I remember the movie very clearly. We watched it some church event or other, which I can’t remember. But the movie—the movie I remember.
It began when an angel appeared to a woman and told her the date and time she was going to die. The woman was a worldly woman who did not know Jesus, and the angel’s announcement of her time of death was meant to bring her to her knees and lead her to salvation. It didn’t. Instead of accepting the inevitable and coming to Jesus, the woman determined to do whatever she could to thwart death.
When the woman checked her schedule she realized that she was booked on a flight for a business trip at the very time the angel had told her she was going to die. Worried about the possibility of a crash, she canceled the business trip.
The time the angel told her was slightly after the end of the work day, so when the day finally arrived the woman sat at her desk and waited rather than leaving the building with her coworkers. Only minutes before the much-awaited moment, the woman noticed smoke. Her office building was on fire. Terrified that this was her end, the woman fled the building. Once outside, she turned around and looked up at the smoke curling out of her office windows.
Then the woman took a step back, stepped suddenly over the curb, stumbled in her heels, fell backwards, and was run over by a fire truck pulling up by the curb. The screen went black and the movie ended.
I think I was twelve when I saw this movie. It was traumatizing.
I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the movie. I wish I could. I think I found it as frightening as I did both because of the salvation anxiety I experienced and because of the movie’s cold, hard portrayal of God and his plan of salvation—the woman in the movie rejected Jesus even when faced with her imminent death, so she got what was coming. Beware that you don’t end up like her! Or at least, that was the message I took away from the film.
My salvation anxiety goes way back. I remember getting out of my bed in the middle of the night when I was no more than five or six and going to my parents in tears, unsure of whether I was “truly” saved and whether my sinner’s prayer had actually been valid. Within evangelical Christianity, salvation is all in your head. It’s not about your deeds, it’s about your mental processes. But I found my mental processes more confusing than clear. I overanalyzed and often ended up freaking myself out. Hence the tears and the running to my parents. Each time this happened, my mother told me that the fact that I was worried about my salvation was a sure sign that I was indeed saved. This helped, but it didn’t fix everything—after all, where is that teaching in the Bible?
One thing this movie made me worry about was what would happen if my death came in a moment of doubt. Sometimes these thoughts went through my head, not actual doubt but the words used to express doubt. (If you find this confusing, believe me, I did too.) I worried that if my end came with these thoughts in my mind, or in a moment of inner confusion and turmoil, my fate might be the same as the woman in the movie’s fate.
In the end, I’m not completely sure why I found this movie so much more frightening than the entire Left Behind franchise. Maybe it was because Left Behind was similar to other novels and movies in the action genre while this movie was very different from established genres and very abrupt. It was shocking—but then, it was meant to be shocking. It was frightening—and it was meant to be that too.
Only now do I see that movie for what it was—a scare tactic, and an effective one too.