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“Wonder” Movie Lessons: August Pullman Teaches Us Valuable Bible Truths

Here is the message as it was presented at Fountain of Life Christian Center on August 26, 2018 by Pastor Bob Millsaps.  You can enjoy the Wonder movie lessons as you listen.

 I love the movies and I love Wonder movie lessons! In this blog I will talk about the movie Wonder.  Although not a Christian movie necessarily it certainly does teach us many lessons.  It is the powerful story of Auggie Pullman and his journey to attend public school for the first time as he enters the fifth grade. Auggie has facial deformity due to medical issues predating his birth.

As a pastor, it reminded me very quickly of a verse in the Old Testament.  1 Samuel 16:7  “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

We live in a world that is obsessed with outward appearance.  God looks at a person’s inner being.  God looks at what is on the inside more than what is on the outside.  As we are introduced to Auggie, we see a young man who is struggling because of his appearance.  He wears a spaceman helmet.  One of the wonder movie lessons is that so many people in our world wear masks of many kinds.  Young Auggie feels like a space man in a world that is very preoccupied with looks.  The helmet is obviously a way that he feels that he can hide from the world.  It is also a commentary on his inner life.  He feels like he doesn’t fit in here on earth. He feels like he was created to be alone out in outer space somewhere.

He feels like perhaps if he was a spaceman, an astronaut he would be able to be cool and be accepted and to be loved and valued.

Let me share a synopsis of Wonder:

https://www.fandango.com/wonder-199146/plot-summary

Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to find their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

Here Are some other Wonder Movie Lessons:

  1. A BEAUTIFUL OUTWARD APPEARANCE DOESN’T NECESSARILY EQUAL WONDERFUL

Julian was incredibly handsome for a fifth grader, but not so wonderful. Auggie didn’t look great but had the capacity to move peoples hearts.

Have you ever met someone who was beautiful on the outside, but on the inside they were, well how can I put it? Jerks!  Even the bible tells us this can happen. Proverbs 11:22  “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, So is a lovely woman who lacks]discretion.” On the other hand, you can someone who is not exactly beautiful by the worlds standards. But they are wonderful people, especially on the inside.

This movie teaches us that outward appearance doesn’t necessarily equal wonderful.  Why do we give so much emphasis to outward appearances, when God looks at the heart? The truth is that we have all been influenced by outward appearance.

This is so prevalent in our culture, that there is actually a great benefit to those in the world who are born beautiful.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203687504576655331418204842

Daniel Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas in Austin, measures out the benefits in his book,  “Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful.”

According to his research, attractive people are likely to earn an average of 3% to 4% more than a person with below-average looks.  That adds up to $230,000 more over a lifetime for the typical good-looking person, Dr. Hamermesh estimates. Even an average-looking worker is likely to make $140,000 more over a lifetime than an ugly worker.

Other studies have shown that pretty people get more attention from teachers, waiters, leaders, and mentors. Even babies have been studied and they for some reason stare longer at beautiful faces.  And we look longer at beautiful babies.

In today’s culture, social networking is a powerful thing and one of the most powerful things is your picture.  Today the face that some people give to the world looks nothing like them. They are 20 pounds thinner, they have no acne or blemishes.  Those who look for jobs are going to be researched on Linkedin and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  And the truth is that those who are better looking are more than likely going to get the job.

http://blog.press.princeton.edu/2017/05/02/alexander-todorov-on-the-science-of-first-impressions/

Alexander Todorov in an article about his book Face Value says the following: We make up our minds about others after seeing their faces for a fraction of a second—and these snap judgments predict all kinds of important decisions. For example, politicians who simply look more competent are more likely to win elections. Yet the character judgments we make from faces are as inaccurate as they are irresistible; in most situations, we would guess more accurately if we ignored faces.

The reason we give so much emphasis to outward appearances is because what is inward often remains hidden.

If we are going to grasp our Wonder movie lessons, we must realize that real beauty is found on the inside of people.  You don’t get to know the inside of people until you actually take the time to listen to their stories.  You don’t get to know how beautiful a person is until you see where they have walked, what they have overcome, the struggles they have had. The truth is that the essence of who we are is found more on the inside than on the outside.

Wonder movie lessons show us that it’s time to stop judging from outward appearances!

  1. CHRISTIANS MUST CHOOSE KINDNESS

Of all the Wonder movie lessons that Christians should emulate it is the lesson of choosing kindness. One of the unsung heroes in the story is a young girl by the name of summer who chooses to slight all of her mean bulling friends and walk across the lunch room and sit by Auggie and become his friend.

On Auggie’s first day of school, right in class, the meanest kid in the fifth grade, a young man named Julian asks Auggie if he likes a hideously figured Star Wars character.  It was downright mean and ugly of Julian to do that.

Yet the truth is that this movie, is a powerful commentary on our culture. Why? We have a lack of empathy in our culture. People say cutting remarks. People treat others with disdain. Bullying occurs.

In fact, in Texas or the south you can say almost whatever you want about someone if you just say Bless their heart when you are done. “She sure doesn’t know how homely that dress is. Bless her heart.”  We laugh about it a little bit, but it’s true.  I for one want grasp the Wonder movie lessons and choose kindness.

Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”   That is not just an exhortation by the Apostle Paul to be kind to others in the church. Kindness is part of the fruit of the Spirit. We have to choose kindness if  we are going to reflect Christ in our world.

That leads me to another of the powerful Wonder movie lessons:

  1. EVERYONE HAS A STORY TO TELL AND EVERYONE’S STORY IS IMPORTANT

Everyone has a story. The homeless man on the corner with a sign has a story. The rich man in his fancy car has a story.  Even a child has a story. It is as we listen to one another that we can the ability to choose kindness.

Many times, we make a huge error and assume things, thinking that we know someone’s story. I read a powerful illustration one time of a man who was at a bus stop and he was there observing a man with two kids, and the kids just misbehaving and are just acting horrendous.  This man who is supposed to be taking care of them is just like he is on Jupiter, lost in deep thought.   And so finally the observer concludes that this guy is a jerk. So, he begins to get on him and tell him what a lousy parent he is and how he needed to be watching those kids or they will to grow up to be monsters.  And the man turns and begins to apologize to him and he says, I am so sorry, we just came from the hospital. I am a social worker and these two children just lost their parents in a horrible auto accident.  They don’t know that and I am about to take them to their grandparent’s house to inform them of the loss.  I am sorry, I was trying to figure out what I needed to say.  How many of know, until we hear the whole story we don’t really know what is going on.

The main character of the movie is Auggie, he is the obvious star of the movie. He wins the entire school over by the power of his story and his persistence.  It is a painful journey but a powerful one.  This movie is powerful in the revealing of the back stories of many of the main characters.  It is in the revealing of those back stories that we learn so much.

One of the neat things about this movie is that it is not just told from the perspective of Auggie. It is also told from the perspective of Auggie’s sister.  Her name is Via or Olivia.  It turns out that she had a very rough first day at school as well.  Her best friend Miranda seemed to dump her for no apparent reason.  And because she is Auggie’s sister and is in this fragile family system that has had to focus so much attention on Auggie, when she is finally asked how her first day was, she simply responds by not revealing the whole truth.

It is such a powerful moment. This young lady is revealing so much about her.   She has learned to adapt to the universe that she is in.  Another of the Wonder movie lessons is that so many of us have done the same. We have adapted to our world and we have refused to share our story.

How many of us are like her? Here is a great question for you today:  Who do you relate to? Who knows your story? To whom have you shared your life?  Or are you like Via is in the movie at this point?  She is just trying to make it through, trying to hold on and be strong. And yet, her story is important.

As you proceed through the movie, you find out that her friend who ditched her had a story. Even the young man Justin who turns out to be the jerk in the movie, he has a story.  The movie shows us that everyone has a story, and every story needs to be heard.

One of the things that the church needs to work on is being able to listen long enough to really hear someone else’s story. Because everyone needs to be heard. Everyone needs to be valued. Everyone needs to be celebrated. As Auggie said, everyone needs a standing ovation at least once in their life.

One of the reasons why I love and attend Celebrate Recovery, is because every week we come together, hearing each other’s stories. And many times, it is not the story of our victories. It is the story of our brokenness.  It is the story of how God comes through for us.   James 1:19 NKJV “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

Another of the powerful Wonder movie lessons is seen when Auggie and Via are able to slow down enough to listen to each other, and it is an amazing thing that happens when they finally take a moment and share their stories.  It’s Halloween and to say the least Auggie has had a horrible day. But as he shares his story and listens to his sister tell hers, it produces empathy in them both and they come together as best friends.

The sharing of a story produces empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. What God is looking for us for us to learn is that we might learn how to have empathy for others. Empathy is deeper than sympathy.  Empathy is when we feel the other persons pain  as well.

In the Jewish tradition, they have somethings that they do, when someone is going through a difficult time. The call it “Sitting Shiva.” If someone passes, or if someone has suffered a great loss, they will go to that person’s house and sometimes they will stay up to seven days. It is not that the go there with a lot of words. In fact, the idea is not that they talk. They may sit there in silence for a long time. The idea is that they listen!  The person can share the story of their loss and grief. They can share their pain. The idea is that they sit long enough for a transfer to take place.  A little bit of the sorrow and burden that person is feeling is transferred to the one sitting Shiva.  A bit of the love and the care and the concern is transferred from the person in pain to the person who is sitting Shiva.

Another of the Wonder movie lessons we grasp as we compare the movie to our knowledge of Jesus is that

  1. JESUS IS OUR EXAMPLE FOR DEVELOPING EMPATHY

I want to tell you that the most empathetic person on the planet, no in the universe is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 4:15  KJV  “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” What a powerful thought to understand that Jesus feels what we feel.

He saw us while we were still sinners and went to the cross for us and died for us.  Once you understand all that Jesus has done for us, we start to realize how beautiful he is?   There is an old hymn that starts out like this.  It says:

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,

And wonder how he could love me, a sinner, condemned unclean.

How marvelous, how wonderful and my song shall ever be.

How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me.

Jesus love is so wonderful. He empathizes with our situation.  He is touched with the feelings of our infirmity.  He is touched with the feelings of our weaknesses. The closer we get to Jesus, the more we will start to feel empathy for those around us.  Why? His agape love is experienced and we are filled with it, and it causes us to have love and compassion for those around us.

If you meditate on the world around you and the movie Wonder, another of the marvelous Wonder movie lessons will come to mind:

Auggie is not beautiful on the outside and as a result, he feels incredibly alone.  There are a lot of people who are beautiful on the outside. But their inner turmoil comes on the inside. We may look at them and from the outside it looks like they have it all together. It looks like they would never suffer. It looks like they have a charmed life. But inside they have the same need to be seen and heard as anyone else

Yet they walk the road as alone as Auggie. Because down on the inside the feel like they are not beautiful. Many of these people would say,  “If you really knew the real me, you wouldn’t love me. If you really knew all that I had done, and all that I had been.  I would be rejected by you. I would never find love.”

And so what many  people do is that they put on masks.  In the movie Auggie wore a space helmet.  But in real life people put on masks all the time. They mask who they really are. They mask how they really feel.  They pretend everything is okay. Healing begins when they open themselves up and talk to God and to others about their story.

One of the most powerful verses found in the word is in  Philippians 2:5-8 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

If you learn any of the Wonder movie lessons from a spiritual perspective, realize that Jesus walked in our shoes, became a man and demonstrated his love for us.  If you are a believer, we have to have the same attitude and mind as he had.

Maybe you have never shared your story. Find a safe place, a loving church, a Celebrate Recovery and dare to share your story.  You will find in the end that you will be celebrated and loved.

That is my favorite lesson of the Wonder movie lessons because in the final clip of the movie, Auggie realized that he was loved and celebrated.  We want to celebrate your life as well. As we learn to listen,  as we learn to share…the end result will be community.

A special thanks to Pastor Ed Noble of Journey Community Church for his leadership in this area of using movies.  Here is a link to his website.  As part of the body of Christ I want to thank him for his leadership in this area.

About the Author:

Bob Millsaps is a graduate of North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the pastor of Fountain of Life Christian Center in Houston, Texas. He is happily married to his wife Jureen and they have three sons, and one grandaughter. Bob has served the Assemblies of God as a missionary, pastor, youth pastor, and evangelist. Bob currently resides in Katy, Texas

2 Comments

  1. Ed Noble September 7, 2018 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Hey Bob, thanks for the shout out!
    May you continue to experience His nearness and blessing!
    Ed Noble
    Journey Community Church

    • folccadmin September 9, 2018 at 5:53 am - Reply

      I love your ministry sir! Thanks for leading the body of Christ in this area!

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