By Anthony Casperson
[Full-blown SPOILERS for Spiderman: Far From Home below. And I guess for Avengers: Endgame as well. Just covering my bases.]
Still grieving from Endgame, we in the audience share in one of the themes of the most recent Spiderman movie: dealing with aftermath. We walked in not sure how to feel. Sad for the fallen. Excited for what’s next. In need of a good laugh. Confused because we don’t know what’s going to happen next.
This spinning around in emotions is what happens when we come to the aftermath of tragic events in our lives. For the people in the movie it was largely about dealing with half the population disappearing and then coming back un-aged five years later. For Peter specifically, it’s about grieving the loss of a mentor. And for us in our lives, the tragic event could be anything from the loss of a loved one, to the loss of a job, to a natural disaster, to dealing with a medical condition, to a whole host of other difficult times.
Attempting to deal with the aftermath of his personal tragedy, we see Peter trying to run to a normal life. He intentionally leaves his spidey suit at home as he goes on a school trip abroad. But pretty early in the trip, he’s put in a position to be considered the next in line for Iron Man’s role of leader. He knows he can’t be Iron Man. He has enough trouble trying to be Peter Parker, and even more being Spiderman.
Eventually, Peter places his trust in Mysterio, a person in whom he sees Tony Stark. Peter doesn’t know what to feel in regards to his fallen mentor. And in his confusion he sets his trust in the wrong place. Rather than trusting in the power within and what he can do, he trusts in an illusion of a hero. Through Mysterio’s holographic illusions during the film, we witness in visual representation how messed up our perceptions can be when flailing about in the confusion of aftermath.
But when we come to the climax of the film, what is the key to victory? The Spidey Sense (or “Peter Tingle” as the movie calls it in an attempt to bring attention to the power while also joking around with it). In the very beginning of the film, we saw that Spidey’s feelings had been out of whack as he was hit with a banana thrown by his aunt. Later on, he’d been beaten down because of this confusion of his senses, and ended up being hit by a literal train while fighting one of Mysterio’s illusions.
However, on the bridge at the end of the movie, when Mysterio uses the drones to attack Spiderman while also casting an illusion of darkness, Peter lets go of everything around that’s lying to him. He stops trusting in the illusions. He breathes and draws upon his feelings to see the truth. Because of his refusal to rely on the lies, he defeats the illusion master.
As the villain lies on the floor, bleeding to death, Mysterio reaches for the Edith glasses (the seeming McGuffin of the film) and extends his hand out to give them to Peter. But this too is an illusion. The thing that he needs to overcome the lies is his own feelings, not this man-made device. Spiderman senses the danger and blocks Mysterio’s cloaked gun that was aimed at the hero’s head. He had to rely on the sense of truth over the lies around him.
Lies have an incredible power to destroy. And those who trust in them will always end up hurt because of them. We’ll stop trusting those closest to us. We’ll think that we have to act or behave in a certain manner. We’ll believe we have to be someone other than who we truly are. And the lies will leave our emotional state in an even more messed up manner than the tragedy we’re trying to work through.
Often we’re told the answer to our pain is to move past such feelings. We’re told the emotions disorient us, thus we should let them go. But running away will often just make the aftermath chase after us. We create an illusion that we’re fine until the pain hits us like a train.
Rather than running away from the tumultuous feelings rumbling within us, rather than faking it, I believe the answer is to use our feelings to push us further into being who God calls us to be. We forget that the same God who created all good things created our emotions as well. That includes the ones we consider to be “negative.” Sure, many of these feelings have been distorted by sin, but they were made by God for our good.
In being truthful about our feelings after dealing with a catastrophic event in our lives, we destroy one lie. And that makes it easier to put an end to the next lie, and the next. Our reliance on the truth of God, as it directs the use of our feelings, can bring down every lie that seeks to destroy us.
When we allow ourselves the right to feel whatever emotion is going through our heads, and use that to propel us into growth of who God has truly called us to be, we will see that lies have no place in the aftermath of tragedy.