Season 9, Episode 4, The Obliged

By Thom McKee

As you look around the place where you live are there reminders of who you are?  Or maybe just as important, are there reminders of who you used to be?

If you were to walk through my house, there would be all kinds of reminders of who I am right now.

Thom McKee – Pastor.

Thom McKee – father.

Thom McKee – husband.

But if you look carefully you might see some reminders of things that I used to be, but are not at all anymore.

Thom McKee – Student.

Thom McKee – Athlete (okay, that one would be from a very long time ago!)

Or in some cases you may see some reminders of things that I am still trying to change but are still there, in one form or another. These of course are the things that we struggle with daily, yet we still try to change. And if we are all honest we all have these types of things in our lives.

You see, I believe that there are always areas in our life that we are working on. They are different things than we were working on ten years ago (hopefully). And they are different things that we will be working on ten years from now (seriously, hopefully). In a certain sense, a healthy person should always be living in a state of transition.

In our former church in Sacramento, there was a saying that I took seriously, “reformed and ever reforming.” I thought that this was a good word picture of the constant striving that we should have to continue becoming a better person. And I believe that this process will never stop. We will never suddenly arrive at a place in this life where we say, “okay, now I am perfect, no more transition.” I see it as just admitting that we can always improve.

This season on The Walking Dead, all of our characters are in serious transition. The world has become a little bit more peaceful, but they all have new problems. They have the problem of figuring out how to govern. Who knew that Gregory’s greed would lead to their first election (and their first instance of institutional capital punishment).

They are also all figuring out what tribe they seem to be in. Is Carol really part of the kingdom, or does she just like Ezekiel a lot? What does it mean to be a part of Oceanside when all of their men have been killed? Or does Hilltop have an obligation to take care of other tribes, especially the Saviors who were so oppressive to them?

But probably the biggest problem of this transitional period, is what to do with the past behavior of groups and individuals. Do saviors who killed your loved ones deserve to live? Or more importantly, why is Negan still alive when Gregory had to pay the ultimate price for a better society?

But the character who really seemed to be caught between two worlds tonight was Michonne. By day she is a mom, a peacemaker, a negotiator and a home maker. But at night she grabs her sword off of the wall and sneaks out to kill walkers. And during the day, she sees that sword on the wall, as a reminder of who she used to be. Or perhaps more worrying, who she still is.

But then during one of her nightly walker killing sprees she accidentally drops her sword and has to kill a walker with the nearest weapon… a baseball bat!  She drops it when she is safe and she stares at it. Is she like Negan?This obviously scares her.

Of course during her daytime chores she seems to be studying constitutional law and she is supposedly working on coming up with their first legal charter – something that is clearly, desperately needed during these transitional times.

But this week, one of her jobs is to figure out why Negan isn’t eating food in his cell. Is he on a hunger strike? Michonne, seems like the perfect person to handle this, until she gets stuck in a mind bending conversation with Negan.

Negan: We are the same, and you can’t stand that we’re the same.

Michonne: No. We’re not. Yeah, we do what we need to to get sh*t done. But you get a kick out of it. Me? I’m trying every day to make things better, thinking of ways to bring people together, not pitting them against each other. I sacrifice, and I compromise. And, yeah, I do get strength from the dead, but I live for the living, and I make no apologies for that. My sons are gone, but this world is going to be better for my daughter and for every other child that comes into it.

Negan:Oh. You’re not scared that you’re like me. You’re scared that you’re gonna end up like me – With everything and everyone that you love gone.

Michonne:You’re desperately trying to connect with me.

Negan:Because there is nothing worse than nothing.

Michonne:Long as you’re still breathing, it’s not nothing. Time’s up. Eat, Negan. One way or another, you’re gonna have to.

Negan:Wait.

Michonne:What?

Negan:Before you go, there is something I want to ask you. There are things in this world that… That we desperately hold on to when there’s nothing left.

Michonne:This whole time, you thought I was your last, best chance. Oh, G*d.

Negan:I wanna see her. I need to see her.

Michonne:No.

Negan:Please.

Michonne:Negan, we don’t have your bat.

Negan:Where, Where is she? What did you do with her?

Michonne:Still out there.

Negan:No. No.

MIchonne:Eat, Negan.Food’s good.

Negan:I am gonna see my Lucille. D*mn (hits his head against the wall) D*mn it!

When Michonne figures out that Negan is simply needing Lucille, it should tell her everything she needs to know. Negan is still Negan, and he is not in transition. Negan is fueled by conflict, murder and the manipulation of people through violence. He clearly has no intention of letting that go.

But what does that mean to Michonne? Hopefully it is a reminder for her to put her sword back on the wall and start thinking about her future. It is time for her to finish her charter. It also looks like she is going to be dealing with a lot more transition now (especially since the show is overtly announcing between every break that next week is Rick Grimes last episode on the show).

As a Christian, I relate to Michonne’s position. I have plenty of reminders on my wall of who I used to be. But that is just what I said it was, “who I used to be.” One of the great things about being “saved by Jesus” is the fact that we can look forward instead of always having to retread our own past.

One of my favorite passages in the scriptures about this comes from Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Ephesis. Look at what he says in chapter four.

22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:22-24 (NLT)

What Paul is reminding us here, is that we can “throw off” our old nature. It doesn’t have to control us or rule us anymore. That is what Christ did for us on the cross.

Righteousness and holiness are the new nature that we can put on with the help of the Holy Spirit. He says the the Spirit can “renew your thoughts and attitudes.” Think about that for a minute. Our attitudes and thoughts can actually be changed? I believe that it can, and it will.  I also believe that this can happen for the rest of our lives. This is what my old church meant by “reformed and ever reforming”.

I think that what Paul is saying is that we can leave that old sword on the wall, and because of what Jesus did for us, it can stay there forever.

SEASON 9, EPISODE 4 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  1. What “swords” are on your wall?
  2. Are these things that you have already changed or are they things that you are working on?
  3. If you are still working on these things, what advice do you think Apostle Paul would have for you?
  4. How can the Holy Spirit help you develop new thoughts?
  5. How can the Holy Spirit help you renew your attitudes?
  6. When you are reminded of your past, what do you think is the best way to respond?
  7. Where do you hope your thoughts and attitudes to be in five years? In ten years? At the end of your life?

Thom McKee Jr. is a husband, father, pastor… and film geek (and brother of Jonathan McKee). Thom lives in Northern California with his wife and two kids.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen's Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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