The Terminator (1984)
Dir. James Cameron Orion Pictures/Hemdale Productions
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield, and Lance Henriksen
A young waitress finds she is destined to be the mother of the savior of the human race as she is stalked by a sadistic cyborg from the future. Her only hope is another traveler from the future assigned to protect her.
I don’t remember the first time I saw this movie, but I was ten years old when it came out, so I know it was a while after that, probably some edited movie-of-the-week version that I taped off TV. I’ve always been a fan of time travel movies, and if the heroine’s name is Sarah, so much the better! I know most people say Terminator 2: Judgement Day is the “best” Terminator movie, and I agree that it is an extremely well made movie, but I will not be moved from my opinion that the original is the best. I love Sarah’s transformation in the movie, and Kyle Reese is one of my favorite movie heroes, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the unfeeling killing machine is downright disturbing.
Kyle tells Sarah he was born into a world at war, and guess what. So are we. Come with me if you want to live, and let’s travel to a time where the world is in ashes, and humans lead the resistance against the machines that seek to destroy them.
A World at War
The story begins with a note describing a dystopian future where the world is in ashes from a nuclear war, and that mankind has been almost completely eradicated by machines powered by artificial intelligence. Man and machine are constantly at war with each other for dominance of the planet, however, the note states, the final battle will be fought in the past, not the future.
You and I were born into a world that is also at war. Sometimes it is very evident that this is so, as in cases of plague, civil unrest, and physical war. Sometimes, it is not so apparent. But friends, listen and understand, the war is real, it is happening now, and your Adventure is happening right in the middle of it. Never let yourself be deceived, because even in the most peaceful of physical times, the enemy is constantly “prowling around like a great lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) I am not decrying peace, we should have peace in our hearts that passes all understanding because its source is Christ, but we should never forget that because our world is fallen, it will never be truly at peace and we will be at war in some way, shape, or form until Jesus comes.
We Don’t Know Who We Really Are
In 1984 Los Angeles, a strange man appears, naked, during a burst of electrical lighting. He approaches some local punks and requests their clothes. When they refuse, he kills them, takes their clothing, and disappears. Shortly afterwards, a second young man appears in the same strange way. He steals some clothing from a homeless vagrant and, pursued by local police, flees into a store after confronting one of them and asking what the current year is. He steals more clothes and guns from the police and disappears. Both men are shown looking in phone books under the name Sarah Connor.
Sarah Connor, a college student, is introduced arriving at her job as a waitress. The first man goes to a gun store and, killing the owner, takes many guns, assorted weaponry, and ammunition. He then proceeds to a suburban house where he asks the woman who answers the door if she is Sarah Connor. When she says yes, he murders her and leaves. Meanwhile, at work, Sarah is finishing her shift when she is dragged into the break room by a coworker to watch a news report of the murder of “Sarah Connor”. Her co-worker teases, “You’re dead, honey!” Sarah brushes this off and leaves for home.
At home, Sarah and her roommate, Ginger, prepare for their respective evenings. Sarah has a date while Ginger plans to stay home and entertain her boyfriend, Matt. Sarah gets a message that her date has canceled on her and decides to go to a movie to give Matt and Ginger their privacy. As she leaves, she doesn’t notice she is being followed by the second mystery man.
Sarah doesn’t realize she is being followed at first because her life is so “normal” and she herself is so meek and unthreatening that the thought of someone coming after her never crosses her mind. She’s a waitress! What kind of a threat could she be to anyone? You might look at your life as uneventful, or boring, and you might see yourself as an unassuming person that poses no threat to anyone. No! You are so much more. You are a hero in an Adventure! Every single one of us is unique in a way that never has been or ever will be, and because of that uniqueness we are crucial, nay, critical to God’s plan for the world. You may not feel this way, but the enemy sees your true self, your spiritual person, and that person has incredible capacity for power through the Holy Spirit, and therefore is a huge and intimidating threat to the enemy, so he is going to do everything he can to convince you that you are powerless, unimportant, weak, and useless. Even if you’re at a place in your Adventure where you feel like you’re no one and nothing is happening, you have within you the potential to cause big problems for the enemy. He knows this, even if you don’t, and will use everything and anything available to him to stop you.
We Are Being Hunted
Two police detectives have been trying to get a hold of Sarah, as another “Sarah Connor” has also been murdered, in the same order as their names in the phone book. Matt and Ginger are having sex and do not hear the messages left by the police on the phone, so the police decide to make a televised statement in the hope that the final Sarah will contact them. Sarah is in a pizza joint when she sees the news report on the second Sarah Connor being killed and is visibly shaken by this news. Going to a pay phone to call the police, she finds it out of order, and leaves the café to find another phone to use. As she walks down the street, she notices a man following her and ducks into a night club, Tech Noir. She phones the police who tell her to stay put, that they will be there shortly.
Sarah now realizes she is being hunted, and the thought paralyzes her with fear. Every good adventure story has evil that a hero must battle, and our own Adventure is no different. You, as a hero in your Adventure, are being hunted.
If that didn’t make you shiver just a little, then you haven’t fully grasped the reality of it yet. Becoming aware of the reality of a merciless enemy that hunts us every moment can be sobering, but we should not give into the fear that we are helpless against him, because we aren’t. The God we serve is mightier than the enemy that would come against us, and like Sarah’s mystery man, is with us even before we know He’s there.
Come with Me if You Want to Live
Back at the apartment, Matt and Ginger have been enjoying themselves, and when Ginger goes to make them both a snack, the first man enters the apartment and attacks them, murdering them both. The man assumes he has killed the final Sarah Connor until Sarah calls the apartment from Tech Noir, and leaves a message asking Matt and Ginger to come pick her up. The man realizes he has made a mistake and heads to Tech Noir to find Sarah.
Sarah is waiting at Tech Noir and notices the second man who was following her is now among the crowd of people there, but she doesn’t move, convinced that the amount of people in the club and imminent arrival of the police will keep her safe. The first man arrives at the club searching for Sarah, and locating her, aims and prepares to fire on her. The second man shoots the first man in the chest with a shotgun, and he falls down, seemingly dead, but unbelievably gets up again and begins gunning people down trying to get to Sarah. People flee the club, and the second man runs to Sarah, holding out his hand and commanding, “Come with me if you want to live.”
Wow, this is seriously one of my favorite scenes in the movie (even though the sequels have over-used this to the point where it’s now just a lame catch-phrase). Is there anything more intense than the line, “Come with me if you want to live!”? Friends, this is the intensity Jesus has for you. This is how He seeks us, begs us to come with Him. Depending on your situation, your first encounter with Jesus may have been gentler and less intense. But there are also those of you whose life has been in the balance, and you knew it. Maybe you had a different experience, or maybe you haven’t reached that point yet. Whether you have or you haven’t, at some point you are going to come to a time in your life where Jesus is going to be standing there, holding the enemy at bay with one hand, while His other is outstretched to you. “Come with me if you want to live!” How will you answer?
Sarah takes his hand, and they escape out the back of the club. The second man puts Sarah in his car as the first man runs out of the club in pursuit. He jumps on top of the moving car and punches through the windshield in an attempt to grab Sarah. The second man throws him off and they flee in the stolen car. The second man introduces himself as Kyle Reese, a soldier from the future, and that he has been sent there to protect her from the first man, a cyborg known as a Terminator, who has been sent back in time to kill her. When Sarah questions why anyone would want to kill her, Kyle explains that one day she will be mother to a man who will save the human race from the machines, and that the machines want to kill her before she can give birth to him. When Sarah at first refuses to believe this, he emphasizes to her, “That Terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with, it doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”
Sarah at first, in her unbelief, claims “This is a mistake. I didn’t do anything!” To which Kyle responds, “Not yet, but you will.” Brothers and sisters, understand now, the enemy, like Jesus, sees us far better than we do ourselves, and he knows and fears what we will become and what we are capable of when we unite with Christ. Sarah finally understands why she is being hunted by a killer, even if the reason sounds far-fetched to her, because she is destined to be the mother of the savior of mankind. Sound familiar? Her son’s name will even have the same initials – John Connor, J.C.
What are you destined for? Maybe you don’t know, but rest assured, the enemy does, and he will do everything in all his unholy power to try and stop you. Our enemy, too, cannot be bargained with, or reasoned with. He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear (except of Jesus!). And he absolutely will not stop, ever. While we have the ultimate victory over our enemy in Christ, we still need to be aware that during this Adventure called life, the enemy is going to do all he can to hinder us in the call that God has placed upon our lives, including making us feel that our call is false, or that we are unworthy of it, or that it’s safer just to “stay home”. Again, he is real, his hatred of us is real, and his war against us is real. It’s not just a thing that happens on some different supernatural plane, or in stories, or our imaginations. It’s all real and it’s all happening right now.
When We Don’t Want the Adventure
Sarah and Kyle switch cars and attempt to hide from the Terminator, who, after attacking a police officer, takes his car and tracks them. Kyle tells Sarah more about the future that he has come from before the Terminator shows up and they have a showdown, firing at each other before the police arrive. The police arrest Kyle and take Sarah into custody as the Terminator disappears.
At the police station, Sarah is notified of Ginger and Matt’s deaths, and waits for her mother to arrive to pick her up. Kyle is questioned by the police and shares his story of a future shattered by nuclear war and killer robots, begging to be freed so that he can continue to protect Sarah from the Terminator. The police do not believe his story and keep him handcuffed and apart from Sarah.
The Terminator, having tended to his flesh wounds, arrives at the police station for Sarah. After the police deny him entrance, the Terminator drives his car into the lobby and begins a massive killing spree in the station. Kyle manages to escape his handcuffs and rescues Sarah, and both flee the police station in a stolen car.
Alone in the woods, the car out of gas, Kyle and Sarah seek shelter in a storm drain, where he tells her of the warrior she is destined to become, how she is strong, smart, and tough, and how she will protect her son and teach him everything she knows. He states he volunteered to come back through time to “meet the legend”, and she responds that he must be pretty disappointed, because she is none of those things he described. They both fall asleep, and Sarah has a dream about the future from the information Kyle has given her. She dreams of Terminators attacking a human camp, and of Kyle looking at an old picture of her before he joins the fight. During the fight he drops the picture of her, and it burns. When she wakes, they move on.
Sarah has a hard time believing that she is destined to become this warrior legend, even after all she has seen. She even admits to feeling sick at the sight of blood! How many of you are feeling less than a warrior right now? (raises hand!) Good thing for us we have the best trainer/teacher ever! We may be weak, useless hot messes in our own estimation, but we have Jesus on our side, and His power works best in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10) He is our strength and our courage, and our entire life he is continuously teaching and training us to take our places as the warriors we are. You’re already a hero in your Adventure, even if, like Sarah, you have a hard time believing it or even wanting it!
“I didn’t ask for this ‘honor’ and I don’t want it! Any if it!!”
There is no escaping the Adventure we are in, we were born into it and will continue to journey through it until we die (and beyond!) We can try and ignore the Adventure, and pretend that we are not heroes, but we are what we are, and in the end, we can’t escape that. Like Gandalf says, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” One thing that helps when we are feeling overwhelmed and unworthy is to remember that we are not alone, not ever. Jesus stands by our side constantly, in every chapter of life, especially the ones we don’t feel up to. Remember, Jesus is outside of time, and he sees our future as our present. So, like Kyle, he sees us already as we have yet to become. (I know that’s sort of a mind twister but ponder on that!)
A Love Across Time
Kyle and Sarah take refuge in a motel, and Kyle goes shopping for supplies while Sarah calls her mother to let her know she is safe. Sarah doesn’t realize the Terminator has killed her mother and is speaking over the phone to her in her mother’s voice. Having discerned her location, the Terminator once again heads for Sarah.
Kyle returns with his supplies, which are to make pipe bombs. He teaches Sarah how to make them, and they discuss the future again. Kyle confesses he did not only come to meet the legend, but that he loves her, and has been in love with her for a long time, ever since he first saw her picture that was given to him by her son, John Connor. They make love.
Jesus came to the cross for His love for us. He took the deadly consequences of our own sin in our place and died to protect us from an eternity of suffering apart from Him. His love “came across time” for us. He loves us. Like Kyle, He gave up everything, because we were worth it to Him. Even in our weak, frightened, helpless, sinful, messed up selves, He gave up Himself for us, and would do it again, so that we don’t have to stay that way. As Kyle did for Sarah, Jesus sacrificed everything He had so that we could become who we were born to be, who He calls us to be.
Love Transforms Us
Kyle and Sarah are dressing when they hear a dog barking and realize the Terminator has found them again. They flee the hotel with the pipe bombs and steal a truck. The Terminator pursues them on a motorcycle and then a tanker truck. Kyle attacks the Terminator with pipe bombs but is injured. Sarah crashes their truck but manages to help Kyle out of the wreckage before the Terminator catches up with them. Kyle urges Sarah to run and he uses his second to last pipe bomb to blow up the truck the Terminator is driving. Believing they have destroyed the Terminator, they take a moment to embrace, but are horrified to see the metal endoskeleton of the Terminator rising from the flames of the wreckage.
Sarah and Kyle run to a small factory nearby, where Kyle finally collapses from his injuries. Kyle tells Sarah to leave him behind and escape, but Sarah, now in love with Kyle, refuses to leave him and departs from her normal meekness to bark at him, “On your feet, soldier! On your feet!” They enter the factory and Kyle turns on every machine there to hide them from the Terminator’s tracking systems.
Love has begun to transform Sarah. Her love for Kyle will not let her leave him behind to the mercies of the Terminator, even though he demands she do so. Her love has empowered her and the “momma bear” is coming out, and we see a flash of that future warrior as she orders Kyle to his feet. Love empowers us, too. With the security born of Jesus’s love for us, we can begin to trust in ourselves and see what His love can do through us. Love for God and others can drive us on, to protect, to defend those that cannot defend themselves. True warriors are driven by love. What drives you?
The Weight of the Future
The Terminator searches for them and eventually finds them. Kyle tells Sarah to run as he uses his last pipe bomb to blow up the Terminator. Shrapnel hits Sarah’s leg, injuring her. She crawls to Kyle and finds him dead, but has no time to weep over his body, as the Terminator’s abdomen (all that is left of it, but still relentless!) crawls towards her, intent on finishing its task. Sarah crawls into a giant press and when the Terminator follows her, she crushes it, finally destroying it completely. The police arrive and take Sarah away in an ambulance. She weeps as she sees the police bag Kyle’s body, speaking his name one last time as they take her away.
The story ends several months later, with Sarah driving through the Mexican desert in a Jeep with a dog and an exceptionally large gun next to her. She is revealed to be pregnant, and is speaking into a tape recorder, making messages for her unborn son. She stops for gas and muses on whether to tell her son about his father, and everything that would have to go along with that expectation. She finally decides to at least let her son know that “In the few hours we had together, we loved a lifetime’s worth”. As she thinks on Kyle, a sad expression on her face, a small Mexican boy snaps her picture, and we see that it is the same picture that one day will end up in Kyle’s possession. Sarah prepares to leave when the boy warns her of a storm coming. Sarah responds, “I know”, with a knowing look on her face, and departs, driving straight at the oncoming storm.
Sarah and Kyle finally defeated the Terminator, although it cost Kyle his life, and Sarah is now facing an uncertain future. But Sarah is not alone. She now carries within her the future of mankind, and bears a heavy burden of responsibility, not just to raise her son to manhood, but to raise him well, knowing what his own destiny is to one day be. Don’t forget, Sarah still had a choice. She could have given up and let the Terminator kill her, because it would be exhausting to live a life always looking over her shoulder. She could have had an abortion, or put her son up for adoption, or ignored everything that happened…at the cost of the human race.
Also, and this is extremely important to all the moms and dads out there-never say you are “only” a mom or a dad. Never, never let the enemy make you feel like that is a “less than” or unimportant task. You are raising the future. Sarah Connor and Mary the mother of Jesus raised saviors!! You may not know what the future holds for your kids, or what plans God has for them, but you do have this chance now, today, to help mold them into that person. God has given you an incredible opportunity to partner with Him in this way, and it’s a massive privilege!
Another interesting tidbit, the factory where Kyle and Sarah have their final showdown with the Terminator is revealed (in a deleted scene) to in fact be Cyberdyne Systems, which is where the AI machines of Skynet originate from. So, if the Terminators had never sent back one of their own, they would never have existed, and if Kyle had never been sent back, he would never have fathered John Connor, and he would never have existed, either. The only reason Sarah became the warrior she was fated to be was because the Terminators tried to execute her! If they had never sent back their cyborg assassin, Sarah would have continued in her unassuming life and quite possibly would have never done anything of measure. Wow. Adversity sucks, but no one ever became a warrior by having a nice quiet life where they were never threatened, frightened, intimidated, or experienced loss or hurt or grief. Hardship, pain, fear, death, and everything else the enemy throws at us to stomp us down and finish us, in the end, only serves to make us stronger and build us up.
What’s your destiny? I know I asked this above, and maybe you have no idea. Or maybe you do, maybe you have massive vision and know in your heart exactly what God wants you to do with your life. Hopefully none of you will ever have to bear the responsibility for preserving the entire human race but think on this: you can change the world. Yes, you. Maybe you feel like you can’t do anything. That you’re not big, strong, outspoken, or any of those other things that you think you must be in order to change the world, but that depends on how you look at it.
Sometimes changing the world can be a big deal, like curing cancer, or being president, or developing cutting edge technology. But sometimes, changing the world is as simple as sharing the love of Jesus with someone, or making music, or writing a book, or raising a child. A quote from the movie “Schindler’s List” is as follows: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” If you change one life (even yours!), then the world is different than it was. Maybe we will never see in this life the ripple effects of our songs, our books, our lessons, our prayers, our actions, but God does. You have a destiny; you have a purpose for being here that is already legendary in the heavenlies. There is something for you to do here that no one else can do. You matter, your life matters, and what you do with your life matters, matters to the utmost.
God has something for you to do that only you, and no one else, can do, and He has provided you with all you need to pursue that destiny along the adventure of life. Our enemy, incapable of pity or remorse, immune to bargaining or reason, knows this too, and he will not stop, ever, and is even at this minute relentlessly working hard in every way to stop you.
What are you going to do about it?
Questions to Ponder:
-What do you think of the idea that we are living in a world at war? Does it make you see the world around you differently? How so?
-Do you see yourself as a “nobody”? What do you think of the idea that you were born with a destiny and that you are important to God? How about the idea that because of this, the enemy is doing all he can to take you out?
-Have you ever been in a situation when Jesus has been standing in front of you, holding off the enemy with one hand, and extending the other to you, saying “Come with me if you want to live?” How would you answer him?
-What do you think is your destiny? What tactics do you feel the enemy has used against you to keep you from reaching your destiny? How do you fend off his attacks?
-Do you realize how important you are to God? How does that make you feel? How do you think He sees you?
-Do you ever feel like God is disappointed in you? How about people? Why?
-What drives you? Do you feel you are driven more by love, or by fear? If driven by love, what do you love? If driven by fear, what do you fear? Which do you think is more powerful?
-What choices do you have laid before you? Do your decisions come from your heart, or are they made by what you think others want of you?
-If you have children, what do you wish for their future? What do you think of allowing God to partner with you to raise your children?
-Do you believe that hardship and adversity can work in our favor by making us stronger? Have you seen evidence of this in your life?