If you’ve ever seen the movie, Grand Torino, you may remember the phrase, “get off my lawn”. The movie opens with the death of Mr. Kowalski’s wife, and the gathering of family after the funeral. In this scene, it is clear that he and the rest of his family do not relate well to one another – in fact, in an understated way, I would say Mr. Kowalski was not particularly nice to the rest of his family, nor the priest with whom his wife had trusted. Classic model of the “strong, silent type”, his cantankerous demeanor can seem cold and uncaring, even rude. Although his son tries to interact with him, it is clear that the relationship is tense.
As the movie progresses, the Hmong teenager next door tries to break in and steal Mr. Kowalski’s prized possession, his Grand Torino. We see that, despite the hard and calloused exterior, deep down, Mr. Kowalski isn’t such a bad guy as he begins to teach the teen some life lessons.
A few weeks ago, I engaged in a discussion with a friend of mine about this movie. His perspective of the movie was a man who was protecting his prized possession. Mine was one of familial relationship – or lack thereof. His perspective was the “bigger picture”, which I believe is the intended perspective the writers / producers had in mind with the movie. My perspective was more trivial, focused on the characters’ personality, and the fact that he couldn’t get along with either his family or his neighbors and was destined to die a crabby, lonely man. My perspective was, no doubt, colored by the similarity of the main character to someone in my family (withholding the name to protect the innocent.. lol). In the movie, Mr. Kowalski had become embittered by life, as has the person I know. Years ago, a pastor friend of our told me that he knew beneath this person’s gruff exterior lies a tender heart. I couldn’t see it then; I can’t see it now.
As I reflected the conversation about the movie, and about my own life, I realize that my “dark” years WERE a reflection of the bitterness I developed after losing my dad. I understand HOW life can hurt and how we can become bitter about things that happen to us. I get it completely. But I also know that I didn’t have to stay there… and I didn’t.
What causes life to embitter some people while shaping others to be stronger and relate better to others? What enables some people to pull through the bitterness to become better while others fall prey to life’s snares, becoming disgruntled Mr. Kowalski’s?
In , Ezekiel 36:26 , God says, 26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh
Out of the ashes, God took me and gave me a purpose – His purpose for my life.
I can honestly say that, because I have chosen to leave the bitteness at Jesus’ feet, He has continued to refine me with a giving heart – a heart that breaks over brokenness and despair; a heart that desperately tries to right the wrongs; a heart with a tremendous capacity to love.
Throughout my life, I have oscillated several time between withdrawing due to pain and standing strong despite the pain. During one of my withdraw phases, where I made a conscious decision to shut off feelings toward certain people in my life, a friend of mine challenged me that they would rather fully feel at the risk of being hurt than to miss out feeling the deep connection that comes from the right relationships. Having recovered from that withdrawal period, I would now agree with their perspective – it is much better to love fully, risking being hurt than to never experience.
I believe it’s possibly to not become a victim of life. It requires a choice be made on how you respond to things that happen. It requires believing that you are better than your circumstances. It requires inner strength.
Be blessed today, my friends.
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