied? Can he handled it all? Will he make any friends?
I did my best work to put on my confident mom face, but inside it was a mirage. The only thing I knew was that I couldn’t help him the way he needs help. We needed a team to come into our corner to support our son in his continued growth. I had done my very best to get him the services and support he needed for the previous years, but the older he got the more we needed additional support.
Often we moms set ourselves aside for a time while we nurture and care for the little children in our lives.
As the movie progressed, the emotional roller coaster started. When you’re the parent of a child with special needs, it can feel like the world is going to crumble when it is necessary to release control. There are many scenes when the mom and dad have to figure out how to work through being a support person for their growing son who is learning how to cope in a world that is not fond of different.
If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”
― R.J. Palacio,
There are so many intricacies to work through, including how to balance loving all of your children well when one requires a more significant degree of attention (not to mention the importance of releasing yourself from being everything for everyone all the time, see more on this here and here).
Never before has my faith been challenged to the same degree as has been required while navigating this ongoing journey with our son.
It has required so very much of my emotional energy to love and accept him for where he is while simultaneously trying to navigate disciplinary issues mixed in.
It is not an easy journey.
I found myself so very familiar with much of the story behind Wonder. My heart grieved when they grieved. I felt such pride when new successes occurred and the giants were conquered. There was incredible hope and celebration when the mom learned how to resurrect the dreams buried deep within her heart, yet set aside for a necessary time. I know all too well the feeling that follows the loss of a dream.
Motherhood demands the sacrificial love of Christ as we lay down our lives for our children when needed, but the wisdom of the Spirit to know when it is time to stand back up again.
There is a particular scene that I could make me cry right now just thinking about. A tender conversation occurs between Auggie and his mom. He is hurting over his face and she says some of the most profound things that I believe so many moms need to hear. I have to paraphrase since I did not write down the brilliance as it happened, though one day I will memorize the beauty of this scene.
Auggie, we all have the effects of life upon our faces. If you want to know where someone is going, look into their heart. But, to see where they have been, look to the marks upon their faces. These wrinkles here beside my eyes are from your first surgery. These ones on my forehead, are from your last surgery. These are the marks of our life together, and they tell our story to those who will see.
How deeply my heart understands these words, for my face bears the same marks of a life lived in its beautiful imperfection.
Motherhood is such an amazing experience as it bears marks on the body that reflect the weight of the soul.
This movie is without a doubt at the top of my list for excellent movies, quite possibly the best one I’ve seen to date. It is a deeply moving, honest to reality, emotionally understanding story with moral lessons dripped in all throughout.
If you are looking for a wonderful movie to see as a family this season, I strongly encourage and support Wonder and its timeless message to #bekind.
This is truly one that we will be buying as soon as it is available. And, I suspect that you will feel the same too.