A couple of weeks ago, my preaching minister began a message on the spiritual disicipline of guidance by showing a clip from “Cool Hand Luke,” where Paul Newman’s fugitive character petitions the “Old Man” in an abandoned frame church.
It wasn’t my favorite clip, nor would it have been my choice. Up until a few minutes ago, I’d have picked the scene in Martini’s bar from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when Jimmy Stewart’s desperate George Bailey pleads “God, I’m not a praying man … but if You will, show me the way, God. Show me the way.”
What has changed my choice is seeing a DVD press of “The Bells of St. Mary’s” in glorious, full black and white. I haven’t seen it since I was a kid, and I didn’t remember the scene near the end in which Ingrid Bergman’s Sister Benedict is wrestling with God over being sent away from her beloved St. Mary’s School. She doesn’t know why, and Bing Crosby’s Father O’Malley won’t tell her. “Remove all bitterness from my heart,” she begs first of all. Then, she too asks for God to reveal His will.
He does, of course. It happens in the movies. But art does not always imitate life.
At noon today, as my disappointed twelve-year-old son begged me to take him back to Blockbuster to exchange the NHL Hockey PS2 game that his mom mistakenly rented (it had been filed behind an NBA game cover), sleet began to fall while I was shrugging on a winter coat. I renegged on the deal, advising him that this might be one of those instances when it would be wiser to wait, and be grateful for what we have … which is not being stuck at the bottom of a ravine in our minivan as we were after the accident we had in sleety weather in January. “But I hate hockey!” he protested.
It’s a little after 3:00 p.m. now. We’re snowed in, and the blizzard continues. While the rest of us watched “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” my son has worn out his fascination with his sled, left his clothes on the hearth to dry, and bounded upstairs. The hockey game didn’t go upstairs with him (yet), but he has gained an appreciation for the amount of fun one can have on ice – safely.
Show me the way. It was a wordless prayer as I was putting on that coat, watching sleet collect on the deck and deciding whether to go: Risk our lives or risk my son’s perception of my courage, integrity and faith.
God had an answer … white, cold and wet.