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R&V At the Movies: Jane

Jane Goodall and infant chimpanzee Flint reach out to touch each other's hands. Flint was the first infant born at Gombe after Jane arrived. With him she had a great opportunity to study chimp development— and to have physical contact, which is no longer deemed appropriate with chimps in the wild. Image: Jane (2017) © National Geographic Creative/Hugo Van Lawick.

There are some passions in our lives that grab the heart at an early age and never let go. For me, that was writing. I have always loved to write. When I am in the middle of a writing project, I feel like I’m the fullest, best version of myself. I can wrap up hours of writing feeling refreshed and energized. It isn’t because I am an exceptional writer—it doesn’t necessarily have to do with how great we are at the thing—it’s because when I am in this space, I feel like all of the gears I’ve been given are running in sync. I am working in love. As long as I keep showing up faithfully to the task of writing, I believe the Holy Spirit will meet me and take me wherever it wants to lead, places I never anticipated and joys I could have never hoped for.

Jane Goodall’s passion took her to work in the jungles of Africa. Jane is the documentary of that journey into her life’s work.

Jane: What to Expect

Jane is a Discovery Channel documentary film available on Disney+. Released in 2017, the film uses clips from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage of Jane Goodall observing and documenting her research of the chimpanzee. Virtually nothing was known about chimpanzees in the wild at the time. The narrative of Jane Goodall’s life is accompanied by a beautiful orchestral arrangement and stunning footage of the young Jane’s early travels into the jungle. 

Goodall was 26 when she entered Gombe as a young scientist with no degree and no formal training, except for her love of the wild and her desire to be in it. Jane’s groundbreaking observations and research of the chimpanzees of Gombe did more than uncover all that we did not yet know about chimpanzees; it changed the way we understand our place in the world and our relationship with the animal kingdom.

The film Jane showcases her journey into Gombe, her life in the jungle, her unique approach to studying the chimpanzees, and her evolving love for the wonders of this world.

Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing

Even before God formed Eve from Adam’s rib in our creation account, he gave man work to do. Work is baked into creation itself, a good and important component of our existence, even before any fall occurred. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15 NIV). From the very beginning we are called to work and to take care of the world that God created.

But after the fall, work became drudgery and toil, and that toil has followed us all the way to today. A case of the Mondays, hump day, thank God it’s Friday… We come up with all kinds of sayings to degrade the time we spend at work and look for ways to pass the time in order to escape work’s doldrums and monotony.

Jane Goodall found her life’s work and leaned into it with all her might. “A sense of calm came over me. More and more often I found myself thinking, this is where I belong. This is what I came into this world to do,” remarks Goodall.

We don’t all get to do our dream jobs, but whatever we work at, the Spirit of God is with us. Sometimes we don’t see it or let it in to influence our workday. But when we do, our work is no longer a countdown to the time when we don’t have to work anymore. It becomes full and satisfying, a blessing instead of a curse. We are working with God’s love in our hearts, God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for others, all fueling and inspiring even the most commonplace jobs into divine appointments.

Jane (2017) © National Geographic Creative. Image courtesy of IMDB. 

The Teacher in Ecclesiastes challenges those of us in workplace drudgery to remember we only have this one life to work: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV).

And if you thought it was enough to just pass the time in your day job because it’s the kids at home who matter most, the Teacher has words for you as well, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well” (Ecclesiastes 11:6 NIV).

The New Testament sums it up neatly: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

The work that Jane Goodall found herself doing furthered our understanding of how connected we are to the other species that share this planet with us. It has helped people everywhere discover the beautiful complexity that is in every creature, great and small. In all of creation, we glimpse the handiwork of our creator. When we study the natural world, we are reading the “large book” of our universe in which God has revealed aspects of his character. The harder we look in one small corner, the larger, more complex, more mysterious, and more beautiful that corner shows itself to be.

And isn’t that the way of God, to be so much larger, more complex, more mysterious, and more beautiful than we ever imagine God to be?

May we all stare into the wilderness of the work that has been given us and look for the holy, the way Jane Goodall models through her life’s work. May we enter into the divine act of work with renewed love for the creator and for the created world God gave us.

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