Sir Elton John is one of the most famous people on the planet. He is a bone fide superstar. Until Rehab in the ‘80s he was also an icon of total excess. He’s probably, therefore, not a go-to person when we think of role models during Lent. Nonetheless, the 2019 musical biopic Rocketman, starring Taron Egerton as the younger Elton, inspired me to write a Lent book based on the movie. Perhaps that’s your ‘cue’ to stop reading. After all, anyone who thinks Elton’s life is worthy of a Lent book has surely departed from all sense, right? However, if you’re still reading, I hope it’s because you’re intrigued. For even though few of us are likely to have tasted the wild excesses known by the younger Elton, I think we all know what it is to lose our way and be in need of a way home.
Rocketman shows that Elton’s way home involved giving up drink, drugs and random sex and, most of all, accepting the sad, lost child he hid within himself. For us, as people of faith, we too need to come to accept that we are beloved children – beloved children of God, part of Jesus’s family. It helps us, ironically, grow up and see that we are adored by God our Father. This work of self-acceptance can be more challenging than we are sometimes prepared to admit. This, I think, is where seeing how we are more like Elton than we might wish to admit can really help.
For I’ve found that there are no short-cuts when we really seek to live in the love of Jesus Christ. We have to embrace God’s love in real time. This means knowing that even after we’ve given our life to Jesus, to grow into his likeness is a slow work, not least because life throws lots of curved balls at us. In Rocketman we see how Elton is a fascinating and, at times, challenging mix of giftedness – what a gift as a musician he is! – and real weakness. For all his money and gifts, in the end he has to face up to himself if he to find any sort of redemption. Is it so different for us? I think we all bring gifts and grace to bear in this world, but we also have profound weaknesses, often exacerbated by circumstance. Jesus offers salvation, but we have to walk the path. When we do so as our whole selves we shall not fall. As Elton sings in the famous song, we will be ‘still standing’.
Rachel Mann is the author of, Still Standing: A Lent Course Inspired by Rocketman (DLT) and is suitable for individual and group study, digitally and in person.