“It’s like Tiffany’s”

A recent sermon series at Oasis Church Waterloo entitled ‘God at the Movies’ looked at the theology we learn from Hollywood. Being a huge Audrey Hepburn fan, I chose to explore the theology of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s‘. Here are some thoughts…

You can hear the recording of the talk here. Or you can read the transcript below.

Put briefly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a story about an up-and-coming writer who moves to the city to try and make it. He just so happens to move into the same apartment block as Miss Holly Golightly. Holly is an enigmatic socialite in a very much stylised New York. And of course, he falls for her – it’s Audrey, who wouldn’t?! – and the story is a will they, won’t they love story with all the twists and turns you’d expect.

There’s something about Holly that I love.

Holly is a mystery. She’s deliberately ambiguous. She has no explicit job that’s mentioned. She lives off of the many wealthy men in her life who each buy her lavish gifts. Her lifestyle seems pretty fancy free. She’s young, she’s naïve. But throughout the film, underneath this extroverted, social butterfly exterior lays a very vulnerable, deep thinking, frightened girl. She’s terrified of life, of being ‘Caged’, of taking responsibility or letting people in close.

Audrey-Hepburn

Within the first 8mins of the film, Holly Golightly unpacks her life’s philosophy and says“I don’t want to own anything until I can find a place where me and things go together. I don’t know where that is, but I know what it’s like. It’s like Tiffany’s”

Tiffany’s is a place of security
A place of satisfaction
A place of wellbeing
A place that makes everything miraculously better

I’ve heard something similar elsewhere. CS Lewis once said “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

This other world is a place of security
A place of satisfaction
A place of wellbeing
A place that makes everything miraculously better

The Author of Revelation wrote “‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people… “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.’”

This dwelling-place of God is a place of security
A place of satisfaction
A place of wellbeing
A place that makes everything miraculously better

Tiffany’s, this ‘other world’ and the Dwelling Place of God all sound very similar.
Is it fair to say that inside all of us is a desire for some sort of destination different to that of the world in which we live?

Holly is trapped in a world governed by the mean reds – when you’re suddenly afraid but you don’t know what you’re afraid of. (Although in the film we get glimpses of what she’s actually afraid of if she took the time to reflect – scared of being ‘put in a cage’, scared of letting people get too close, scared of responsibility and commitment, scared of being out of control of her own life…the list goes on)

Holly’s only perceived option is to escape. Tiffany’s is the escape she needs – it’s the fantasy land that soothes her, that feeds her imagination, that brings back the feelings she craves. But it’s never going to amount to anything. It’s just a fantasy based on feelings.

Feelings aren’t the most stable of footings on which to construct… anything. They can be altered in an instant by any number of factors and stimuli. Happiness can be turned to sadness at the sound of a piece of music. You can be creeped out by a simple trick of the light. Images can make you feel like laughing or crying. The mention of a certain someone’s name can make your heart skip a beat – It might skip that beat out of affection or anger. Feelings are fickle and fragile and for some reason we put so much emphasis on them.

Are they really the best foundation for your escapism? Probably not.

It’s a vicious cycle that inevitably and somewhat ironically results in you putting your entire life in a state of uncertainty, which is the reason for the fear in the first place. Holly is in this never ending cycle of fear and escapism and all the while her life is on hold… She has a cat whom she won’t name until she finds a real life place like Tiffany’s (Which she won’t because it’s a self made fantasy based on her own inconsistent feelings). She’s lived in an apartment for over a year and hasn’t unpacked – and probably won’t until she finds a real life place like Tiffany’s, she doesn’t want to buy furniture because she’s waiting for a place where her and things go together, a real life Tiffany’s which she won’t find because it’s her own made up fantasy world. Her life is indefinitely on hold, in limbo, suspended… and my heart breaks for Holly.

What about CS Lewis’s other world? It sounded a lot like Tiffany’s.

We see the same logic all the time in churches: a similar theology of escapism.

“When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation, and take us home, what joy shall fill my heart”

Escapism – Lord, take me from this dump, to another world where my desires are satisfied.

“’til he returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand”

Escapism – Lord, until you remove me from this dump I’ll stand firm, but ultimately, come and remove me from this dump.

I’m frustrated with this world. I’m disappointed by this world. This world makes me cry and I want to me joyful. This world is messy and I want to be sorted. This world isn’t fair and I want to be treated right. I have desires that this world cannot satisfy, therefore I must be connected in some way to another world…

A place where everything is just right. It’s quietness and it’s proud look. Nothing very bad can happen to you there. A place of security, A place of identity, A place where dreams come true, A place that banishes the ‘mean reds’, A place where there is no more pain, A place where there is no more tears, A place where there is no more sickness and disease and where death is no longer a factor, Where angels sit on fluffy white clouds playing harps; The sun always shines, The birds are always singing, The water is crystal clear and is either soothingly hot or refreshingly cold depending on your mood. A place where your every wish is catered for; Your every dream fulfilled. A place where happiness abounds and at any given moment the entire population will burst into a fully spontaneous but seemingly well-rehearsed music and dance routine… Heaven/Tiffany’s

Holy Escapism.

But about the ‘Dwelling Place of God’?
When we read that first time, it sounded a lot like Tiffany’s too. Well, what did Jesus have to say about it…

Good news for the poor. Freedom for Prisoners.
Recovery of sight for the blind. Freedom for the Oppressed.

The year of the Lords favour (Sounds like a biblical definition of Tiffany’s)
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”

“Today” / It starts now. The kingdom of heaven is near. The ‘real life Tiffany’s’ is near

So here’s a random question:

What’s the difference between Holly and Jesus? (and I mean more than the Givenchy dress and pearls)

Holly’s life was on hold until she found somewhere like Tiffany’s
Jesus’ life was dedicated to building somewhere like Tiffany’s

We’re called to follow Jesus not Holly. We’re called to help build the Kingdom of Heaven, not sit around waiting for God to do it. We worship a God who wants to be in partnership with us, not the genie of the lamp who will grant all our wishes while we wait. We bring the real life Tiffany’s that Holly was craving in reality by partnering with Jesus to build the Kingdom of Heaven – A place of security, a place of safety, a place of wellbeing, a place of satisfaction. And so we have the same choice as both Jesus and Holly.

We can either put our lives on hold until we find somewhere like Tiffany’s – which is unlikely. Or we can dedicate our lives to the cause of building the Real Life Tiffany’s, the Kingdom of Heaven, Partnering with Jesus. Being part of the team that brings heaven to earth, that teaches that escapism isn’t the answer, redemption is.

A little later on in her career, Audrey Hepburn said this:

“People even more than things have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”

We need to work alongside the Holly Golightly’s of this world and help them realise that Real-Life-Tiffany’s isn’t just something you put your life on hold for, it’s something to put your whole life into. Buy furniture, Unpack the boxes, give the Cat a name and say goodbye to the mean reds forever because the Kingdom of Heaven is near… and you know what it’s like?

It’s like Tiffany’s.

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