My wife and I FINALLY had the chance to watch the Coen Brothers‘ re-make of True Grit last night (I know, I know, we should have seen it a long time ago, and I agree, but come on, we’ve got four boys and we’re planting a church, and, yada yada yada). Yes, we should have watched it a while ago, but it just didn’t happen. I keep waiting for a Coen Brothers’ movie that I’m disappointed with, but this wasn’t it.
As I watched, several “Gospel” themes popped repeatedly into my head (of course, I am an Acts 29 pastor and I’m well-acquainted with the world of “theology and film”, right?!) but there was something that kept haunting me that I couldn’t quite place until the scene where Rooster Cogburn is finally revealed to be dead: I want to raise my boys roughly in the same way.
Now, before you jump all over me and say that Jeff Bridges’ character was drunk all the time and just in it for the money, I ask that you really consider the plot again. I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time deconstructing the plot or the character development, but what I will say, is that, no matter what you thought of Cogburn initially, he proved to be on the right path all along, even though he stumbled along the way. In the end, he had True Grit.
And, let’s be honest, he stumbled A LOT along the way. But, let’s also be honest: that fits the reality of more biblical characters than we’d like to initially admit, right?! Samson wasn’t too keen when it came to the women, and, come to think of it, neither was David. Peter denied our (his) Lord, Paul persecuted Christians; you get the point. But, in the end, it was the overall trajectory of Cogburn’s life that counted. He did what was right over the long-haul, he helped Mattie and LaBoeuf when it counted most.
That, of course, isn’t to say that we can simply sit by the sidelines and jump in only when it counts, it is the “trajectory” of our lives that is really in question. That’s why Paul in Romans 7 can lament that, even though his heart, somewhere deep inside, longs to do what is right, he often finds himself doing what is wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that I am no the best at raising my boys in this light, but I want them to consider the trajectory rather than the specific. Yes they misbehave, fight and argue, but, at some level, these are the very traits I want to foster in them for the protection of others as men.
It’s a fine line in raising boys and I don’t walk that line as carefully as I ought, but last night’s movie reminded me that it’s more about the heart than it is about specific, individual behaviors. This is hard, but it’s a constant reminder that we’re more concerned about the heart than specific behaviors and that behavior doesn’t always display the true heart.
In the end, despite his short-comings; let’s be honest, they were failings, Cogburn turned out to be exactly what we’d hoped he’d be. Our biblical heros (except for Jesus, of course) lead us down the same path; they will fail us, driving us, ultimately, to One who won’t (I was also struck by the reminder that, wanting “justice” is a good thing while wanting “revenge” is not, but that’s probably a post for another day). After all, didn’t you find it curious that the Coen Brothers chose “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms” to be the central refrain of the movie? I want my boys, despite their failings; despite my failings, to lean on those Everlasting Arms that will see them through. Don’t you? I want my sons to know that, despite me, and even despite their own failings, there is One who will never let them down and He will guide/guard/protect the “trajectory” of each of our lives.
I want to raise boys who trust in Jesus so much that they are willing to pursue the path of what is right despite their own shortcomings and failings. And, for this to happen, Jesus must certainly intervene because my own shortcoming and failings stand in the way. But there is a journey beyond each of us.