By: Natalie Plumb
A good percentage of us suffer from something we might term “fix it” syndrome. It’s the scampering of thoughts that run through your head when your sister yells at you for buying the wrong flowers and you have 20 minutes before mom walks in. It’s the feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re coding and you see an error…and you try everything…and everything…and everything, and the mistake just won’t budge. It’s the complaint women have when a man gives solutions instead of an ear. Catholics, especially, can contract it.
A one-night only documentary named Irreplaceable debuted Tuesday night in more than 700 locations throughout the country. The film proved popular, with nearly 100,000 viewers and showings in many locations selling out, according to Focus on the Family, the Christian advocacy group that produced it. And this is only the first in a series of feature-length documentaries on the family to come.
Tim Sisarich, former executive director of Focus on the Family New Zealand and the film’s director and narrator, begins the documentary by explaining that he saw a problem in our world. He saw that men were chickening out on fatherhood. Women were being left alone to care for their children, or else to kill them. Families were being torn apart by divorce, lost fatherhood, addiction, and plainly, an immoral culture.
Sisarich sees a problem. And just as many men will do when you tell them a problem, he attempts to fix it. Women do this, too.
I put on my “fix it” hat all the time. I go crazy trying to fix the smallest of things. And the bigger the problem, the bigger the exponential I add to that worry.
Sometimes I despair, knowing that most of my peers grew up without a father. Sometimes I sob thinking about the motherhood that is lost, and the more than 3,000 children who are killed every day, just because a father, or similar support system, wouldn’t step up. Sometimes I just want to hide anywhere – far away from this world that confuses gender, laughs at modesty, looks down on motherhood, worships productivity and does not value the human person for simply being who he is.
I saw Irreplaceable because I wanted to, but also because, with the way it was being projected, I felt like I had to. I needed the cultural (and mostly spiritual) literacy. Believe it or not, this film is turning heads. It’s obvious in the fact alone that people called for it to be removed from all theaters, a petition Focus on the Family President Jim Daly responded to.
I would preface these next few paragraphs with “spoiler alert,” but even if you “know the end” of sorts… This is a documentary. Its moving parts are so complex that I could never summarize the whole thing. You’ll still be surprised, even if I “spoil” some parts. (Also it played one-night only, so unless you have connections….)
This film surprised me in a few ways. Its target audience was particularly Christian. I say that, but it is hardly a criticism. There were many people in the theaters for whom this film is a much-needed and compelling reminder of the central truths of marriage and family – for whom this message has been lost in the past. It also surprised me in its themes (which are described quite well in this Public Discourse article). The theme of family – what it is and how the family is literally the building block of society (something I will address in my blog post next week) – weaved a story easily together and taught me things I hadn’t heard before.
The film asked: “What on earth is wrong with this world?” This is a question I often ask.
And then I often try to fix it.
“What can I do?” “How can I change the world?” “How can I make the world a better place?”
Then I actually try to think of a solution…
While I’m thinking up that solution, a few things happen. My heart pumps a bit faster, my stress level increases, my irritability becomes particularly trigger-able.
What I’m asking of myself is, plain and simple, impossible. What Irreplaceable’s director and protagonist Sisarich asked of himself at the beginning of the film was also impossible.
“What is wrong with the world?” can only be answered with: “I am.”
G.K. Chesterton had it right. I am wrong with the world today. The problem with the question “What is wrong with the world today?” is inherent in the question itself. The question’s author presumes that me, Natalie, this girl, age 24 and 5-foot and 6 inches, is the only thing that’s right in the world. Ha! That statement could be no farther from the truth.
One of the characters interviewed in Irreplaceable, Gene Wohlberg, sums it up well when he says: “I am probably the best teacher that ever existed. All you have to do is listen to all the mistakes I’ve made, do a 180, and you’ll be just fine.”
Nobody is short of the necessity for redemption. We all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The premise of the question, “What is wrong with the world?” is wrong altogether. My grasping for an answer to the problem of how to “solve” the world is irrelevant. I, you and any combination of us never will solve the world.
We’re actually not meant to.
God tells us that You will always have the poor among you (Mt 26:11). The struggles of our times will always exist. It’s easy to forget this and to sink into despair because we cannot change the world. This is almost reason to despair even more, for some.
But Mother Teresa summed it up well when she said openly that she was not trying to change the world, as one reporter assumed she was when questioning her. Mother responds: “I have only tried to be a drop of clean water in which God’s love could sparkle.”
Then she asked: “Why don’t you try to be a drop of clean water, and then there will be two of us. Are you married?”
The reporter responded: “Yes, Mother.”
“Tell your wife as well and then there will be three of us. Have you any children?”
“Three children, Mother.”
“Tell your children too and then there will be six of us….”
So though we are not meant to solve the whole world, we are meant to be the best version of ourselves. Mainly, to be saints. Perhaps, then, our example will spiral, affecting positively the people around us.
We all need forgiveness. Desperately.
I, Natalie, am wrong with this world. You, reader, are too.
Let’s start with ourselves. You, after all, are irreplaceable.
Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.