Defined by the Past
The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garlfield) who is dealing with the abandonment of his parents as a child. Although he is lovingly cared-for by his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, he is still searching for answers about his past. Why did his parents leave? Where were they going? Stumbling upon a clue to answering these questions and more Peter seeks out Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father’s former partner.
Dr. Connor, like Peter, has his own past he is trying to overcome. Dr. Connors is missing half of his right arm. He has spent his life searching for the correct formula that would enable effective “cross-species genetics.” Believing that he could capitalize on different specie’s strong genetic make-up (such as limb regeneration) he hopes to build the anecdote for all human disease and ultimately help is right arm regenerate.
The stage is now set as Peter and Dr. Connors’ worlds collide as they each battle with their past, one another and ultimately their desire for control over “who they will become.” Both Peter and Dr. Connors have a past that is shaping their present. They both wish to control how it shapes their future.
The Amazing Spider-Man asks the age old question, “Who am I and what am I doing here?”
Towards the end of the movie we see Peter’s teacher say that there is basically one story-line in any fiction: “Who am I?” It’s an interesting point. We don’t just see this in fiction we see this in real life. Most of us are trying to figure out who we are. What is our purpose? For Peter and Dr. Connors it’s about first dealing with their past.
The past shapes all of us to some degree or another. Each of us has a story; most of us have suffered through trials and would say that they helped to make us who we are. For Peter it was dealing with his parent’s unexplained disappearance. For Dr. Connors it revolved around his life-long search, and subsequent “almost but not-quite” failures in looking for the final variations to his formula to rid the world of disease.
The Amazing Spider-Man shows that what happens to these characters, and what tends to happen to each of us, is in our quest to overcome our past we wind up clinging to any chance at controlling our future.
Our desire for control is innate in us. Humanity has struggled for control since the beginning. Even the struggle for control is part of our collective past. We use different things to control our lives and surroundings. We use power and money looking for security. We look to love, relationships and sex to control our need to feel loved and valuable. We try controlling our surroundings but we are fooling ourselves; eventually finding that any control we believe we have in our lives is an illusion. As Matt Kearney said in his song Closer to Love, “we are all one phone call from our knees.” In a moment our sense of control can be completely shattered.
There is good news for a world of people seeking control but not finding it. Despite the fact that your past has shaped you in ways you may not even like, you are still valuable. In fact, you are more than valuable, you are loved. Not only are you loved, but the One who loves you actually is in control. There is an author to your life. While you have the ability to make choices there is a God who governs his creation. And he is good; and governs well.
What Peter and Dr. Connors eventually see in their own quest to control their surroundings is that ultimately they will fail. They’re human (well, sort of). The turning point; the intersection you must come to is realizing:
(1) You nor I are in control
(2) It’s actually good that we are not in control because over time we mess things up
(3) There is a God who is in control…namely, Jesus Christ.
(4) And His control is good because he is good.
In the Scriptures, there is a story where one of Jesus’ apostles named Paul is speaking to some pagans in Rome. They crafted an altar made for the “Unknown God.” Paul shares with them who this unknown God is. He says:
He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one manhe created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17).
The control of God is used to bring people into an encounter with him. You live where you live, in the time within history that you live in so your story can come into contact with THE STORY that changes everything. That story is good news and it is the one that enables us to relinquish our fruitless pursuit of control and find rest in the loving arms of a God who came to this earth for you and for me in the person of Jesus Christ. Isn’t that good news?!
You are at an intersection. Which way will you go?
Intersection Discussion: Have you ever felt as though you were in control until reality set in? How did you respond?