I watched a movie over the past month-ish called The Commuter.
I had no idea that this thriller was going to systematically unmask one of my greatest fears when I watched it.
Michael has done literally the same thing for ten years. No deviation from the routine. Even when the things around him change—his son graduates high school and sets his sights on college, fellow passengers come and go, financial situations teeter—he stays the same.
He goes to work. He does his job. He comes home.
He takes the train in to work. He takes the train home.
Until one day when he meets Joanna on the train. Joanna claims to be a human behavior specialist and challenges him to a hypothetical experiment.
“If you had the chance to do one little thing, that would impact everyone on this train, knowing you would never see or know the result, but knowing you would get a reward . . . would you do it?”
It isn’t until she gets to the end of the explanation that Michael realizes it’s not hypothetical at all. In the course of a seemingly innocent conversation, he, his whole family, and every passenger on that train have been placed in immense danger.
I don’t want to tell you too much. But in order to protect everyone and get to the bottom of things, Michael does something different. He doesn’t get off at the same stop as before. He doesn’t keep to himself as before. He doesn’t speak to the same few people as before.
While this movie is great entertainment, in real life, it’d be my greatest fear.
I can think of few things I fear less than going about my safe, predictable business and having something terrible happen that changes it all.
I’m a lot like Michael. I do the same job every day. I arrive at the same time and leave at the same time. I make the same drive on the same roads, sometimes even with the same Spotify playlist in the background. Every day.
Sometimes, in all that sameness, a little thought comes to me. It goes like this.
Why is change so scary?
I like to know what’s coming. I like to be prepared. If I can prepare for something, I reason, I’ll be in control of it. My routine assures me that I’m calling the shots.
Until I’m not.
And then even a simple thing—a change in my work schedule, a traffic block on the way home, a last-minute appointment—becomes much larger than it needs to be.
And once that small thing becomes big, all the large things that could happen press in on me.
Joanna’s motives in The Commuter are dubious at best. But if she hadn’t changed Michael’s routine, if she hadn’t shattered his calm, things would have just kept on as they were.
Sometimes things keeping on as they were is more dangerous than the terrible change.
It was true for Michael. Maybe it is for me.
Change hurts. Change is scary. It doesn’t feel good. Sometimes that pain lets up once that change is made. Sometimes it never leaves.
The hard truth is that whether or not it feels good, any change that happens is being allowed by Someone so much bigger than me. Someone with so good a heart, towards me and towards everyone else who has ever lived or will live, that I can never fathom it.
And I don’t like that truth. Because uncertainty hurts. And I’d much rather have Someone Who will just take the trouble away. I don’t want to have to trust anyone else to keep me safe. I want to do it myself.
It’s hard to imagine Someone good seemingly standing by and just watching it all happen.
But He’s not standing by. He’s in the center of the chaos with me.
For the majority of the movie, most of the other passengers have no idea what’s happening. They see only the irrational actions Michael is taking. They call the police, believing him to be a threat, having no idea that he’s saving them from something truly horrible.
I don’t have any idea what’s happening. I only see what seem to be irrational actions. I complain and worry, having no idea that I’m being saved from something truly horrible.
I’m unlikely to meet a stranger on a train whose hypothetical experiment turns into a nightmare. But no matter what I do meet in the middle of my normal, Someone good faces it with me, protecting me all the while.
I don’t know. I don’t understand. But one day, I’ll get to the end of this train ride, and it will all make sense.
3/31/2023 12:53:12 pm
Wow, incredible post!!! I actually watched this movie, and you made me think a lot more deeply about it...I hate change too, but like you said, "He’s in the center of the chaos with me." Praise God for that!
5/19/2023 04:13:57 am
Hey! Sorry I'm so late replying. I'm so glad this helped you think more deeply. Thank you for sharing!
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Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!