Tuesday, November 18, 2014

God of happy endings

I watched The Lunchbox recently on dvd. It's a foreign film set in India with English subtitles. The title reflects a traditional practice where workers contract with a food vendor to have their lunch delivered to their workplace. The lunch box is a container with several sections which serve to keep the various foods separate. The sections can be taken apart and set on a table. It reminded me of some cookware we had to take camping that could collapse into an easy to carry pouch.

Of course, some men would have their wives prepare their lunchbox and arrange to have it delivered to their workplace. The film centers on one man who is a widower and weeks from retiring from a large accounting firm. He is one of many men who spend their days working side by side with other men working with figures. He lives alone and often spends his evenings watching a family in the apartment next door eating together. He is adrift in a life that is almost over for him and he has little to look forward to as he faces the end of his working days.

The other main character is a young woman with an elementary age daughter whose husband gets dressed and goes off to work every day. There is little affection between them. When he comes home he spends his time looking at his phone. She packs his lunch box every day and a delivery service picks it up. Her auntie lives up stairs and gives her advice how she could jump start her marriage. Auntie suggests some new menus to attract his attention.

The delivery service mixes up the lunch boxes and the retiring accountant gets the spicy box prepared by the young woman and her husband the boring one prepared by the catering firm. Immediately, the accountant takes notice. Something new and exciting is happening. He stops by the catering business to express his thanks and tells them to keep up their new standard. The husband hardly notices the change but asks his wife to stop sending him so much cauliflower. She realizes something is up but the lunch box mix up is exciting for her too. She has discovered her husband is cheating on her. So she begins sending notes in her lunchbox to learn more about who is eating her lunches. The accountant responds with praise for her cooking and they begin a lunch time correspondence which reveals more and more about their lives. Finally, the time comes when they decide to meet for a face to face lunch.

The movie's ending disappointed me; it was not a happy ending (that's all I'll say because it is worth seeing for yourself). I know happy endings are criticized for not being realistic. Soon after watching this film, I read the end of Job in the Bible. It's a happy ending. Some people are skeptical of the ending for that reason. John Goldingay writes that just because so many people do not have happy endings to their stories in real life is one very important reason why Job does. God is the one who brings stories to a happy ending. God is a God of happy endings.

Taking Goldingay's insight into the Job story, I revisited my first impression of The Lunchbox. No, it had not ended in the simple happy way I suspected it might. That would have been too unrealistic. But, the connection the two people made over the lunch box mix up did lead to more hopeful outcomes for them. The spicy food led to the spice of life.

It is hard to find hopeful outcomes and happy endings in life sometimes - especially when we are trying to write the script. We are afraid that some hoped for happy endings are too good to be true. But the Gospel is true and good and has the happiest ending for any one's story.