And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’
“Everything will be all right in the end. And if it’s not all right, then it’s not the end”. That’s a line repeated at various points throughout the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I thought it a fine movie with stellar performances by some of England’s greatest stars: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson.
It’s a story about personal journeys, as we follow six British retirees who travel from England to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, India. From a cleaning lady to a High Court judge, each character is lured to outsource their golden years to what was advertised as a luxury hotel “for the elderly and beautiful”. Each of them takes the plunge from what they know, to pursue something unknown.
But things don’t go as planned. The six characters find instead a dilapidated, rundown hotel under the management of Sonny, a charming owner with grandiose dreams who can’t even make the phones work. But throughout, Sonny keeps reminding: “Everything will be all right in the end. And if it’s not all right, then it’s not the end.”
I saw a lot of life lessons in the movie with some good reminders of what’s important. At one point, we hear newly widowed Evelyn, played by Judi Dench, complain:“Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected”; to which another responds, “Most things don’t. But sometimes what happens instead is good stuff.” Not every character’s role in the movie is wrapped up and resolved, but as Sonny would remind, “then it’s not the end”.
I left the theater feeling well entertained but wondering if what Sonny said was true: will everything really be all right in the end? Will all our suffering, heartbreak, hurt, and disappointment be all right in the end? Will God really work all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28)?
As I thought about this my mind went back to Julian of Norwich, one of England’s greatest saints and mystics. As she lay dying from the Black Plague, she had such an experience of Christ’s presence with her that she recovered, and later wrote a book The Revelations of Divine Love. Julian’s book was the first book written in the English language by a woman, and in it she affirmed the truth she experienced at death’s gate: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”.
And then I thought of what C. S. Lewis said about fairy tales. Lewis suggested that, although fairy tales are make-believe, they reveal the most profound truth of all – the truth of the happy ending. No matter how dark and tragic the world, there is the truth of the happy ending. Everything will be all right in the end.
Lewis’ close friend and fellow writer, J. R. R. Tolkien shared his confidence in the deep truth of the happy ending. In his essay, “On Fairy Stories,” Tolkien even coined a new word to describe how God brings about His happy ending. Tolkien wrote:
I coined the new word eucatastrophe (eu = good + catastrophe); the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears.
Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as a eucatastrophe. When the end finally comes the protagonist will not meet some terrible and plausible doom, but will instead be surprised by breathtaking grace.
Yes, it will all, be all right in the end. This is good news, the Gospel good news of God’s happy ending. “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
Grace and peace,
photo by Rita Smith