The Theology of the Hunger Games
I am Katniss in her weakest moments. I know nothing of archery and warfare, but I know the evil workings of my inner heart, of my battles with selfishness and pride. I was crushed by infertility, by the months of waiting to adopt, by the weight of my desire for a child—but God allowed me to be broken so that I could be healed. Again and again, he taught me to trust him; after each new heartbreak, I surrendered. And even after our beautiful daughter arrived, I had a hard time adjusting to being a mother. I've come through the battle now, but I am not the same. In Genesis 32, we read that Jacob wrestled with God, and walked away with a limp.
There are only a handful of books besides the Bible that have really made me love Jesus more, but I've added the Hunger Games to that list. When I read about Peeta, I feel Christ—not because Peeta is divine or has any special power to save the world, but because he exemplifies sacrificial love.
Peeta is always there for Katniss, even when she rejects him. He protects her in the arena, plays the capital's games in order to save her, takes blame and torture in her place. Peeta is the rock that Katniss falls on, the only person who truly understands what she has gone through, because he went through it too. And he is the only one who can give her hope. As I read Hunger Games, I wanted to crawl into Jesus' arms the way Katniss crawls into Peeta's on those nights on the train, tormented by nightmares. Peeta is the only place she can feel safe.
In the third book of the Hunger Games, when Katniss is recovering from the trauma of the arena, the doctors suggest that she start with the simplest things she knows to be true. "My name is Katniss Everdeen," she repeats to herself. "I am 17 years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped."
Sometimes I find myself needing to do the same thing. Though I've come through my darkest hour, there are still challenges to face, still flashbacks from the past, and there are days I get so tangled in my emotions that I'm almost paralyzed. It's then that I must go back to what is true: "My name is Laura. I was lost in sin. Jesus saved me. I can trust him."
I must remind myself, as the Bible does, that God has a purpose for me, that he will use me in his war, even when I feel like a total mess on the inside. That this life is just a short period of time, and there will be an end to this battle, and like Katniss and Peeta in all their brokenness, we're going to win.
Laura Snider graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Memphis. She lives in Memphis with her husband and two children.
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