Our “Upside Down” World

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*Spoiler Alert to those who have not watched Stranger Things – this post will literally have every single spoiler from the whole entire show*

I am a huge fan of the Netflix original show, Stranger Things. My sister and I watched every single episode together (admittedly, we basically watched the whole second season in one sitting). Maybe it’s the cinematography or the quirky cast that caught my eye, but it’s the plot that really draws me in. I see it parallel my life and the lives of so many others in so many ways, and I think it could very well explain why the show and its characters have captured the hearts of multiple generations of viewers.

One character’s struggles really resonated with me throughout the entirety of the second season. That character was Will Byers. In Season One, Will got this glimpse into a world that few others know about as he was trapped in the notorious “Upside Down.” His friends and family searched for him as he wandered in the fear-filled, traumatizing darkness of this evil world occurring parallel to their own.

There’s a subversive plot of a Shadow Monster that is subliminally wreaking havoc on the small town of Hawkins that everyone was unaware of – that was until Will becomes completely aware of it. Will, falling into this darkness now knows the present evil happening in this “Upside Down” version of Hawkins. His friends start to put the pieces together and know they have to do something to rescue Will from the Upside Down. The Shadow Monster, however, doesn’t like that his plot been figured out and tries everything to fight back against the ragtag team of Hawkins Middle School nerds and their friend, Eleven. Now, Eleven is similar to the nerdy group in that she’s a young teenager who loves Eggo Waffles, but she’s vastly different in the fact that she’s in tune with the Upside Down and has telepathic powers – pretty crazy, right? Remember in Season One of the show when Eleven sacrifices herself to save her friends and kill the monster? Pretty wild. Then she comes back and goes searching for her friends. The monster however, knowing now that Eleven and the HAM-radio gang are onto it, releases a full attack on their friend, Will, once again and infects him with his evil virus. This is the point where I was struck by this show and everything clicked.

Do we see why we’re so drawn to this show yet? Do we see the deep longing in us that is waiting for our eyes to be opened? We live in a real version of Hawkins every single day, but much like the citizens of Hawkins, we often are completely unaware of the subversive, Upside Down plot unfolding parallel to us. Granted, this isn’t a perfect parallel to the real world, nor is it a perfect representation of how evil actually is. But it isn’t deniable that there is an “evil” presence in this world that we overlook almost daily. We see it on a grander scale in things like war, genocide, oppression, slavery, trafficking, and natural disasters, to name a few. For the majority of us in America, however, these evils are not as present as the every-day evils we tend to rationalize and accredit to culture, normalcy, or Westernization. White lies, greed, lust, addiction, immaturity, fear, anger, bitterness, et cetera: they are present, they are evil, but we are often unaware of their destructive plan for us. Similar to the “Upside Down” monster’s plan, the present evil in our world slowly infects us and controls us. Like Will in season two when he asks to be kept cold, we find ourselves taking advantage of others to help grow the evil within us and give it a comfortable place to stay. It is actively trying to harm us and we are passively allowing it to do just that. This is the nature of something called sin. Sin is actively choosing to disobey God in our action and our will, the highest form of evil. It can be anything that causes us to put ourselves above God – however large or small.

Unlike Will’s condition of which he had no control, sinfulness and evil was our choice when we chose to be prideful and sought to do life on our own. Now, when we finally become aware of this sinfulness that has infected us, we often take the same approach as the doctors in Hawkins did. We try to burn it out. The evil does not like it when we actively try to kill it. In fact, it fights back. It hurts when we go about starting to uproot this evilness within us because it does not want to leave. When it finds out we’ve figured out its plan, it evokes every pain, every emotion, and every last stop to get you to give up and let evil win. Sadly, we also find that we cannot do anything to stop it either. Even if we put it in the most intense heat, give up the seemingly “evil” things in our lives, we cannot change our condition in the slightest. Our heart remains enslaved to the virus of sin in us. We end up like Will, writhing in pain in the cabin as the heaters are turned up, screaming for help and in desperate agony, but with no results.

Notice, though, that the story doesn’t stop there. Why is it that the ending of this story is so enticing? It’s because Will doesn’t do it himself, nor does any one person do it on their own. No, we see that it wasn’t even the gang of nerds that did it or Hopper or Steve or Nancy or Jonathan. While they did play a role in the end of the show, they were not the ones to shut the door on evil altogether. Had the show ended with them simply dealing a blow to the Upside Down, would the Upside Down not have regained its strength and simply attacked them more ferociously than before?

That is why Eleven is so necessary to making this story one that has captured our attention. Eleven, a mysterious, human-but-not character from mysterious origins, returns to Hawkins and is reunited with her friends. She sacrificed herself for her friends in the first season, and entered into the depths of the Upside Down. She knows how to defeat the evil and protect her friends in season two. She has powers outside the world’s comprehension to find lost people and enter into battles with evil that we alone cannot overcome.

Do we see the parallels? Do we see why we find Eleven so endearing? She is an archetype of Jesus Christ. Jesus, who is altogether human and altogether God from mysterious origins entered into the world two thousand years ago. He endured in the same hardships with the people of that time and felt every bit of pain and suffering along the way. He calls himself a friend of the ragtag team of uneducated, underwhelming, young fishermen that come alongside him and get glimpses into a world that they do not completely understand. Then Christ, like Eleven, disappears into the depths of evil for a little while. He dies and takes the weight of evil away from His friends. Just like Eleven enters the Upside Down so that her friends can be freed from the Upside Down; Christ humbles Himself to death and spiritual separation from God so His friends do not have to. He rises again, knowing that He has defeated evil and knowing He can protect His friends from evil’s attacks. He promises to come back to His friends and shut the gates to the evilness of the world one last time with His supreme power. His friends will be with Him and they will live in peace again. Again, it’s not a perfect parallel as the Shadow Monster looms outside Hawkins Middle School once the gate is closed (can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in Season 3), but the parallels are pretty uncanny. This is why I got pretty emotional when the season was ending. It is absolutely profound.

This to be said, Christ hasn’t come back yet. Evil has lost, and God’s goodness has won because of Christ’s death and resurrection, but we still exist in a world where Christ hasn’t come back yet. That means we are caught in the tension of evil that knows it has lost and awaiting peace and oneness with God, other people, and all of creation. The evil does not like those of us that know and believe it has lost. As a result, when we accept Christ, we notice that life gets more hopeful, but we also may enter into seasons of hardship – our own personal wildernesses. The evil falls into conviction and starts dying, but the Shadow Monster, Satan, it does not like it. Satan fights back. He throws tantrums as he is being uprooted. He thrashes at our deepest hurts and pains and tries to get us to turn our backs on Christ, our friends, and the victory we know is coming for us. Satan knows he is going down, but he doesn’t want you to believe it. Like the Shadow Monster, Satan might attack with his demadogs, or maybe hold you down with his creepy vines in a dark, underground tunnel; he might attack you physically through health, loss, relationships, friendships, family, etc.; emotionally through depression, anxiety, fear, anger, etc.; or spiritually through doubt, apathy, laziness, idolatry, etc. The fact of the matter is though, he has lost. Like Eleven shutting the door on the Shadow Monster at the end of Season Two, Jesus stared straight into the eyes of Satan and shut the doors on him and his evil plot once and for all. Satan’s plan will not come to fruition and God’s plan will not fail. Jesus is coming back so that we may live in peace with our friends forever, never to have His presence taken away from us again.

So if you feel attacked or infected; if you feel like your world is like Hawkins; it very may be because your world is more similar to Hawkins than you first thought. Just know that there is a Savior, an absolutely real, absolutely good Savior, that has overcome the Upside Down. A Savior that is completely human and may very well enjoy Eggo Waffles, arcade games, and Middle School dances; yet is completely God and powerful to overcome all evil and death too. For those of you that feel attacked by this evil, have hope. He is coming back to put an end to all Satan’s thrashing, tantrums, and lies and to give peace to a world that so desperately desires it.

Revelation 21:1-7

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children…”

 

God Bless,

Sam

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