If you had told me five years ago that the Sonic the Hedgehog game series would mutate into becoming not just one, but the top TWO highest-grossing domestic video game movie releases of ALL TIME with a third one on the way, I would probably have politely chuckled, thanked you for your time, and made an excuse to go find mall security. That is assuming you told me that in a mall. If we were in different public space, I would have probably just quietly and nonchalantly gathered my family and made a mad dash for our vehicle… because clearly you were dangerously and completely out of touch with reality to suggest such a thing. Sure, that might seem like a bit of an overreaction, but to be fair YOU are the one randomly approaching complete strangers and sharing your unsolicited opinions on which video games should be movies without any context. I just feel like we should have at least been properly introduced first, maybe we go hang out at Waffle House, and over some delicious golden-brown waffles you would finally present your bizarre fan-fiction ideas for a Sonic movie in a socially acceptable manner. (I suppose it doesn’t HAVE to be Waffle House, I’m just kind of hungry while writing this). At any rate, after the initial trailer and overwhelmingly negative fan reaction to the first incarnation of the Sonic movie franchise, I would have remembered our odd conversation and thought to myself “I knew this whole Sonic movie thing was a terrible idea”… until now. Fast forward to the present day, where both Sonic movies have smashed box office records and show no signs of slowing down… I guess I would look like the one out of touch with reality. At least I still have my waffles.
The most interesting part about the unexpected breakout performance of the Sonic movie franchise isn’t just that it has been successful from both a critical and commercial standpoint… it is because the way it started gave NO indication that this would work. As a matter of fact, the fan response to the first iteration of what has now been affectionally named “Ugly Sonic” was SO massively negative that the creators made the incredibly expensive decision to completely throw out their first design of Sonic and all of his animations and start over. Video games already don’t have a great track record of being adapted into a successful cinematic experience… and the games in the Sonic franchise aren’t exactly known for their immersive story and thoughtful dialogue. This was an uphill battle from the very beginning, and when it became clear that fans were incredibly unhappy with the EVERYTHING about this more realistic version of the world’s most famous hedgehog, it would have been easy to simply throw in the towel and quit. A lot of time, effort, and money had already been spent, and continuing to invest into this unproven concept that now appeared to be “damaged goods” was a massive risk. And fortunately for all of us, the designers behind the first “Ugly Sonic” didn’t shut down their dream simply because their first attempt was a massive failure.
Over the past few weeks, we have been taking a closer look at our dreams and the importance of aligning them with the Lord’s will, trusting in His timing, and moving forward when our dreams appear to be over. If you missed those, they form the foundation for where we are going next and are linked below:
But as many of us including myself have found, the hardest part of continuing to chase our dreams can be similar to the same one facing the creative minds behind this Sonic-verse we are now enjoying… what do we do after we have “started ugly”? As followers of Christ, how do we continue to chase our God-given dreams when we have REALLY messed up, either privately or publicly? What path remains for those of us who feel we have disqualified ourselves from pursuing the original plans the Lord had for our lives by failing Him, ourselves, and those who were depending on us? These are challenging questions to unpack… and while we all may have a different type of “Ugly Sonic” in our past, they all share the same things in common. They are embarrassing and painful to look back at, they remind us of choices we made that we would make differently if we had a second chance, and despite our best efforts they aren’t going to simply “go away”. It is time for some answers.
As much as we would like to, we can’t simply “pretend” these portions of our lives never existed, and Christ did not submit Himself to an excruciatingly painful death on the cross so we could live in some version of the “Christian Witness Protection Program” for the rest of our lives. He died so we could live ABUNDANTLY (John 10:10) and allow His redemptive grace to enable us to pursue those God-given dreams, not hide from them (Romans 3:23-26). But unfortunately, hiding seems to be the natural human response to our sinful choices.
Genesis 3:6-8 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
I have always found the idea of the ONLY two humans on the planet trying to somehow hide from the eyes of God humorous… what did they really think was going to happen? Did they hope that the Almighty God was somehow the worst player of hide-and-seek in history? But the sad truth is that running and hiding from the Lord and His continuing will for our lives is both the original response to the first sinful decision in human history as well as a continuing theme throughout Scripture. As much as we may try to, none of us can outrun the wages of sin (Romans 6:23) or farther than the love of God to reach past our sins and restore His repentant children (Ephesians 3:17-19). And just as importantly, the destiny we were created to fulfill was designed with the full and complete knowledge of all of our “Ugly Sonic” decisions before we even made them.
Romans 8:28-30 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Here is the truth about my own painful path in reconciling my sinful past with my desire to serve the Lord with what remains of the only life on Earth I have to give Him… I have failed God horribly. Painfully. Knowingly. I have blatantly and flagrantly followed my own sinful impulses and desires, and no matter how hard I tried I could not outrun the heavy burden those choices placed on my ability to fulfill His will for my life after my “ugly” start. Sure, I knew I was “forgiven”. I felt peace with the redemptive work He completed for me, and like the prodigal son I even allowed Him to embrace me and restore me back into the family (Luke 15:11-32). But the issue is not about my security in His ability to cleanse my sins… it is about wondering what do I do now that I have been cleansed? What destiny remains for those, like me, who made some seriously “Ugly Sonic” decisions in our past? Do these dreams still exist for us? Well, let’s ask the opinion of the “least of the apostles” himself… the Apostle Paul.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Acts 9:10-15 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.
Paul’s “Ugly Sonic” period was as ugly as anyone’s could have been… he literally tried to destroy the Christian church and imprison anyone who stood in his way. His “Ugly Sonic” days persecuting the church as Saul of Tarsus is a notably dark period in Paul’s personal history, but the Lord saw beyond his ugly start to the trilogy of missionary trips he would take to spread the Gospel to the world. He saw the books that Paul would one day write and the lives that would be changed by his messages for thousands of years to come. Paul’s destiny was never in jeopardy of being cancelled by the Lord simply because he started out wrong… that was already built into the equation at a time when Paul’s sandals were standing on the wrong side of the faith. And the same is true of the destiny that the Lord has designed for each of us and the God-given dreams of serving Him that continue to beat in our heart… while we may still remember that “Ugly Sonic” part of us that nearly shipwrecked our lives, we are NOT defined by that anymore. And as we feel our enemy cover us and our dreams with red dots that mark each and every one of our previously unsanctified thoughts and actions, there is a more powerful force than the sins that once dominated us… the Lord’s decision to FORGET those sins so we can carry on with His mission.
Isaiah 43:18-19 Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.
This is the challenge that I have struggled with for years… the one that has kept me from pursuing the dreams that Christ placed on my heart. The reality is that my sinful guilt at my previous “Ugly Sonic” choices was more powerful than my acceptance of the fulness of the Lord’s grace. I was receptive of His forgiveness, but I was still “hiding” myself and the light He asked me to shine because of the residual guilt I still carried from my ugly and shameful past. And I found the answer to my problem in the very first recorded “church sermon” from Jesus Himself in Luke 4, when out of all of the possible Bible selections available to Him, He chose this reading from Isaiah 61… that He came to FULLY FREE us from those prisons we were trapped in, not simply offer us second-class citizenship into His family.
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
That “Ugly Sonic” prison has been busted wide open… not just so that we can be saved, but so that we can run FREE. The power that those chains once held over me has been broken, but I was still choosing to wear them as bracelets that only served to remind me of my shame as a previous slave to sin. It is never too late for ANY of us to run towards the destiny that we were designed for and follow the God-given dreams that have been given to us. Leaving that prison cell is an option we have been given by Christ, but all He did was rip that door off of its’ hinge… it is still OUR choice to stop living inside of it. And Jesus didn’t do all of that work busting open our prison so that we could move into a slightly more comfortable cell… He set us free so we can run with speed and confidence to share His message of freedom to others.
“Ugly Sonic” became the impetus for the most successful video game movie franchise in history, and the Apostle Paul moved from the church’s most infamous persecutor to the world’s most successful preacher. So, if you will excuse me, in the immortal words of Sonic the Hedgehog, I’ve “Gotta go fast”. Not because I am trying to outrun my past or the weight of the sins that are behind me… but because I have been set free from a prison that can no longer contain me or the dreams and destiny that the Lord has given me. And to be honest, I have some time to make up because I spent too long running in the wrong direction. I am not in denial of who I once was… I am simply choosing not to continue wearing these old chains that have already been broken by the power of Christ. And there are still a lot of prison cells out there that need to hear this good news… even if it is from a voice as unworthy as mine. Let’s run fast… and free 🙂
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