So, this weekend I watched a new movie twice in less than 24 hours. I had heard about the Martin Sheen / Emilio Estevez film, The Way for a while and finally took the time to watch it (available on Netflix instant as well as on disc) and it was a movie that I could watch many more times. Not only was it a very well made movie with a wonderful story, but it really hit me strongly about the stirrings I have been having about discipleship in my life and in the lives of others.
One of the questions I often hear about “discipleship” is “What does the word mean?” Its a pin-jello-to-the-wall type of word/concept because so many things are a part of how we are disciples. However, ultimately the word is about following Jesus in our lives (which can be done in many different ways).
Where this movie intersected with this were several themes that emerged throughout the film (spoilers to follow) that, to me, are key in what it means to be a disciple.
1. Journey (sorry Joe for using this word) – the film shows the journey of Martin Sheen’s character following the Camino de Santiago (aka the Way of St. James) following the death of his only son when he first started the journey. The pilgrim way is approximately 800km across the northern part of Spain, ending at Santiago de Compastela in NW Spain. You can read more about the pilgrimage itself at the preceding link. However, its not a short or easy path, just like the path of discipleship. Its not a quick, one-day trip, but something that requires a long-standing and consistent effort over an extended period of time.
2. Not always clear – As I watched the film, it was clear that The Way was not always very clearly marked and there were some different ways to get to the same location. However, there were key points along the way that all went through. The path of following Jesus is one of going in the same direction, but sometimes slightly different paths to the same destination.
3. Individual and communal – Sheen’s character begins the journey intending it to be just he and the ashes of his son. However, it becomes clear that The Way requires others as well. It was not just simply that he could do it on his own or that it would have as much meaning. The four who ended up journeying together (or 5 technically) ended up having an impact on each other that was far greater than if they were just on their own. There are definitely points along the way that solitude and the individual path was necessary, but the communal continued to come to the fore.
4. Blessings along the way – it was not just a painful, difficult path, but one filled with unexpected blessings throughout. Maybe they were incredible vistas or they were gifts of hospitality or surprises. The path of Christ can be one that is challenging, but blessings come throughout.
5. Holy Moments – somewhat related to the one before, but going deeper. There were moments of true holiness that came to pass – some times of simple acts and others that were far more obvious. The path of following Christ is one that is a holy journey and not just an “everyday” thing.
I was profoundly moved by this film and would love to someday make this journey. Maybe a sabbatical experience a few years down the road.
I highly recommend the film not only for its main content, but also for a deeper experience of this path of Christ in our lives. Not sure that was the intent of the filmmakers, but its what I experienced through this profound film.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” – Jn 8:12