We’re running a weekly recap of Loki on Disney+. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.
Before I talk about Loki, I want to share a little of my story with you.
Around this time 20 years ago, I met my youngest brother and my birth mother. My parents had adopted me and two of my younger siblings when I was four years old, while my brother, an infant at the time, was raised by his biological father and mother. So while I was old enough to remember him, I never knew him. And he never knew I existed.
Nearly all of us adoptees have imagined what a reunion with our birth family would be like. How could we not? For most of us, this separation has been the most primal hurt of our lives. And yet, somewhere out in the world, we know our own flesh and blood are out there, detached by the years and by divergent lived experiences.At the very least, even if you learn that much of what you loved was an illusion or enchantment, your pain is the grief of something real.
Dear reader, you can understand, I’m sure, the level of anxiety a reunion with these strangers would trigger. But nonetheless, these strangers are a part of you in a way no else is, while simultaneously existing only as concepts in your mind. Concepts of people who share your looks and your DNA, living their lives while you live yours.
The idea of these people—that relentless curiosity in the sleepless night—that’s a part of you now too. All your life.
All your life, that is, until you finally meet.
I was 18 years old the night we all hugged and cried, the night we occupied a truckstop table until our underpaid waitress told us they were about to close. It didn’t feel fair to be cut off so unceremoniously. I had so much more to say, more questions to ask, more Simpsons episodes to reminisce about with my long lost brother.
These reunions can go a million different ways. For me, it went well. Blessedly more than well, discovering I was bound to my mother and brother by more than shared genetics, but by common interests and values and funny bones.
So as I watched Loki this week, you’ll forgive me for inferring pangs of familiarity upon seeing these two pseudo-identical variants sitting across from the other in a dining booth, sharing their enthusiasm for enchantment and illusion despite a multiverse between them. They are blood. But they’re clearly more than that.
But do you want to know the part that felt even more genuine and relatable to me?
It’s the part that came right after the heart-to-heart at the table, right after the reunion, the part when even in the presence of his closest blood kin, the adopted son of Odin caroused with Asgardian drinking songs after he’d downed a few cold ones. Who else but the true brother of Thor slams his glass to the floor and demands, “Another!”
Likewise, I am today and forever the adopted son of a farmer in central Illinois, raised among dew-drenched corn and soybean fields planted in the most fertile topsoil on the planet. A childhood spent walking beans and shucking sweetcorn—that’s my story too.
I live in Phoenix, Arizona, now, surrounded by the Sonoran Desert, far away from all of that. But there’s no distance and no reunion that could ever take the “Midwest farm kid” out of me, any more than an apocalypse and Sylvie could take the Asgardian out of Loki.
Switching gears a little bit, I want to talk about Loki’s epiphany at the bar. “Love is a dagger,” he explained to Sylvie. “It’s a weapon to be wielded far away or up close. You can see yourself in it. It’s beautiful until it makes you bleed. But ultimately, when you reach for it—”
“It isn’t real,” Sylvie finishes the sentence.
This could be gibberish. But the fact that a slightly drunk Loki had the thought means we’re probably seeing something of the man’s true experience of love and relationships. We’ve talked before about the question that poisoned Wanda’s heart in WandaVision: “Do you think maybe this is what you deserve?” Likewise, in this new series, we’re starting to see the poison eating at Loki’s heart too.
For anyone who’s experienced it, love can absolutely hurt so much it feels like a dagger. But here’s the rub. The fact that love cut you as deeply as it did, that’s your surest sign it wasn’t fake. At the very least, even if you learn that much of what you loved was an illusion or enchantment, your pain is the grief of something real.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill is a new podcast that dropped this week by our friends over at Christianity Today. In this week’s premier episode, Mike Cosper made a keen observation about the contradictory nature of abuse and pain in the context of church: “Those who were ‘Walking Wounded’ after their time at Mars Hill wouldn’t have those wounds if they hadn’t first experienced something profound at the church.”
I never went to Mars Hill, but I have tolerated unhealthy leadership and cult-like behaviors because the place of my abuse was also my place of worship. It doesn’t make sense, nor should it.
Faith in God. Hope for the Kingdom. Love for one another. These are the things the local Church is meant to embody. But sometimes when the Church—and especially its leadership—make a mockery of the Kingdom, it’s tempting to mistrust the Kingdom itself. The illusion makes it harder to recognize the real thing.
So it’s no surprise that a lot of people have twisted identities and complicated relationships with their faith following these experiences.
So we do the work. For me, I’m disentangling the meat from the bone, the chaff from the wheat, to hold fast onto the good, true, and beautiful things. The real things.
It’s like a dagger that way. It’s beautiful until it makes you bleed.