Someone in the Crowd
“Someone in the crowd can take you where you want to go,” the opening song sings to us. It’s really the story of La La Land in a nutshell. It’s the story of two “who dream, foolish as they may seem” (as another song towards the end says) and how they, two dreamers, strangers in the crowd, help take each other where they want to go. It’s easy to see in the world of Los Angeles starlets how important it is to meet the right people. It’s easy to see how much of your hope is being at the right time and place that you might meet the right people who can open the right doors. Truly though, the message is more universal than that.
Life can feel very much “by chance” at times. We don’t always realize the importance of the strangers in the crowd among us, but isn’t that often how God provides for us? You happen to bump into an old friend who invites you to a party and your future mate happens to be there. You meet someone on a plane who tells you about Jesus. You are working a menial job to make ends meet and while there, you meet your future employer who offers you your dream job. Life is full of these “chance” happenings. I love the story of Ruth in the Bible—it is such a story. Ruth “happens on a field” as she goes out looking for food for her mother-in-law and herself. She’s poor. She’s just trying to survive. A widow and a foreigner in a strange land…. And she “happens” on the field of the man who was a relative of her dead husband, who provided for her every need and even became her future husband. There’s so much more to the story, so much more significance to her marriage with Boaz, but the point here is that, God used a stranger in the crowd to take her where she needed to go. It is so very often how He works.
- What stories do you have of ways in which God used a chance encounter, a stranger, to help get you to where you needed to go in life?
- Would it change the way you lived if you had a sense of expectancy that any person you meet could be an instrument of God to help get you where you need to go?
When people say they hate jazz it’s because they have no context.
Sebastian was passionate about jazz. Mia didn’t really like it.
Sebastian: What do you mean, you hate jazz?
Mia: Just that when I listen to it, I don’t like it.
Sebastian’s answer to that was, “When people say they hate jazz it’s because they have no context.” And he proceeded to give Mia a context. He introduced her to jazz. He showed her why he loved it, and what made it great. Through his eyes, Mia did learn to love jazz. Not only that, but she encouraged him to pursue his dream of owning a jazz bar. When he doubted his dream and doubted if people would ever learn to love jazz the way he did, she replied, “People will want to go to the club because you’re passionate about it and people love what people are passionate about.”
It’s true. People’s passions are contagious. We naturally learn to love what other people are passionate about, because they help us see what is to love. I loved this quote from Donald Miller in his book, Blue Like Jazz:
“I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.
After that I liked jazz music.
Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.
I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.”
― Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
It’s the story of how he learned to love God because he saw God through the eyes of people who loved God. This is a really powerful concept we ought to take to heart. First off, when people are around us, what are they learning to love because of us? What passions of ours are catching on with our friends? Secondly, what are we learning to love because of the people we are spending time with (or things we are watching, reading, etc.)? This works both ways. It can work for good, as it did for Donald Miller learning to love God, but it can also work for bad. Sometimes we are learning to love bad things because the people around us are passionate about those things. This is a power we want to wield for good and not for harm. Note the Psalmists resolve in Psalm 101 to surround himself with people who would help him love righteousness and love God, as well as his commitment to cleanse himself from anything that might give him a taste for lesser things.
- When people are around us, what are they learning to love because of us? What passions of ours are catching on with our friends? Are people learning to love God because of your great love and passion for Him?
- What are we learning to love because of the people we are spending time with (or things we are watching, reading, etc.)? Is your heart for God and for His righteousness strengthened or weakened because of the people (and their passions) in your life?
Sometimes our dreams hurt a little too much.
Both Mia and Sebastian at one point or another wanted to give up on their dreams. Sebastian got sidetracked by success. He found a paying gig making music. It wasn’t quite what he’d dreamed of, but it was close and it was easy… and people liked it. He was tired of pouring his heart into music that people didn’t appreciate. For once, he was successful and people were responding to the music. So what if it wasn’t the music he wanted to play?! Mia got tired of being rejected at auditions. Acting try outs require vulnerability and she had put herself out there and time and again…and she was tired of the intense pain—not only of rejection, but also of the fear of wondering if her dream could ever come to pass.
Dreams hurt. Having a dream is like being pregnant. It’s uncomfortable and awkward to carry this baby inside of you – YOU are awkward because of it. Not everyone loves your baby. Some people assume you’re just fat. Others just don’t care. You, however, love this thing that burns and grows and shifts inside of you. It calls to you. It’s intimate for you. You can see your future together, you and this baby dream. It is going to make you so happy to finally see it come into existence and then, once it’s here, you know that everyone else will love it, too. But then, there are miscarriages and those are a pain you cannot hardly survive. And you watch while other people’s dreams come so easily, but you, you have false labor and miscarriages and then a really long, hard, ugly labor that goes on forever, it seems, in excruciating pain, while everyone else just seems to go on about their lives pain free, enjoying their little dream babies while you just struggle to get yours OUT. And sometimes, someone else comes along and offers you a chance to be a surrogate mom to their dream baby, and it’s nice. Things are easy and it’s kind of like having your own dream baby, but deep down you know it’s not the same so you go back to struggle of birthing your own. (That was Sebastian.) Or, (like Mia), you don’t think you can handle another miscarriage, another death, another moment of vulnerability and pain and rejection and hurt, so when another opportunity comes up, you walk away. You quit. You decide you’d be happier just accepting life as it is without kids than to have another miscarriage. Hopefully, someone comes along and encourages you to take another risk. You never know, it may be the one that actually comes to fruition.
Dreams, like labor, hurt, but they, also like labor, are worth it. This is why the movie ends with a song which gives tribute to dreamers, those who risk it all to see their dreams come to life. “Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem.” They may seem foolish, but doesn’t the Bible say that God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise? (1 Corinthians 1:27) The Bible is full of dreamers, but perhaps my favorite is Joseph who had a dream that he would become a ruler over the land. Then he was nearly killed, sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown into prison… the list goes on and on of all the trials and suffering he had to endure. His dream surely seemed impossible, but he continued to dream and be faithful to God, and God continued to be faithful to Joseph. He did become a leader of the land. He was catapulted from prison to the palace through strangers he met in prison (refer back to our first discussion about strangers in the crowd!). So, here’s the good news—dreams can hurt, terribly, but not only are they worth it, we have a God who helps make things happen in their right time! There is always hope.
If your dream feels like it’s taking too long, let me just remind you that small babies have short gestation periods. Big babies have long gestation periods. Maybe your dream isn’t delayed so much as it’s still growing and not ready to be birthed yet. Let me also refer you to 1 Peter 5:6-11 where we are told to humble ourselves under the hand of God until, at the right time, God Himself will “restore, confirm, strengthen and establish” us. Trust Him with your dreams and their timing, and be aware that a stranger may bring the solution you’ve been looking for!
- Have you had dreams which felt like labor to you? Easy labor, or hard labor? How have your dreams miscarried at times?
- Have you ever been sidetracked by a “good” offer from your dreams like Sebastian?
- Have you ever wanted to quit your dreams because they hurt too much, like Mia did?
- Does it help knowing that God is able to bring your dreams into existence, just as he did with Joseph?