This is a guest post by Laura Tringali.
The list of things that Elton John and I do not have in common is extensive. However, I found myself emotionally up and down with him (mostly down) throughout Rocketman because of how deeply the audience is immersed in his journey to discover what might fill the hole in his heart that yearns for love and acceptance. The irony underlying this theme is that his mother voices her concern that he will never be “loved properly” while she, Elton’s father, and their marriage are by no means living examples of “proper love.”
What is proper love?
When I was a teenager, I was taught that there is a God-shaped hole in my heart. Many of us have wrestled with and continue to wrestle with a sense of restlessness and seeking for some sort of fulfillment, while it is often difficult to articulate for what exactly we are longing. Hence, the “God-shaped hole” teaching tool. As a young adult now, I suspect that we probably wrestle with this for most of our lives and in new ways as we grow through different stages of life.
God’s love (proper love) is defined beautifully by St. Paul:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Cor 13:4-8a NABRE)
When I reflect on this Scripture, I often like to read it slowly in two ways. First, I replace the word love (and “it” when it refers to love) with “God” to remind myself that is description is not abstract. This is who God is (cf. 1 John 4:8 “God is love”) and how we are loved by God. It is good for me to remind myself in the quite moments of my time in prayer to just be loved by God. Second, I replace “love” with my name. This is never an accurate description of me, but it is how we are called to love and how I desire to love. When we can love others in these ways with God’s help, we allow God to love others through us.
Rocketman is not a religious story about finding God’s love, but Elton does realize he is looking for love in the wrong places. He slowly disassembles his costume down to an undershirt and robe in the AA meeting narrative illustrating the breakdown of his internal walls and the desire to accept himself for who he is without the pizzazz. It makes me wonder what costumes I put on when I am grasping for love. Perhaps, whenever I am feeling that hole in my heart that makes me feel restless, I might turn to God with the question: “When are you going to hug me?” and remind myself once again be open to just being loved by God.
From the snippets of his life shown at the credits from the end of the movie to present, it seems like his turning point of self-love brought him the courage to build healthier and more loving relationships thereafter. No matter how long the list of things you have in common with Elton John, Rocketman is our story because continual discovering and living proper love is our story.
Laura Tringali, born and raised in Hershey, PA received her BS in Psychology with minors in Nonprofit Studies and Classics at The Ohio State University. She then went on to earn a Master of Theological Studies at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry concentrating in New Testament Scripture. Laura now works as a Youth Minister and Director of Confirmation at a parish just outside of Boston.
Great article! I love that you brought out the spirituality of this movie, “His” Story is Our Story and it’s always a Love Story. Thank you!