Last month my husband and I took our children to see the movie, Wonder. Our older two children loved the book and we thought our younger two would benefit from seeing this movie as a family. We all absolutely loved the movie and were moved by some of the truths found throughout.
The main character, Auggie Pullman, suffers from a genetic disorder that has left his face severely disfigured. The movie begins with his decision to go to school for the first time as a middle school student. The film chronicles the trials that come to Auggie as a result of this decision. Auggy experiences cruelty at the hands of a boy named Julian who finds him both repulsive and interestingly, a threat. After much mistreatment, Julian and his parents end up in the principal’s office. They have unashamed disdain for Auggie due to his physical appearance. The principal challenges their thinking by saying, “Well, he can’t change how he looks so maybe we need to change how we see.”
This powerful statement is a very moving part of the film. Our understanding of every person we know and every relationship we have can find wisdom in this simple sentence. The principal was talking about Auggie’s physical appearance but with this simple statement he beckoned Julian’s family to see something much more. He invited them to reconsider the lens through which they see. He challenged what they value and gave them the opportunity to be changed. It is this critical conversation in the movie that one begins to see a transformation in Julian and many others.
How does such a significant change in perspective occur? What could possibly happen in which someone we deem as “ugly” and “inferior” become someone we see as beautiful? The answer is powerfully demonstrated in this movie. The change takes place through a friendship, a powerful relationship that points us to what is true. As students slowly get to know Auggie, their perception of him changes. As their perception of Auggie changes, so does the perception they have about themselves and what they value. Eventually most of the students in the grade are changed. They are changed through the friendship of a little boy who wants to know them and be known by them. You see a group of children grow in humility and in love and who begin to defend the one who is influencing them. These young people are given the gift of seeing beauty as a powerful, loving force worth defending and pursuing. Auggie could not change the way he looked but his faithful presence changed the way those around him could see.
Wonder provides a great example of the power meaningful relationships have to transform how we see the world around us. The SHEMA in Deuteronomy 6 states, “You shall teach them (words of God) diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” So basically when you are at home, when you are on your way somewhere (walk by the way), when you wake up and when you go to bed. This is a continual role we play. It calls us to diligence, intention, investment and thoughtfulness. It beckons us to pursue our children in authentic relationships so that we can impart the truth and beauty that gives them life from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to bed. The opportunities to do so happen in the daily routines we have in our homes.
As we walk daily with our daughters and impart to them the Word of the God, it beckons us to humble ourselves before the Lord and before others. It leads us to worship the one true God and to see others as He does. It is not self-serving or self- promoting. It leads us beyond the physical to the spiritual and the relational. The Word of the Lord gives us eyes to see beauty in the world the way God does.
In the movie, Auggie’s mother plays a beautiful role. For years, she has thoughtfully and intentionally invested in Auggie in such a way that he sees beauty beyond the physical deformities of his face. When he gets discouraged about what he looks like or how he is being treated, she reminds him of the truth of who he is. He is loved, he is smart, he is funny, and he is her son. She is a constant reminder to him that he belongs, that he has purpose, and that he will be okay. His character is shaped by her teaching. As we consider the words of the SHEMA we also consider the character of our daughters. When the world incorrectly defines beauty, we speak truth consistently. As we walk with our daughters and other young women we have the privilege to faithfully and patiently be used by God to give them eyes to see.
There will be times when it appears we are not getting through to them. It will seem as if their definition of beauty and value are shaped by TV reality stars and well-crafted cosmetic marketing. They may become discouraged as they compare themselves to unrealistic perfection and thus begin to value a self-serving attempt at this perfection. Keep walking with them. Keep relating to them. When they rise and when they go to bed. Do not be critical but point them by your words and your actions to what is true, what is right, and what is beautiful. We cannot change what they look like, we cannot change what those around them look like, but we can change how they see themselves and others as well as what they value. Then by God’s grace, they will be empowered to reflect a beauty beyond themselves and have an impact on those that God has placed around them.