You’ve heard the old adage, “There’s no where to go but up.” It’s typically stated in the context of hitting rock bottom, so there’s only one direction to go — up.
It has an optimistic, hopeful connotation, subtly saying that things have to get better. In the film “Mary Poppins Returns”, there is a captivating part near the end that shows people joyfully carried aloft as they grasp a balloon purchased from the balloon lady in the park.
I found it to be particularly uplifting (sorry).
As most all of the movie characters are floating wistfully adrift, a song titled “Nowhere to Go but Up” is being sung by (in order of appearance) the balloon lady, Michael Banks, his kids, Jack (the lamplighter), Aunt Jane, Ellen (the housekeeper), and Gooding and Frye (the debt collectors).
(In previous articles I mentioned seeing “Mary Poppins Returns” three times in two weeks, but that’s not where I garnered this level of detail. No … now I have the entire 125-page script to refer to! In case you’re wondering if I’ve become compulsively obsessed with the flick, I plead “guilty as charged.” Do I need a counselor? Indubitably.)
I’ve been writing about some insights gained from this sequel to the original “Mary Poppins” movie. Through my spectacles, there are some clear Christian overtones suggested.
Though I’m confident they weren’t interjected by Disney intentionally, the themes of hope, perseverance, simplicity, faith, decency and family values caught my attention.
Paralleling “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” from the original movie, “Nowhere to Go but Up” prepares us for the departure of Ms. Poppins, a fitting though melancholy end to the tale (as is said, all good things must come to an end). The song is inspiring, with thought provoking lyrics, like:
• “Life’s a balloon, that tumbles or rises, depending on what is inside”; and
• “All this bobbing and weaving all comes from believing”; and
• “Give a lift to a foe, for you reap what you sow.”
There is another that reads like this: “Let the past take a bow, the forever is now.”
Wow, that is wrought with meaning and spiritual significance. Seriously, doesn’t that succinctly summarize the scriptural message of salvation? I think so.
Though Christians may differ in how their churches apply Biblical understanding, there is nearly universal acceptance that our hope of eternal life (“forever”) is based on: (a) our individual need for forgiveness, (b) Jesus accepting our punishment to offer forgiveness, and (c) our receiving a new beginning (born again) as He grants it.
To simplify this, if we admit our need, and accept His offer, we are ascribed a new beginning. You see, once we’re forgiven, the unrighteousness of our past bows its knee to the promise of forever with God.
It is described in the Bible this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus erases our past, declares us righteous, and recreates us anew. By being forgiven we are given a divine do over; a fresh start; a second chance. And, like the lyric asserts, “the forever is now”.
When teaching about “forever”, I like using this baited question: how would you describe eternal life? I’ve done this in sermons and small group discussions, and the answers given are interesting.
Some describe eternal life as “an infinite quantity of time”, or “unending amount of life”.
That’s good. Others will embellish the description, saying “it’s an unfathomable quality of life”, like a utopia or the fictional Shangri-La. I like that too. So eternal life is an incomprehensible immensity of time lived in idealistic conditions, right?
Sort of sounds like Heaven.
What if I was to tell you there is a better definition? In the gospel of John, Jesus is praying what is referred to as the “High Priestly Prayer”.
Just prior to the crucifixion, Jesus interceded for Himself, His disciples, and all other believers, and in this He said (John 17:3), “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Jesus, who I consider immeasurably more reliable than Miriam-Webster, Oxford or Wikipedia, defines eternal life as, get this, knowing God. I don’t want to get too far into the fine print here, but the term “knowing” in “knowing God” does not refer to an intellectual understanding, but to a kindred friendship.
Knowing God isn’t about casual comradery, but deeply connected covenant companionship.
It’s about our moving towards becoming more and more united in solidarity with God. Don’t believe me? Please read it for yourself, in particular John chapter 17, verses 20-23.
Assuming we believe Jesus’s definition, let me ask you a corresponding question: When do you think eternal life begins? This is challenging, but may I submit for your consideration that eternal life (knowing God) begins at the moment you’re forgiven of your past, and embark upon a new life with Him?
As we persevere in our faith journey, we progressively grow to know Jesus better and better. Though the full realization of eternal life happens when we die and move from the here-and-now to the there-and-then, the inception of it occurs when we’re saved.
Following physical death our eternal life continues, and our residence merely changes to a better neighborhood located in the very presence of God (“movin’ on up … to a deluxe apartment in the sky)!
So, in a nutshell, when our past bows in acknowledgment of Jesus, our eternal forever begins. According to the MPV (Mary Poppins Version), it goes like this: “Let the past take a bow, the forever is now.”
Amen to that.
Dave Hinman is Pastoral Elder at Dove Church Wilmington. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .