This past Sunday was the night of the 2010 Academy Awards, and one of the films nominated was “127 Hours”, made by the same people that made “Slumdog Millionaire” two years before. In “127 Hours”, James Franco plays Aron Ralston, the real-life mountain climber who is trapped between rocks and is stuck there for several days. Franco’s performance basically carries the entire film, and it is fantastic. But there’s an element of hope to this movie that, even though it may not have been intentional by the filmmakers, reflects the hope of the Christian faith.
Ralston is climbing mountains in Utah when all of a sudden he slips, falls, and is trapped in-between two enormous rocks, with another boulder crushing his arm. In the 127 hours that he is trapped there, he experiences flashbacks to his past life. He remembers his childhood, his brother, and his parents. He remembers the parties and the fun times he had with his girlfriend—and then when she dumps him. And he remembers the two women he met hours before he was trapped, who were also hiking through the mountains. Ralston’s experienced so much, and now it looks like he’s destined to die with his bloodied arm crushed under a rock. He uses his video camera to leave messages for whoever finds his corpse there, telling his family goodbye and how he wishes he could have loved them more. It seems hopeless for him.
But after several days of standing in-between the rocks, trying to find a way out, and even being forced to drink his own urine to survive, he sees something in the distance. Someone. A little boy on a couch, smiling at him. In his mind, Aron is seeing his future son. This image is telling him that this isn’t the end for him. And as he makes his last video messages, he reflects on how he ended up where he is:
RALSTON: I’ve been thinking. Everything... just comes together. It's me. I chose this. I chose all this. This rock... this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. Its entire life, ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. …I've been moving towards it my entire life. The minute I was born, every breath that I've taken, every action has been leading me to this…
Screenwriter/director Danny Boyle puts a lot of foreshadowing elements into the film to emphasize this idea that the boulder was “destined” for Ralston. For example, when he meets the two women, he is wearing a bandana over his face. When he reveals his face to them and they don’t look too impressed, he says jokingly, “Can’t take that off. That’s my face.” That’s true, Aron, you can’t take off your face—but you’re going to have to take off your arm, which is what he eventually does. In an uncomfortable and pretty graphic sequence, Ralston breaks and cuts off his arm and frees himself from the boulder. Even though the boulder may have been part of his “destiny”, he wasn’t going to let it kill him.
One of the biggest issues that I’ve seen Christians debate is the idea of predestination versus free will. I won’t get into it right now, but I will say I believe that in a way, God allows both in our lives. Romans 8:29-30 says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” God has a plan for his followers that he has planned in advance, even though we don’t know what that plan is. But the choices we make will eventually lead us towards or away from God’s will.
And when Ralston is stuck in the mountain, he is faced with a choice. He wonders early on about cutting off his arm, but he doesn’t want to come to that place. At first, he would rather die. He imagines a flash flood coming into the rocks (an image that reminds me of Jesus calling himself Living Water in the Gospel of John) and lifting the boulder off his arm, allowing him to climb out with two arms. But this is also just in his mind: he is left stuck in the rocks, crying out, “Please!” seemingly to God. Then, when he cuts off his arm and is freed, he looks up and whispers, “Thank You.” I don’t know Aron Ralston’s beliefs, but in the film, this character seems to believe that God has brought him here, and has given him the strength to make it out alive.
My prayer for you, the reader, is that you will ask God to bring you into His will, no matter how much it may hurt, so that you will be able to serve Him in ways you can’t even imagine.