Have you ever experienced the vertigo of having your world view turned upside down? Perhaps somebody told you something that completely changed your perspective? I had one of those moments when I was watching “Saving Mr. Banks.” P. L. Travers (the author of Mary Poppins) is having a conversation with Walt Disney. He ribs her about sending a flying nanny with a talking umbrella to save the children. Her response is one of the most poignant lines in the movie. She asks incredulously, “You think Mary Poppins has come to save the children? Oh dear.” I sat there stunned. Mary Poppins is one of my favorite movies of all time. I have seen it dozens of times and I have quite a bit of the dialogue and music memorized…. And for all these years, I have utterly missed the point. So let’s leave the children’s narrative for a moment and consider Mr. Banks.
Mr. Banks’ life may have seemed exemplary and well-ordered, but it was also lifeless and stifling and he had inadvertently become enmeshed in a soul-devouring, self-sustaining prison. As Bert says, “They makes cages of all sizes and shapes, you know. Bank-shaped, some of them, carpets and all.” Mary Poppins explains to the children, “Sometimes a person we love, through no fault of his own, can’t see past the end of his nose.” Hence the need for Mary Poppins to enter the picture and upset Mr. Banks’ well-ordered life. When Mr. Banks gets fired from his position at the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, we might suppose that this is the worst thing that could happen to him. In his own words, Mr. Banks complains, “My world was calm, well-ordered, exemplary. Then came this person, with chaos in her wake. And now my life’s ambitions go with one fell blow. It’s quite a bitter pill to take.” But as it turns out, he has to lose his life in order to find it. (Matthew 10:39)
This imaginative story turns out to be a powerful parable about turning the heart of the father toward the hearts of his children. Jesus was also very fond of changing the narrative frame of people’s world views. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus repeatedly points out, “You have heard it said…” and then contrasts these old common sayings with, “But I say unto you…” His words yank us out of our comfort zone and they turn our world view upside down. I can imagine Jesus saying, “You think that I came to make your life comfortable? Oh dear.” It can feel like chaos when Jesus challenges our well-ordered lives. We aren’t always very good at responding to our apple cart getting upset. But what would happen if we learned to thank God for the bitter pills that come our way and open ourselves up to a life-giving change in perspective? May we learn to rise, phoenix-like from the ashes, set free from our most-cherished cages.