I became mildly obsessed this past summer with the movie, “Ricki and the Flash.” Mildly might be an understatement… truth be told I saw it four times – actually paid admission four times to see it! Star Wars – Shmar Wars… I was hooked on Ricki! So what was it about this box office bomb that captured my attention?
For those of you who didn’t see it, and I’m guessing that’s most of you, the story is about Ricki Rendazzo, an aging, struggling rocker who had left her husband and three children to pursue her music career. She suddenly finds herself having to return to that family to deal with a crisis – her adult daughter’s divorce and subsequent depression and suicide attempt. What she finds when she gets there are the consequences of all her actions – four very broken and bitter relationships that have festered over time, and the reality that her children’s step mother has filled the role that she vacated years earlier.
I know I’m not painting a very happy picture and the question remains, why would someone go to see this four times! Somehow amidst the terrible reality of this woman’s actions, love wins. In all her frailties and all the pain she has caused, the family comes around to accept and love her where she is at. Now, perhaps you would say, that is just ridiculous writing to turn a script around like that and come out with a happy ending. That may be very true. I won’t speak on the movie’s accuracy or trueness to life. All I can tell you was there was something about Ricki’s character that I identified with and I will try my best to translate it to you.
Ricki Rendazzo is the main character’s stage name. There are two scenes in particular where her name plays a pivotal role. First, as her cab pulls up to the luxurious private housing tract of her ex-husband she is asked to give her name to the security guard. She says confidently, “Ricki Rendazzo.” The security guard peruses her clipboard and after a long glance at her list she asks Ricki for her ID. When she hands it to her the security guard says, “This says your name is Linda. Oh yeah, here you are, Linda Brummell.” Ricki tries in vain to explain, “Yeah but he knows I prefer the name…” The gate quickly opens and the cab drives through. In another scene Ricki is in a heated argument with one of her sons. Her son blurts out, “I was born gay, mom!” To which she replies, “Well, I was born Ricki!” It is Ricki’s name and her identity associated with that name that I resonated with the most.
I don’t wish to make this woman a hero. She had abandoned her family, for a mediocre music career and life in a fleabag hotel. Her actions impacted her children’s lives immensely. They became bitter and angry and distant towards her. She hurt many. But I guess what I saw in this very fractured life fraught with poor choices and hurtful actions was someone who knew her calling. It pains me to even write that sentence because I am not for a moment saying that she was justified in what she did. No! Not at all! What I am suggesting is that perhaps she never was Linda Brummell. She tried to be. She thought marriage and children were what she was supposed to do. But all along she was Ricki… Ricki was who she was created to be and eventually she could no longer play the role she was pretending to play.
Now before this turns into an endorsement for the worldly mantra that has become so prevalent today… “We all must just be true to ourselves!” let me clarify. That is NOT what I’m advocating. Frankly, our world has used that mantra as a license to pursue self-indulgence, revelry, addiction and anything and everything that makes us feel good. That is not the life that God has for us. He has given us clear boundaries and a set of guidelines to follow that are for OUR good… not His. It is only when we follow Him that we will truly have the freedom we are seeking through indulgence.
The message that I took from this movie is that we have each been given a calling. It has been planted in our very core. It is who we are and we have been given the gifts, skills and talents to carry out that core calling. As a result often we are asked to be different, to not fit in with the mainstream, but to stand out and stand up for who we have been created by God to be. This is not about us! This is not about pursuing our OWN lusts and wants and desires which is what the world wants you to believe. This is about pursuing what He has put us on this planet to do and we cannot be afraid to be different when we are being obedient to God.
Ricki, in my mind, was ultimately obedient in pursuing her gift and calling. In the final scene of the movie this financially strapped, aging rock star gives her son and daughter in law the only gift she has to give – her music. She is given dirty looks, seated in the back of the room, and looked down upon by everyone in the room. But she stands up with her long braided hair, heavy metal make up and tattoos and walks on stage. With a room full of people showing her outright distain she performs. She gives everything she has to give and the people who matter most embrace it.
There is no denying that this character had created a wake of tragic consequences by pretending to be someone she wasn’t for so long. But, ultimately her family met her where she was at with a lot of grace, forgiveness and love. We have a gracious God who will do the same for us, but we need to turn to Him and pursue what He has for us wholeheartedly. And the sooner the better… the less damage we cause in our wake of disobedience.
Lastly, names are important to the Lord. We see several times in the Bible where He changes the names of His people based on the changes He made in their lives. He changed Abram to Abraham (from”exalted father” to “father of a multitude”); Sarai to Sarah (from “quarrelsome” to “princess”); Jacob to Israel (from “supplanter” to “triumphant with God”)… and the list goes on. Our names say something about who we are.
I was given a very specific name when I was born by my dad. It was “Christin.” Even though it was not the conventional way of spelling that name, he insisted that Christ be in my name. For many years, in fact most of my life, I have not used that name with the exception of legal documents (mortgage papers, bank accounts, etc.). Well, recently I’ve been convicted about that. I chose Chris as a nickname when I was 11 years old because “Christin” reminded me too much of my early school years and I really disliked those years. But the truth is, my name is Christin. It has a meaning… “follower of Christ.” Quite literally it is “Christ IN me.” It is also my calling. It is who I am and the core of my being and I want to reflect that identity to the rest of the world.
So, I guess you can say I am practicing what I’m preaching. My business cards, voicemail message, and signature line on my emails have changed. My Facebook account has also changed and my bosses and colleagues at work have caught on. I’ll still answer to Chris but, “I was born, Christin!”
Lord, help us to know and be true to the life and purpose you have called us to. Meet us with your grace, forgiveness and love wherever we may be and help us to turn and accept our calling wholeheartedly for you. Keep us from pursuing our own wants and desires and help us to trust in your great goodness as our reward. We love you. In Jesus’ name, amen.