The Dark Tower is one of those movies that could prompt any number of deep discussions about spiritual matters. It’s full of rich metaphors and symbols and parallels, ripe for exploration and debate for those of us so inclined. Rather than delve into all the nuances, however, I want to simply focus on the central mantra of the movie—the Gunslinger’s Code.
I do not aim with my hand. He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye. I do not shoot with my hand. He who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind. I do not kill with my gun. He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.
Admittedly, the idea of killing with your heart is very, very dark, (until you realize he’s basically talking about killing demonic forces, not mankind) but that’s not what intrigues me. What I’m captivated by is this idea of forgetting the face of the father. It’s in the creed, but we also hear Roland (the Gunslinger) say it to some prostitutes, that they have forgotten the faces of their fathers. It’s more than just the creed, it’s a way of thinking about the world and where you come from.
The idea is that, at least in Roland’s culture, that most sons were taught lessons by their fathers, and learned from them. They were raised and taught how to act by their father from a very young age, which passed on both behavioral beliefs, spiritual beliefs, and traditions. To “forget the face of your father” is to act outside of those beliefs, outside of what you were taught. It’s seen as equal to abandoning all the lessons and teachings you were raised by. To “remember the face of your father” is to make sure that those teachings are remembered in everything you do, guiding how you act and what you do.
It’s a little like how we might say, “You’ve forgotten where you came from”, or, “You’ve forgotten who you are.” Actually, Roland’s phrase encapsulates both of ours. It’s about identity, but also recognizing that identity has to do not just with who we are, but with where we come from—with whose we are. It’s recognizes that our future should be inextricably linked to our present and our past and when those things are severed, we are easily shamed and lost.
Of course, this is predicated on us having a good father. We may not always want to remember our earthly father’s face, but we do have a Heavenly Father whose face we should always remember in everything we do. His face, his ways, beliefs, traditions…HE is perfect. The more we keep Him foremost in our minds, the more we will act with honor and righteousness. In Gunslinger terms, the more true our aim will be. As in the movie, “to ‘remember the face of [Our Father]’ is to make sure that [His] teachings are remembered in everything you do, guiding how you act and what you do.”
This isn’t a new principle or even a merely good principle. It’s actually a Biblical one. See it echoed here in Isaiah 51:
Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
and who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were cut
and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
2 look to Abraham, your father,
and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was only one man,
and I blessed him and made him many.
3 The Lord will surely comfort Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of singing.
The challenge to this is the same in our world as it is in the world of The Dark Tower. We have an enemy who moves about us unseen, whispering into our minds things which make us forget Whose we are. The Man in Black functions just like Satan and his forces, speaking hate and shame over humanity. Sometimes he speaks into our minds, sometimes he speaks into someone else’s, and they become his mouthpiece. In either case, know this, there is no shame or hate or depression or negativity or futility in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is not how your Father, the God of love and light, speaks to you. His is the voice reminding you to hold on to what is right, to cling to his ways, to let go the shame and lies and hold fast to righteousness and to hope. You can see it again in Isaiah 51:
Hear me, you who know what is right,
you people who have taken my instruction to heart:
Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals
or be terrified by their insults.
8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
my salvation through all generations.
There is no futility in our Father’s face! But how the enemy wants us to think there is. He wants us to think the situation is bleak, hopeless even. He wants us to stop resisting. It’s what happened to Roland. He got discouraged by the losses he saw and began to believe the Man in Black’s lies that “darkness is everywhere. Fighting against it is futile.” As it does so often, it took the faith of a child to restore Roland’s faith. (Is it any wonder Jesus extolls the faith of children?!) Jake helped Roland remember the face of his Father. He helped Roland remember whose he was, and therefore who he was—a gunslinger to fight the enemy and bring them to freedom—because anyone, even those who claim to remember their father’s face, can forget it.
What will people say of you and me? Will they see our Father’s face in all we say and do? Will they know the hope we have? Will our Father’s character and integrity and teachings be evident in our actions? Will they know that we are firmly rooted by a strong sense of our identity, not only knowing who we are, but also knowing whose we are? Will we live as orphans or as much-loved sons and daughters of the Lord most High? May we always remember the Face of our Father and live in the light of it.