Oasis of beauty in desert of suffering

The animated movie “How to train your dragon” is the story of the interaction between some ferocious flying dragons and a Viking village led by a hulking, weathered chief called Stoick who has a very un-Viking like son, Hiccup.

The dragons are the nemeses of the villagers, attacking their houses and stealing their sheep. All village teenagers go through a dragon training program teaching them how to fight and kill the winged fire-breathers.

Hiccup is an anomaly in his village – a hopeful, sensitive Viking lad who is looked down upon by the villagers, his father included. One night during a dragon raid Hiccup brings down a feared Night Fury dragon, but cannot bring himself to finish the job.

Hiccup names the injured creature Toothless, and secretly nurses him back to health. Along the way hope grows that, one day, Villagers and dragons will co-exist peacefully.

The crescendo of the movie occurs when Stoick discovers Hiccup’s friendship with Toothless the dragon, and uses Toothless to find the King dragon’s nest – a fearsome monster who subjugates all the smaller dragons forcing them to steal the Village sheep to feed his giant appetite.

Hiccup, outcast by family and friends but fueled by hope and courage, teams up with Toothless once more to heroically fight the ferocious King dragon, who comes out of his volcanic lair spewing fire and bent on destruction.

As with all good Hollywood family-friendly animations, the nasty giant dragon is dispatched, Hiccups’ hope and courage win out in the end and everyone lives happily ever after in Viking bliss, albeit with dragons as pets.

I noticed something about this movie.

During the final battle scenes, amidst the furious struggle for life and the restitution of peace, there are these little oases of beauty: Stoick risks his own life to save the life of the drowning Toothless, the village teenagers join in the sky battle alongside Hiccup whom they formerly ridiculed – all riding their own emancipated dragon-training dragons, Hiccup and Toothless put their lives on the line to save the villagers and Stoick demonstrates his love for his son Hiccup and their relationship is restored.

Here in all its animated glory was a simple metaphor for human existence. When it seems hopeless, it isn’t. Even in the most difficult life experiences, it is possible to have moments of beauty. Moments of joy. Moments of hope.

I know this for certain. I live this truth.

Day eight.

My son had been born seven days prior with congenital heart failure – acute multiple holes in his heart and a too-narrow aorta to sustain life.

On day three he’d had the first heart surgery to expand his aorta so blood could circulate around his body, and despite the prognosis and a faulty incubator respirator which had battery failure during the long walk back to the NICU from the operating theatre, he’d survived.

On day eight, he was in the neonatal intensive care unit beginning a long battle to gain the weight and strength necessary to undergo open heart surgery to repair the holes.

A stressful, emotional, hard, uncertain time. Our son was alive, yes, but only just.

I didn’t know what the future held for him. I didn’t know how many days he’d have. All I knew was that God had asked me to trust Him. And He had reassured me He loved my son far more than I ever could.

I began to better understand the interconnectedness of trusting in God, joy, peace and hope. Of finding moments of God-joy infused in the cracks of suffering.

Which brings me back to day eight.

Day eight was the day I was discharged from hospital – I had used up all of the days allocated to me after my son was born and had to return home.

My husband picked me up and we drove to our home about an hour away. Our twenty month old daughter was waiting on the garden path at the front of our house. I had only seen her briefly over the past eight days.

She was ecstatic to see me. She wrapped her chubby little arms around my neck and squeezed until her muscles shook. Her bright blue eyes were shut tight with effort, and her mouth wide with laughter.

The pain of leaving a critically ill newborn “alone” in hospital was immediately enveloped by the contrasting and all-encompassing joy of my little girl’s embrace.

I have a photo of that moment. A moment of joy in the middle of a painful time. A moment of beauty.

In the book of Romans (15:13) we read these words: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When circumstances seem hopeless, trust in the God of hope who will fill you with joy and peace, so that you may, in turn, overflow with hope.

Hope in the face of hopelessness. Joy in the midst of tears. Peace in times of turmoil.

An oasis of beauty in a desert of suffering.

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