the dark side of . . .

vaderThe Force. Well, apart from the quaint metaphor, and the whole midi-chlorian debac – um . . . decision – George Lucas wasn’t really all that far off the mark.

[Okay, brief tangential rant here . . . midi-chlorians? Come on, George! I think my whole generation cried out at once in shock and despair, “What the hell?! Is that seriously what we’ve waited 22 years for?!” If I hadn’t been previously acquainted with Madeleine L’Engle’s farandolae, I think I would have had a complete meltdown. </tangential rant>]

Now, where was I . . . oh yeah . . . the Force.

Having grown up as Princess Leia – or as literally as I could make it given that we practically shared a name (just for the record, I did come first) – the Dark Side was always the enemy, the interloper, the usurper, the “other.” Good was where it was at; I knew this instinctively way before I ever became a Christian. Luke and Leia and Han and Chewy and Obi-Wan were the heroes; Vader the archetypal villain.

The Star Wars mythos became the cultural icon of my young life. My mom, her younger brother, and I would spend every day of our summers in the cannery discussing and predicting what would take place in the next movie, especially between Episodes 5 and 6. Who was the “another” Jedi Knight? Han, Leia, Boba Fett? The possibilities were completely intriguing.

But, thanks to her knowledge of both George Lucas and the underlying principles of Greek tragedy, Mom (our resident genius) was the one who always got everything right: even so far as guessing that Vader would turn out to be Luke’s father the summer before Empire came out.

In between these Alaskan summers, my guy friends and I lived out the Star Wars universe daily. We would play our given parts for hours, battling for the fate of the galaxy with their action figures – and as “ourselves” every day at recess and lunch. (Although it didn’t help that I had a crush on both Luke, aka David, and Han, aka Jerry, at the same time. Oh the dilemmas of being a beautiful and powerful young princess!)

And, of course, I was Leia every Halloween for years – “head buns” and all. Mom even made me a knock-off of the original Episode 4 dress.

Now, all this to say, I take Star Wars very seriously. [Me: “Hello. My name is Leianna, and I’m a sci-fi/fantasy addict.” You: “Hi, Leianna.”] Not until The Lord of the Rings trilogy came out did my “first love” even begin to suffer a rival.

But in all those years of character acting and contemplation, I never once had any temptation to identify with Darth Vader, even after Episodes 1 through 3 came out. Well, a few years back I had a dream that allowed me to clomp around for a bit in his big, black, bionic boots.

[Insert mood shift . . . HERE]

This dream was a whirlwind of passionate love, excruciating pain, immense anger, and intense hatred. I woke up practically hyperventilating from the surge of emotions running through me. I’ve had several encounters with God’s presence that left me completely overwhelmed, but a dream has rarely shaken me that way.

Once I calmed down enough to look back on the experience, the Star Wars prequel marathon I had watched the week before came to mind. I started to see the parallels between the imaginary journey I’d just taken and Anakin’s descent into “Darth-ness.”

It started with love – real love, good love – but the fear of loss gradually began to overshadow the love itself. Once Anakin’s fears were realized in the death of his mother, his destiny was all but established. His love for Padme had the potential to save him from that fate, but the curse of Anakin’s foresight gave the Emperor his strongest piece of leverage: the promise of enough power to prevent more pain.

In that ominous transaction Vader was born.

The sweet little boy, the semi-noble Jedi Knight, gone. Corrupted by painful circumstances, both emotional and physical, the remnant of the man became encased in the shell of a robot. And for what? Nothing! The promised power was to no avail . . . he was too late; Padme was already dead. The resulting anger and hatred determined the course of his life for years to come.

For an indeterminate period of time, within the context of my dream, I was just like Vader. The events took me down a similar path and I succumbed to the same temptations he did. The anger and hatred I felt upon waking were frightening; there was no reason for it that was based in reality.

Confused by the sudden swell of feelings, I asked God what the deal was. Were these pent-up emotions that I wasn’t acknowledging? Being in the best place of my entire life, and having already been delivered from significant sin and self-sabotage, I couldn’t see how that could be the case. Was God sending me a warning to avoid complacency in my relationship with Him? Perhaps.

Maybe it was spiritual attack? I had just started working as a writer for a ministry that’s all about God’s Word. I knew Satan couldn’t be overly happy about that, but somehow that didn’t feel like the right answer either.

In the end I was brought to a three-fold conclusion. First, the dream allowed me to vicariously experience the intense passion of “negative” emotions to a degree that could be channeled into my personal and professional creative writing. Second, it gave me tremendous insight into the lives of those the ministry served, especially those who were not yet open to the healing God is so eager to provide. And third, it motivated me to have compassion for those around me who seem to thrive on negativity.

God impressed upon me that all people (short of sociopaths) have reasons that lie behind their particular means of acting out. Love is almost always at the core, but pain and fear and loss can obscure it within more delicate hearts.

Often, all a person needs to begin breaking their cycle of behavior is to come across someone who cares enough to keep reaching out. Searching for the triggers, the corrupted love and pain behind the hostility we encounter, can open the door to healing.

That’s why Jesus told us to pray for our enemies and love those who persecute us. God uses obedience in these areas to soften our hearts enough to build bridges that allow Him to bring redemption. Even Darth Vader was finally saved through the love for a son with enough faith to lay down his lightsaber and chance death at the hands of the Dark Side of the Force.

But, just as God designed – and George Lucas metaphorically portrayed – the Light always wins in the end . . .
Artistic Kudos: Schleich

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