Kids say the darnedest things.
Blurting out inappropriate potty humor at the dinner table. Sharing Mommy’s not-so-flattering nickname for Daddy during the children’s sermon. Recounting the violent end to their past life.
At least most of us can identify with the first two scenarios.
But in The Devout, parents Darryl and Jan Eckford (Charlie Carrick and Ali Liebert) get nailed right between the eyes with option three when their terminally ill daughter, Abigail (Olivia Martin), begins dropping clues that she may have lived once before.
Faithful Christians Darryl and Jan are near the end of their rope as four-year-old Abi nears the end of her short life. Infatuated with rockets and outer space, Abi still manages to put on a happy face, even on her bad days.
But the ordeal of losing their daughter weighs heavily on the young parents. Darryl and Jan struggle to maintain a loving relationship while staying strong for Abi.
One night, as Abi is about to fall asleep, she tells Darryl that she believes she’s had an accident in the bed. He checks her, but finds nothing amiss. She chalks it up to soiling her “MAG,” which makes no sense to Darryl. After an internet search the following morning, Darryl discovers that MAG is NASA’s acronym for a “Maximum Absorbency Garment”—basically, astronaut diapers. It’s a bit odd, coming from his preschool age daughter, but, unable to explain it, he dismisses it as coincidence.
A few days later, against Jan’s wishes, Darryl sneaks Abi outside to shoot off fireworks. He instructs “Commander Abi” to initiate the launch countdown. She corrects him, saying that her name is Commander Jones.
Over breakfast the following morning, while playing with her ever-present crocheted rocket, Darryl asks Abi to show him how to imitate a moon landing. She admits that she doesn’t know how. The reason, she adds, is because she never made it to the moon due to the Apollo fire. Another internet query reveals that the Apollo 1 mission was scrapped due to a pre-launch fire, claiming the life of an astronaut named—you guessed it—Commander Jones.
Darryl contacts a blackballed professor who’s studied similar cases, who insists that Abi’s past-life memories are genuine. Once Jan finds out Darryl has been sneaking around to entertain a theory so wildly opposed to their mutual faith, she distances both she and Abi from Darryl.
But Darryl won’t give up his quest for truth, even though it may lead to an eventual schism from his wife and the daughter that he will soon never see again.
Or will he?
Darryl’s trying to do the right thing, the best thing, for his daughter. He has to know if she’s been here before and if she may be again. But to even entertain the idea, he must question everything he believes. It’s a sideways spin on the Abraham/Isaac conundrum, but unfortunately for Darryl, God’s voice doesn’t echo with the solution. And again, most Christians likely haven’t had to deal with past life scenarios, but plenty have faced hardships that left them wrestling with the Almighty. It’s not always an easy place to be and it can certainly put us at odds not only with the church, but with the ones we care about the most.
The Devout’s greatest lesson is reminding us that God is big enough to handle such questions. Regardless of how much we think we know about God, the truth is His ways are not ours. We’re privy only to a portion of the final picture. Often, that leaves us doubting the finished product, even sometimes doubting the painter. But sometimes His mysterious ways make for magnificent masterpieces. They just may come at the turn of some unexpected brush strokes.
Maybe we’ll get all the answers once the final work is revealed. Maybe we’ll be left with more questions. But if we trust in the Creator, whether we understand the finished product or not, we’ll be left with a true work of art.
You can bet your lives on it.
A multiple-award-winning film, The Devout was directed by Connor Gaston. It is currently available on iTunes Movies, Comcast Xfinity, Amazon Video and Sony PlayStation.