The Downside of Flannel Graph and CGI

Not gonna lie, I’m kind of hooked on Marvel movies. Not that I run to a movie theater whenever a new film is released, or that I watch them all the time, but I have been a bit driven to make sure I’ve seen all of them. (True confession: one weekend, recently, I had to fill in my Thor gap and so watched all three Thor movies over a couple of days).

It’s not that I’m a big Marvel fan, per se. Sure, I read comic books as a kid, but really was clueless as to the on-going story lines and character developments. No, what grabs me about the Marvel movies is how over-the-top they with their special effects. With the advent of CGI (computer generated imagery) there is almost no limit to bringing to the screen whatever the writers and producers can imagine. Characters that are bigger than life, a stage that transcends not only this world but even this solar system, and battle scenes that defy the imagination yet are portrayed so clearly for the viewer to experience.

Kinda’ like the people of God’s “IMAX experience” on the shores of the Red Sea.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. . . . Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” . . . The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. . . . Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.

(Exodus 14:21-23, 28, 31 ESV)

Reading the familiar account of God’s intervention on His people’s behalf and I’m realizing the downside of flannel graph and CGI.

For many of us we’ve known the story almost all our lives. For those of my generation, as kids it wasn’t brought to the screen through CGI but to the Sunday School classroom with flannel graph. Fabric images placed on fabric flat board used to tell a fascinating story. The Red Sea deliverance a mainstream of the Bible stories we were taught as a kid. Then came Charleton Heston on the big screen and we formed an understanding of God’s redemption (and, I fear, sometimes a theology) according to Hollywood. And today, with all the assistance our brains have been given through CGI, it becomes even easier to imagine the unimaginable.

But, I fear, no less easy to walk in awe of the amazing. The familiarity producing a lethargy. An encounter of the divine kind in the past swallowed up with mundane concerns of today. For, as I read Exodus 13 through 15 this morning, I was struck by how a people could see what they saw at the edge of the Red Sea, experience what they experienced as witnesses of God’s mighty hand, and then end up grumbling against this same God because they’re thirsty (15:24). Fresh off of witnessing the power of God to stack up a sea of water, they turn so quickly to questioning God’s ability to furnish them a cup of water.

And I wonder at my own propensity to move so quickly from awe to angst. From wonder to worry. How familiarity with the divine so often, and so quickly fades when it comes to fretting about the day.

Be still and know that I am God, says the LORD (Ps. 46:10). Playback your own CGI, Conscious God Images, and let your jaw drop — behold your God in awestruck wonder. And then, walk with your God. Trust in your God. Even as you bow before your God.

Feeling pretty ramble-y, this morning. Wondering, I think, if digesting Marvel movies (and flannel graphs for that matter) may have quenched my ability to actually marvel. But then, reminded that even those who were there, and saw it firsthand, were quick to move on. So, I guess, I’m reminded afresh of my dependence on God even to wonder as I should, to worship as I should, and to walk as I should.

O that it would be so.

By His grace. For His glory.

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