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Wherein an Anthropomorphic Tree Upends Me

My husband and I were playing catch-up with the rest of the world, sitting down to watch Guardians of the Galaxy a few years after everyone else had. Not my usual genre, but isn’t that one of the glories of marriage and friendship? Bringing us outside of our walls and helping us to see new horizons?

In this particular moment in time, “new horizons” meant a movie about a motley band of misadventurers accidentally bent on saving the world. While this isn’t an endorsement of every aspect of the film, it was good fun for the most part. And then…it happened. That tree—that big, lovable galoot named Groot—did something that changed everything for me.

For those who don’t know the estimable Groot—he is a tree who ambles and oafs around the universe, and all he ever says is “I am Groot.” In answer to every question, every tension-filled scene wherein the galaxy threatens to implode in various ways: “I am Groot.” Whether it makes sense in context or not, that is his story and song, and his raccoon buddy has the ability to translate that phrase a thousand different ways to actually make sense in context.

One begins to think, as one watches Groot, “Hey! I like this guy. Maybe lacking in some of the gravitas of his Ent and Dryad predecessors, but there’s something pretty great about him. Maybe the most likable superhero I know. But is he a superhero, really?” No cape, no spider bite to make him shoot ultra-strong webs from within, no ability to turn back time or laser things down or scale buildings or any of the normal fare one might find at the local superhero ability emporium. So what is his strength?

Then comes his moment.

And then came my tears.

The motley band of misadventurers is huddled in a spiraling spacecraft with everything literally going to pieces about them as they plummet toward sure destruction. A few of the comrades are down with wounds, and those remaining on their feet are gathering up their fallen friends and stumbling around the doomed craft with complete hopelessness written on their faces. It is the black moment, the pinnacle wherein all seems lost.

This is why you feel full to bursting and exhaustedly poured out in the most exhilarating way, all at the same time. Amanda Dykes

Groot, too, with his big, lovable eyes and limited vocabulary is walking through the spiraling wreckage, but his sorrow is one of steady determination. As his friends gather together, he draws near and the magic begins. Tendrils of bark, reaches of roots, sprays of leaves—they begin to grow from him, entwining themselves together in a twisting and weaving until the whole crew is cloistered within a dome of his living fortress. He has walled away the destruction, the chaos, the noise. Within the dome are bits of light floating about in the dark, illuminating desperate faces of the friends as they begin to ease from fear into hope. It is a fortress, but not one of mere survival. It is a fortress of breathtaking magic in the midst of destruction. Of abundant life and beauty and wonder, right there in the dark.

The raccoon sidekick pleads with Groot not to do this thing—that in hemming them away like this, he will surely die upon impact. But Groot continues with a settled peace and surety about him, as if he knows that he was made for this moment in time. And he utters three words: “We are Groot.”

I won’t elaborate further or tell you what happens next, but I will confess here how that scene slayed me. In the very best of ways—it picked my heart right up and spoke right into it, saying, “This. This is why God put letters and words dancing around in your head. This is why books thrill your soul. This is why, when your words are coming from somewhere outside you, when it’s about something greater than you, when you pretty much just disappear from the whole thing and get to simply be a part of it—this is why you feel full to bursting and exhaustedly poured out in the most exhilarating way, all at the same time.”

Isn’t it so? Isn’t this why God fashioned us this way? That we might, in a world that is very dark, and sometimes feels as if it is spiraling toward destruction, let the Life inside of us pour out and twist and weave into something good through words, song, and art; a refuge full of most sincere wonder that reminds the wounded and hurting of the light, gives them a safe space in their brokenness, and points them toward Hope?

This writer begs your forgiveness for spiritualizing a computer-animated tree and raccoon, but even laying the movie aside, what a humbling thing.

To let the natural outgrowth of what God has equipped us with be woven in His hands. To hope and pray that within those nail-scarred hands, our humble offerings might be a part of the giving of light, and of life.

Artwork by Tony Hodgkinson


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