Confession: I had to literally pause a movie at its climax so that I could stop for a moment and process what was happening.

Jonathan and I rented August: Osage County tonight and my heart is still pulsating rapidly because of how intense and real it was. The family dynamics were so familiar, albeit an exaggerated version of how things in our families are…but so very close that several points in the movie were stressful and hard to watch because of how real and normal they seemed.I imagine it’s how I would respond if I put all our family’s heated arguments and negatively passionate interactions on the screen.

Family home movies don’t include those parts. We like to capture the smiles and the kids singing and being “hams” and everyone enjoying themselves and getting along. To capture the dinner conversations where there is yelling and “truth-telling” as the main character in the movie said would be outrageous.

Reality is outrageous. It’s violent, troubling, stressful, and intense.

I saw myself in one of the characters and it scared me a little. Who am I to act like that? Yet it seemed like the family expected her to act the way she did. It’s so crazy how even as adults we fall back into the family system as if we were ten again.

Watching the movie and how each of the characters showed little to no grace reminded me of how when people get together with families often we put each other in boxes and don’t allow space to be ourselves, space to be the people we are when we are apart from each other. Instead we seem to require that each puts on their costume and act out the conversations we’ve rehearsed for years. I sense that is why so many people dread spending time with their families. Because indeed, things HAVE changed, for better or for worse, and we hope that our families can be there to help us through, to celebrate with us or to mourn with us. But many times families just judge, blame, or criticize.

For me there was no redeeming moment in the movie. It ended with heartbreak and frustration, shining light on an intense reality that things don’t always end like we hope they will.  That life is messy and complicated.

It is my faith in God that helps me through my struggles in life. It is my faith in God that leads me to be thankful for my family and their imperfections (and my own). It is my faith in God that leads me to have hope that, even in the messiest circumstances, all people can experience the mystery and joy of God.

Praise God for this intense experience called life.