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At the Movies: Migration

Migration (2023) © Illumination. Image Courtesy of IMDb

I wonder if there’s a classification system for travelers, like there is for introverts and extroverts. I consider myself a highly functioning introvert—I love to entertain, but once y’all get here, I’m only really going to hunker down in the corner with a couple people and hope the rest of you have fun with each other. 

I think maybe I’m an ambivert.

If there’s a spectrum between “prefers to never leave the county” and “wants to travel every weekend,” I’m probably a midihodophile, a person who loves to travel but only in moderation. (Although “hodophile” is a real, actual word that means lover of traveling, “midihodophile” is a new one I hope will enter our daily lexicon. It’s super fun to say.) 

If I had my druthers, I would go somewhere else once every other month, maybe, seeing new sights and eating new treats, and then spend the rest of my time within a one-mile radius of my house.

Come to think of it, this is actually not too far off from what I do these days, except maybe we visit somewhere else once a quarter or so. And once a year, we take a family migration to the coast for a week to that one special place, a place our souls long for all year and then sigh contentedly upon arrival. We’re counting down the days now, just under 60 to go until we’re at the ocean. Ah, the ocean! It’s time for our annual migration!

Are you a homebody or more of the adventurous type? Or do you fall somewhere between, like me? 


Mack, the father of the Mallard family in the Illumination film, Migration, is definitely a homebody. This is his pond, the pond on which he’s built and raised his family, a beautiful pond with ample views of mountain scenery and clean water and a safe, fluffy nest, free from all threats, fears, and unknowns.

But when a migrating flock of ducks lands on their pond as a quick stopover on the way south to Jamaica for the winter, Mack has to decide whether he’s going to succumb to the adventurous spirit of his co-pilot, Pam, and their two ducklings, or whether he’s going to be a stick-in-the-mud, keeping his family in the safe pond they’ve always known.

Since the movie is called Migration, you can guess which path he settles on. Off they go, from their little New England pond into the bright sky of possibility! 

On their way, the small flock overcomes all kinds of adversities, from facing strange birds to tackling the threat of predators. It’s a sweet and delightful little adventure that made me and my teenage son laugh out loud. I even wept a little. But that’s not that unusual.

Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing

Early on in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stood up and told whoever was listening, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Meekness isn’t exactly a virtue we’re inclined to celebrate as a culture, and yet here is Jesus, calling those who are meek, or humble, blessed.

I would call Mack Mallard a humble bird.

Humble birds might be reluctant to make a change, but they’re open to it. Humble birds might feel like their way is the right way, but they’re willing to say, “I could be wrong.” (I’d like some more of that posture in my life, wouldn’t you?) 

Humble birds may feel like the safest thing they can do is stay right where they are, but if someone else—God, their partner, their children, their neighbor, a stranger—encourages or challenges them to step outside of their comfort zone, for the sake of the relationship, they go.

Mack Mallard does this, over and over again, because he loves his family, and because his teen son and daughter, whom he loves, challenge him to love others, too.

I love that about my own children. It would be a lot easier to go on with my life, maintaining a safe boundary and mild prejudices about whom I will and will not love, but instead, my children force me to see things differently. Jesus invites us into this same way of seeing differently, a meek posture that does not presume anything about our value over another one of God’s children.

But what if it doesn’t work out? What if they turn out to be exactly who we thought they’d be? What if we wasted all that goodness and kindness on an undeserving stranger? What if, after being generous in spirit, time, and treasure, there just isn’t enough?

Birds get some additional attention and praise when Jesus calls them out later in the same sermon, this time as examples of why we shouldn’t worry so much (Matthew 6:25-34). “​​Look at the birds of the air;” Jesus says, pointing to Mack Mallard and the surrounding flocks of migrating ducks, “they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

We are called to trust that God will provide what is needed, no matter the circumstance. This humble posture acknowledges that God has already provided everything we need here. The only way it is possible for us to “inherit the earth” is to acknowledge our humble position here as it is, in possession of nothing that has already been given to us. Only then does everything that exists become ours.

We discover the treasure in the field—all that really matters, faith, hope, love—when we open up our fists and sell everything else we hold dear.

By the end of the movie, it’s safe to say that Mack has “inherited the earth.” May we follow in that duck’s wing flaps.

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