Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Old Movies and the Character of God

As you know, I love old movies.  The Lord put a love of good screenplays into me through my mother and her tales of seeing the golden oldies back in the late 1930s every Saturday for ten cents.  Yep, and that was for a double feature!  She delighted me often with the escapades of Johnny Weissmuller swinging through the African jungle as Tarzan the Ape Man; she swooned to romantic yarns of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald calling to each other in song across mountain landscapes; and I hold her 100% responsible for my - at times - uncontrollable LOVE of screen legend Bette Davis!  LOL...

I praise God for His character within my mom and for the closeness we shared and, especially, her willingness to share her life and her emotions with me.  Her insight into the prophetic resonance of screenplays was always brought to my attention. Those tendencies lent great impetus to my own journey of discerning God's designs and seeing His hand in everything.

My favorite shall we say, secular, film of all time is William Wyler's "The Best Years of Our Lives".  Everyone who's known me more than ten minutes is aware of this, but only a handful of people actually know why I prize it so.  Old movie buffs who've seen the film may be yawning right now thinking, the movie's a masterpiece... what's not to love?  But to them my question is - have you looked at its story line prophetically?  If you haven't, please read on and, the next time you view the film, you just might do so in an entirely different light.  It'll give you even more appreciation for the soulful work of art it is.

William Wyler is one of my favorite "old-Hollywood" directors (no way anyone could be a Bette Davis fan without also lauding Wyler), and his sensitive handling of the story of three returning World War II GIs from very different walks of life and their 'readjustment' to society leaves an appreciative lump in my throat every time their journeys play out on my screen.

For me, the prevailing prophetic theme of "The Best Years of Our Lives" is God's unconditional love.  It's portrayed in the lives and families of all three veterans, but particularly in the life of Homer Parish - a sailor who lost his hands in a fire.

As we're introduced to Homer, he is already fully fitted and trained in the use of the crudely effective prosthetics of the era, and he can write, light a match, and carry things with those hook-like devices almost as precisely as anyone with human hands.

But you can't help feeling bad for him.

The tone is set for the introduction of God's unfailing love when Homer tells his two new acquaintances (the two remaining central figures of the film) about "his girl" Wilma, waiting for him to return home.  It's then we find out about Homer's personal insecurities and doubts about Wilma's true love of him withstanding his stark handicap.

The picture's plots twist and turn, race and swoop like a roller coaster for all three men, their families, and their struggles re-acclimating to civilian life after four years of war overseas.  The tensions between Homer and his family escalate a bit, and his insecurities regarding Wilma and her love for him increase.  In fact, in the shadow of Homer's doubts the clarity of Wilma's feelings fuzzes a bit to viewers until one particular scene... 

Those of you who've seen the touching sequence are, no doubt, already dabbing your eyes with tissue in fond recollection.

The prosthetics Homer uses are literally harnessed to him and must be unfastened and put away every night.  Without his metal "hands" he is nearly helpless; therefore, someone must help him into his pajama top and ensure his bedroom door is always slightly open - never closed - to facilitate his exit in an emergency.  Though the film delves no further into Homer's deep needs than that, viewers naturally contemplate other duties Wilma might have to perform for Homer entirely or, at the very least, aptly assist him in (proper bathing comes to mind) while the metal hooks were off.  An empathy forms with Homer's concerns and desire not to tie Wilma to such relentless care-giving as he says, "just because you've got a kind heart."

Those of us who've navigated the highs and lows with the couple to this point are now practically hearing an emotional drum-roll as Homer poignantly conveys his release of the young woman from their mutual love and marital hopes.  What, after all of this, is Wilma going to do?  In the bold-faced reality of Homer's needs and what their lives would entail, rain or shine, day and night, forever... what will her ultimate decision be regarding their betrothal?  Fight? Or flight? Again, Homer comforts her and says, "I know you don't know what to say."

And then it happens - the part I love best.  The simple, honest, unwavering confidence of Wilma's reply nearly unnerves me.  She wraps her arms around his neck and softly coos,

"I know what to say, Homer.  I love you, and I'm never going to leave you - never."

Child-honey, I dare you not to cry through that!!

THAT, my friends, is a splendid showcase of Abba's unconditional love!

Wilma didn't care about all the outward things.  She just didn't care.  She saw through to Homer's heart.  It was the same heart of the boy next door she grew up with and deeply came to love; it was the same heart that fought and bled for his country; it was the same soft heart she knew also loved her unconditionally - even in the face of his fears.  Through it all, she looked at Homer's heart, and that is the chief component of the unconditional love of Almighty God.

God is a heart watcher.


In a word to me during our private time together, Daddy once told me:

"My issues concerning you, beloved, are that you learn to trust Me enough to come in to Me when you're afraid.  I will not chide you as you think I will.  I will not be harsh or mean or thoughtless in consideration of your feelings.  I will always 'consider' your heart toward Me and the condition of it when I have something to tell you.  I will always be frank and honest with you, beloved, but I will never be unkind.  I assure you of My gentle thoughts, which are abundant.  Amen."

When I look at my state of helplessness before God I am most appreciative of these truths. Like Homer without his hands, we can't do for ourselves without God.  We are completely crippled without His power living in us, harnessed to us, and in full operation in our daily lives.  But, like Wilma, God doesn't abandon us in light of our dependency... far from it!  In fact it delights Him when we see that, in everything, we must depend upon Him completely.

TOTAL DEPENDENCE UPON GOD IS A GOOD THING!  And as we mature in Him, that's where we're headed.  Please never get the idea that maturing in God means anything of mankind's design or definition - that's a joke (and an unfunny one).

Here's the truth:

In God, maturity = humility.
In God, maturity = forbearance.
In God, maturity = total dependence upon Him.
In God, maturity = unconditional love.
In God, maturity = serving, not being served.
In God, maturity = OBEDIENCE - that's doing all things His way, not ours - permanently.

You might say - my Lord, she got all this inspiration from the plot of an old movie?
Yeah, well... that's the amazing power of Almighty God!  ;0)

My friends, please let these truths sink into your spirit that you may be eternally blessed.

Smiling in Jesus,
Daddy's Girl

"... fervent in spirit, serving the Lord."
(Romans 12:11b)