[Editor’s Note: We want to thoughtfully explore what is worth discussing in movies and shows. Spiritual and gospel themes are often embedded in what we’re already watching. By talking about something, Power to Change – Students is not giving an official endorsement, nor are we giving a ranking or judgment of overall quality. We simply desire to join the conversations that people are already having about #movies+shows.]
Have you heard about my favourite TV show Little House on the Prairie? It is based on books written by Laura Ingalls-Wilder about her childhood and youth. The setting of the show is the American prairies during the 1870s. It’s a family show that illustrates godly principles through the story of the Ingalls family, who had to leave their home in order for the father to find work.
Back in those pioneer days, work was hard to find, so families had to travel a lot. At one point the Ingalls family ended up at a place called Walnut Grove, where Mr. Charles Ingalls found work at the local mill. I want to share some stories from this time in their lives and how they impact me personally. Let’s start with a story about a challenge, and about Christian community.
While working at the mill one day, Laura’s father, Charles, got seriously injured. What happened next really intrigued me, as it illustrated what life could be like back then, when most people went to church. In response to Charles’ injury, the whole community prayed and helped out at the Ingalls farm. They also helped them pay off their bills. What a wonderful community!
I wonder: what if my church community was like that? Sometimes we do really care for others, like when my dad was really sick and he had to go to the hospital and everybody at church prayed for him. But we don’t always radically know each others’ needs and then, on top of that, inconvenience ourselves to meet those needs. What would it take for us to actually live like the Christians portrayed in Walnut Grove? What would it take to trust and serve God with our whole lives?
Another story from Walnut Grove challenges me further. In this story Laura writes about how her older sister, Mary, went blind and had to go to a school for the blind. It was hard on everybody, especially on Mary. Her heartbroken father pleaded with God to heal her. However, God had other plans. Little did they know it was for the best. Not only did she become a teacher through her education, but she met her husband at the school for the blind as well!
Shows often highlight happy endings. But I wonder: does everything always turn out alright in the end? For instance, I’m still waiting to get married or even to have a date. However, I will keep trusting in God that he knows the way and has great plans for me. The next story from the show helps me to further wrestle through this question of trusting God in the face of life’s challenges.
In one episode, Laura did something really, really bad to her dad. She felt so jealous of her new baby brother that she wanted God to take him away. She really felt that her father was spending too much time with him. Then, when her brother became sick and died, she felt so guilty about her wrong desires. She went to her pastor and confessed her sins. He told her that the closer she is to God, the more likely it was that he would answer her prayers. Unfortunately, she misunderstood him. In her little mind, she thought he meant physically going to where God was instead of being close spiritually. So she went up a hill, to sit “near” God.
This makes me wonder: what is true closeness to God? And how does prayer really work? The tragedies in Little House remind me that not all prayers are answered in the way we want them to be, even when they are prayed by godly people. Still, what happens next in the story helps me understand God a bit more.
After Laura went up that hill, she didn’t come home for supper, which made her parents worried. So her father went searching for her in the woods. In the end, he found her, sitting on a hillside. At first, she started to run away, but then she realized how much her dad loved her. She broke down into tears and ran into her father’s embrace. Just like God, her father forgave Laura and told her that he always loved her, no matter what.
I wonder: what is it like to be a parent? Their love must be so incredible to endure all that is thrown at them.
It may be a fictional series, set in a very different time and place, but the way the Christian life is portrayed in Little House on the Prairie makes me wonder about my own walk with God.
I wonder: am I really trusting and serving God with my whole life or am I, like the actors in a TV show, just going through the motions?