American Beauty

Last week I re-watched the movie American Beauty. I loved it. I remember seeing it in high school, and it was cool/interesting, but this time around, it was much more compelling.

(Dad tip: when rocking your baby to sleep, watching movies on mute with closed captioning is a great way to pass the time.)

What stood out to me was the scene where the “weird kid” Ricky Fitts is with his soon-to-be girlfriend Jane. He says “do you want to see the most beautiful thing I’ve ever filmed?” And then he shows her a video of… a plastic bag… blowing in the wind. And then she kisses him.

Those of you who’ve seen the movie know this scene. It’s kind of… weird?

Here’s the dialogue:

Do you want to see the most beautiful thing I ever filmed? It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing. And there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this bag was just… dancing with me … like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever. Video is a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember … I need to remember… Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world … I feel like I can’t take it… and my heart is just going to cave in.

This scene was truly nonsense to me when I was in high school. But this time when I watched it… it grabbed me and didn’t let go. Especially that last sentence.

There’s so much beauty in the world. My heart is just going to cave in.

If you’re a Christian, let me ask you something. Do you feel like this? Do you see beauty everywhere? Do you see God everywhere? Is the world a beautiful place? Does it overwhelm you? Can you taste it?

Or when you look around, do you see death, decay, sin, sinners, and ugliness? Do you feel disgusted and dragged down by The World? Are you itching to die and get out of here? Does it even matter what we do in this life?

Do you see a fallen world marred by original sin? Or a beautiful world laced with original blessing?

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. – Genesis 1:31

I believe if our default stance is one of appreciation and wonder, we will find God everywhere. In our cubicles, in rush hour traffic, at the mall, in our kids. But if our default stance is one of judgment and closemindedness, we will find God nowhere. Not in music, not in nature, not in those we love. Certainly not in strangers or in stress. Maybe not even at church.

Let’s take it a step further. If you were a Christian who wants to convert others to your cause, which of these two mindsets would be more attractive to someone on the outside?

  • “This world is going to hell in a handbasket… you should believe in Jesus, so when you leave this hellhole you’ll go somewhere better.”


  • “God gave us a beautiful world. It’s our job to take care of it. We’ve failed and turned against each other, but you can join the revolution that Jesus started – the revolution to heal the world.”

If we change our stance, we may find that although we think ourselves “saved,” we are still in need of healing, just like the rest of the world. It eliminates the differences between us and them. We’re all in this thing together.


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