Following Luke Skywalker

NOV / DEC 2016: BY CARISSA HORTON

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A long time ago in a state far, far away a little 8-year-old girl named Carissa watched Star Wars for the first time. In a fit of 8-year-old wisdom she decided that Luke Skywalker was the best, most heroic, most amazing man who ever lived and that she wanted to marry him someday. But only if Macgyver was unavailable. This little girl went to school and then on to college where she learned the art of analysis and criticism and decided that although Luke Skywalker was still fab, perhaps he wasn’t quite the hero she’d always dreamed him to be.

And that’s where I come in. Looking back on my far younger self, I’m amazed at the depth of my Luke Skywalker infatuation, all the way to an outburst of tears last Christmas when my sister gave me an autographed picture of Mark Hamill.  You read that right—it was last Christmas. How do you even write about something so intimate? How do you put the reality of that person, warts and all, onto the page, attempting to capture the very essence of their identity? There’s something in the belief that when you’re too close to something then you can’t do your love for it justice. But here I am, trying anyway.

Instead of starting with Luke’s beginning, let’s start with where he is right now. Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi Knights and hero of the galaxy, is alone on an island on an uninhabited planet, living like a man desperate to forget. Errors and mistakes have a way of coming back to bite us and Luke, in true Skywalker fashion, chose to lock himself away as punishment instead of facing his mistakes head on. Let’s be honest, Leia shouldn’t have needed to put other people’s lives at risk to try and track down her brother. Fans could say something profound like Luke was waiting for the right time and for the stars to align and it was Jedi wisdom and all that other malarkey. But none of that’s true.

Look in Luke’s eyes when Rey confronts him in The Force Awakens and you can see that he’s been hiding all these years. Oh, I’m sure he knew that someone would find him—someday, very far in the future. But the last Jedi Knight, the one who doesn’t have a purpose like Obi-Wan Kenobi did by keeping watch over Luke as a reckless youngster, should not spend the twilight years of his life hiding on an island when the galaxy needs him. I don’t even want to know what he’s been eating all these years. The one thing in Luke’s favor right now is that the fans still love him. Never mind that he just stands there, a world of conflicting emotion shining from his eyes, as Rey holds out his lightsaber to him. Does he take it? Will he take it? Is Rey’s faith in him as misplaced as Vader’s faith in the Emperor?

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Don’t get me wrong, Luke is not going to the Dark Side. Although that would be an ironic twist on a much-beloved character. No, instead, Luke’s being who he’s always been, and who for the longest time, I was too young to recognize. Luke is human. That petty, childish boy who whines “But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!” in A New Hope is the same man who picked for himself a much more scenic hiding place in The Force Awakens than Obi-Wan did. I would like to think that he changed in the interim period, but in reality—not so much.

You know the best thing about human beings, though—we can relate to them! Come on, if Luke always made the right decisions, always acted in wisdom, never faltered, never hesitated, never suffered, would we even care about him? Human beings in all their glorious mistakes are relatable because they’re proof that I’m not the only one who screws up. If anything, Luke Skywalker reminds me of another man prone to reckless and foolhardy behavior—Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples and the rock of the Christian church. Peter wouldn’t have won any loyalty awards: looking down in the water when Jesus said to fix his eyes on Him, arguing with the other disciples about who was Jesus’ favorite, lopping off the ear of a guard at the Garden of Gethsemane, and especially, denying his Lord three times when Jesus already warned him that he would do it.

Peter, thank you for being human. Through you people can look at themselves and realize that being perfect was never a part of the equation for acceptance into Jesus’ fold. All it took was a willing and contrite heart. Luke Skywalker makes mistakes. He admits it. When he’s heading to Endor with Leia and Han in Return of the Jedi, he says “I’m endangering the mission. I shouldn’t have come.” That turned out alright in the end, but it was a big error. He faced Vader in The Empire Strikes Back before he was ready, when “incomplete was [his] training” as Yoda said. Luke has never been and will never be perfect, which is part of the reason why the fan base doesn’t know what Luke will do next. There is the shining hope that Luke Skywalker will live up to our expectations, that he’ll teach Rey how to be a Jedi, that he’ll come home to his family, that he’ll face down his nephew and talk (or beat) some sense into him.

It’s the not knowing what Luke will do that has me gnawing my fingernails while awaiting his story’s continuation. Like all diehard Luke Skywalker fans, I live in breathless anticipation that Luke will affirm my hopes and dreams for him as a hero. The best thing right now is that Luke’s story isn’t finished yet. It doesn’t have to end here. Just like Simon Peter’s story didn’t end with his denial of Jesus. If Simon Peter can go on to affect the lives of millions by sharing the Gospel, then there’s hope that an equally flawed man like Luke Skywalker can overcome his failings and kick evil’s butt.

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2 Replies to “Following Luke Skywalker”

  1. That’s very true–the reason that Luke Skywalker can still be a vital part of today’s Star Wars movies, as well as the original trilogy, is precisely because he’s not perfect. His character arc isn’t complete; he still has a lot of growing to do, and we get to watch him do it. Which is exciting!

    Liked by 1 person

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