But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
I Kings 19:4
Elijah the hero…
He had exposed the prophets of Baal as charlatans, and, in good Old Testament fashion, had them put to death in the Kishon Valley near a stream. All four hundred and fifty of them. Drowned in the water or killed by the sword. Yes, the man of God was riding high. How, then, did he topple so suddenly—within hours of victory—into the depths of despair? My short answer: He was human. He had put everything on the line while boldly confronting the enemy, and now that the gunfight was over, he collapsed from exhaustion and fear.
In my own small way, I can relate.
I have spent the last four years—approximately—making Let Me Have My Son. And now it’s finished… completed against the odds. I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s a victory for the Lord. My mind goes back to the days when my son, Daniel, was suffering from acute mental illness and there seemed no remedy. I remember the afternoon I stood alone in a grassy field in Virginia Beach and looked up at the sky. I was feeling sucker-punched but still on my feet somehow. “The devil will rue the day he afflicted my son,” I swore, my fists clenched.
The years passed, and for me, it became increasingly clear that making a feature film would be the best way to honor my son and redeem his suffering. It was an unlikely undertaking from the human perspective. No money, no stars, no studio deal… Filmed in bits and pieces over the years… Frequent (and humbling) requests for donations… Using my own resources when push came to shove… I gave it my all.
From early on, an unlikely group of individuals gathered around me, most of them with no previous feature filmmaking experience. I was a modern-day Don Quixote and they were my Sancho Panza. We tilted over and over again with windmills in the Minnesota snow and chased Monarch butterflies through the mountains of Mexico. And most importantly, there was always a nudge for me when it mattered most… a reassuring squeeze of the hand from the Father of heavenly lights who faithfully spoke to me: “This is the way; walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
And now, the movie is finished. Further, I have reason to believe it will deliver a heavy blow to the enemy of our souls… the enemy of Daniel’s soul. But I must tell you something. When the movie was completed a few weeks ago, I found myself in deep despair. I felt my inadequacy and weakness. I felt a failure. I had tried my best and it wasn’t good enough. All the years of effort and sacrifice. What did it amount to? I felt I had come up short. Woefully short.
“No one is going to like the movie,” I said to myself. “I will be an object of scorn and derision wherever I go.”
Let me be gathered to my fathers…
Then three nights ago, we gave a private screening of Let Me Have My Son at Bethel University. In the Q & A that followed, I found myself connecting with many people in the auditorium. Some had deep wounds and trauma from their own experiences with mental illness. Perhaps the most eloquent of them all was a student who thanked me for making the film, then broke down into tears as he spoke about his mother’s untreated mental illness.
Oh, how God works in mysterious and unerring ways!
To be clear, I don’t expect everyone to like the film or be moved by it. When I watch it, I see numerous places where I missed the mark as a filmmaker. At the same time, if the student at Bethel, and much of the audience three nights ago is an indication, I have created something complete. Something bearing the stamp of God in spite of my insecurities. And I take comfort knowing that it is God who gives life and makes things grow. What is most important does not depend on us at all. As the apostle Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Elijah did recover. He got his moxie back! Fed by the angels, he resumed his journey and walked to Mount Horeb to receive further instruction from God. By God’s grace, I will do the same.
Trying to stay faithful and praying for you who read and reflect on these things.
You are invited to a private screening of Let Me Have My Son on November 4, 2022. The venue is the Emagine Theatre in Lakeville, MN located at 20653 Keokuk Avenue. Seating capacity is 190. Showtime begins at 7 PM on November 4! The movie runs 119 minutes.
You can request your ticket by sending an RSVP by EMAIL ONLY to email@example.com.
Hope to see you there!