STAR WARS SPOILERS AHEAD
I’ve finally seen the new Star Wars movie. Have you seen it? If not, you should stop now and read this when you’ve seen it. I’m warning you.
It’s safe to say that I loved it. I hope to see it again soon, but parenting duties keep interfering with that. I cried, I laughed out loud, I clapped, I felt joy and relief, and I know I wasn’t the only one. In a FB conversation, a friend and I excitedly shared our impressions of the film. But my friend surprised me when he said,"I though of you...[the movie was about, in part] wrestling with what "family legacy" means, on top of just the daily miracle of raising a kid at all (let alone 'right')."
To be honest, I had to pause and puzzle what he was talking about. THat's how much emotional space I've managed to give myself from "all the evil." But then it clicked; he was talking about my son and the legacy of his father's evil choices.
You see, a large portion of these movies struggle with legacy. Anakin/Vader chooses unfathomable evil, an evil that ends up costing him the woman he loved and the children he would never know until they were grown (and his enemies). Luke and Leia are horrified to learn their father was the father of so much of their pain. In the new movie, the "villain" Kylo Ren is revealed to be the son of Leia and HAn, his true name Ben (a choice that made me tear up). The legacy of his grandfather and his own struggles with the force lead him down the path of darkness, despite the best efforts of his parents and his Uncle Luke.
Look, I'm not saying I'm a Jedi (though I do own robes); my son's father also didn't order the death of the billions of people on Alderaan. But we do stand in parallel places; I'm trying to lead my son to make just, good, kind, selfless choices and I have no idea how the legacy of his father's evil will muddy the water. I want G to choose light. But so did my ex-husband's parents; they raised him in the church and loved him devotedly and taught him right from wrong and he still walked down into darkness. Now we all live in the wake of that, his decisions reverberating through all of our lives and into the future of our son.
It doesn't help me that there are statistics which bear out a correlation between an incarcerated father and their child's potential for future imprisonment. Correlation isn't causation of course, but it is damned concerning. I walk this tenuous lines with my son. I cannot, in good conscience, try to keep my son from loving his father. But I MUST be truthful with him, try to make sure that his love is based on who his father truly is rather than on who he wishes he was. His father did more than just break rules; he broke lives and only regretted it once he was caught. I cannot afford to pretend that darkness won't threaten my son's life, that he will not be tempted. Fear, anger, hatred and their ilk are seductive sirens which have captured many lives.
There are no guarantees in parenting. I could love my son well and teach him rightly and he could grow to be a good man who loves well and lives rightly. Or not. Likewise, parents who mistreat and abuse can end up raising good children who repudiate evil. Or not. Part of what is beautiful and true in the Star Wars movies is an echo of what we see in Scripture. In the books of the Kings of Israel and Judah, we see over and over again that the life and faithfulness of one good man/king does not guarantee that the his successor will be good. In fact, it comes in ebbs and flows, a good king followed by an evil one followed by a good one. Fathers and sons, parents and children like two different sides of the same coin. Anakin's mother was good, but he chose a life of evil. Vader was consumed by evil but Luke and Leia chose goodness. Leia and Han fought on the side of light, but their son Ben/Kylo succumbed to the life of darkness.
We are all affected by the legacy of those who came before us. We are also responsible for how we choose to live in the ripples of those legacies. We must navigate this complicated construct of choice and heritage; this is the task of all life. This is what it means to create life and then let our children live lives separate from our own. Often, it's as simple as Glennon says, "just do the next right thing." We have to keep choosing light. We have to keep repudiating darkness. We have to keep loving and rejecting hate. We have to keep choosing mercy. We have to keep choosing to chase after justice. It will never stop; it is often difficult. But it is possible to choose light.
I hope my son, despite his father's legacy, chooses to always live in the light.
I hope that I will live in the light of my parent's legacy.
I hope that you will choose light today, tomorrow, and every day.