Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ezer in Oz

Sometimes, Hollywood gets it right! 

While watching Disney's recent movie, Oz, the Great and Powerful, I was amazed. How is it that they could so beautifully illustrate the unique role of ezer kenegdo found in Genesis 2:18? This word has been translated as “help meet or suitable helper" but is better explained by author, Carolyn Custis James as a strong helper, a warrior, an ally in battle. In her book, When Life and Beliefs Collide, James says, “The woman is the man’s help, his ally in battle...Her mission is to build him up in God, to stand with him in truth and to oppose him whenever he veers onto wrong paths…She is a valiant warrior conscripted by God, not to fight against the man but to fight at his side as his greatest ally in the war to end all wars.”

Meet Oscar Diggs (played by James Franco), a small town carnival magician in 1905. His stage name is Oz, the Great and Powerful. He gets what he wants in life by cheating, lying, sleight of hand, deceit, trickery, manipulation and flattery. He is a fake, a fraud, unappreciative of others and friendless. Of himself he says, “I am many things, but a good man is not one of them. I don’t want to be a good man. I want to be a great one.”

Through a series of unforeseen events, Oscar (Oz) finds himself in the mystical and colorful land of Oz where there exists a prophecy that states that a Great Wizard bearing the name of the land would descend from the heavens and save them all from the oppressive grip of the wicked witch.

At first Oz's magic tricks and flattering words convince most that he is the Great Wizard and he is happy to play the part because of the promise of a kingdom, along with lots of gold, a grand palace and the attention of beautiful witches. Oz thinks he’s struck gold (literally!) until he realizes what is expected of him. Before he can claim the throne, he must risk his life to save others. He realizes that his bag of tricks is not enough and he will be exposed for the fraud that he is.

Enter Oz's ezer, Glinda the Good Witch (played by Michelle Williams). Glinda immediately realizes that this is no Great Wizard. She is not deceived by him but quickly discerns his true character. When Oz finally confesses, “I might not actually be a wizard,” Glinda replies, “Yes, I know. At least not any kind of wizard we were expecting. I can tell you’re weak, selfish, slightly egotistical and a fibber.” Despite the truth, Glinda sees the potential in Oz and believes in him. “It is imperative to behave like the great leader that they think you are. Morale is essential if we have any hope of defeating [the wicked witch]. You have a plan. You are going to lead us into battle and take back the throne.”

When it becomes apparent that their meager army, made up of Quadlings, Tinkers and Munchkins, has little hope against the organized armies of winky soldiers and flying monkeys (Deborah and Barak, anyone?), Oz tries to bail, saying, “I’m just a con man, a carnival magician. I’m just not the man you want me to be.”

Glinda, ever the ezer, replies, “But you’re all I have. So, you’re not the wizard I was expecting. So, you don’t have the power I thought you’d have. But you’re here. There must be a reason. Maybe you’re capable of more than you know. You’re much more than a con man. The only person you’ve got fooled is yourself.” Glinda encourages him to use the talents he does have and not the supernatural powers he doesn't have. So finally Oz understands! “Allusion, misdirects, slight of hand. I know I’m not the wizard that you expected, but I might just be the wizard that you need.”

After the victory (spoiler alert), Oz is a changed man. Now he has friends, partners, people who believe in him, a family - all thanks to his ezer, Glinda. Her ezer qualities are summed up in her final words "I knew you had it all along." 

"Greatness?" Oz asks. 

"No, better than that - goodness."

We can all be ezers like Glinda. We can see past the imperfections of others into the goodness of their souls, which is simply the image of God in all of us. By believing it is there, even if deeply hidden, we call them to set aside their fear, their agenda, their desires, in order to fulfill God's higher purpose. In doing so, we create what Carolyn Custis James calls the Blessed Alliance, the true partnership of men and women, which is God's strategy for building His kingdom. 

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