Amid all the craziness in the world, my wife, boys and I decided to take in a couple movies last week. With maybe 10 cars in the parking lot, a theater cleaner than I’ve ever seen and social distancing measures in place, it was as safe an activity we could find. We simply needed to get out of the house and do something fun together. One of the movies we saw, “The Hunt,” was a bit disappointing. It baffles me why any movie maker finds it necessary to load a film with so much vulgarity and gore. What could have been an entertaining plot became uncomfortable and a bit cheesy, so to speak, given the amount of indecent distraction. The second movie we took in, “The Way Back,” is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Ben Affleck was extraordinary in his depiction of a man struggling with alcoholism brought on by the death of his young son and subsequent crumbling marriage. As the Sun’s movie critic, Andrew Branca, wrote recently, “The Way Back” is thought by many to be a lot like “Hoosiers” but other than having to do with high school basketball, the two movies are distinctly different.
Much like the title says, the story is about one man’s path back to a life he once cherished but, through a series of events, had lost. If the death of a child, the thought alone of which sends me to a place of despair, isn’t enough, the residual impact on marriages for those experiencing such loss can be, and often is, devastating. What Affleck’s character, Jack Cunningham, discovers is what many discover when the worst kind of tragedy hits – it can be impossible to handle alone. Some turn to friends, some to God, some to family, and many turn to alcohol or drugs. In Jack’s case, inordinate amounts of alcohol became the tool by which he attempted to drown an inordinate amount of anguish. Like the millions in America who choose to do the same, instead of finding dry ground, Jack became immersed in an addiction that, if not for a passion for basketball and the unconditional love of his friends, was destined to destroy him. Then, as is often the case, along comes God and sweet, divine intervention. At a time when Jack was dependent on a drink for some sense of perceived peace, his old high school, one where he achieved all sorts of records playing basketball, unexpectedly finds itself in need of a coach. Although not sure of his own abilities to manage the fear gripping his life, much less coach a group of high school boys, Jack agrees to do it. And, as the story goes, Jack experiences levels of success and failure, sorrow and joy, emptiness and fulfillment all the while discovering the ever-present grace God offers. The movie is both tragic and inspiring. It’s also one I hope you get to see.
Call me silly, but I believe America is in a similar place as Jack. With societal behaviors at the extreme, conflict seemingly present on every inch of the planet, a pandemic changing nearly all aspects of life and a God replaced by a myriad of selfish desires, the country finds itself needing His grace more than ever. The more lost society has become the more dramatic the tool by which God must use to save it. As I see it, society cannot save itself. No different than an addict who knows he must reverse course or die, America has needed a wake-up call for a long time. Many are the examples of society’s disconnect from decency. Same can be said for harmony and the countless ways by which people in this country choose to live in unhealthy, selfish and harmful style. Imagine what God must think as He watches the world drift from all that He intended and, to make matters worse, rejects being led to its way back. We often experience a bit of what God must feel these days when our kids walk a path we are desperate for them to stay clear of but that they are determined to walk. As parents, we can be ignored, kept distant and cut off from a child’s life. As such, some parents resort to methods that involve great sacrifice, deep pain and the toughest of love. Sometimes those measures work, sometimes they don’t. God has done the same with America and yet America, as a society, hasn’t responded.
So what does God have to do to get our attention? Jack needed a wake-up call and he got it. What followed was not a perfect life, but a better life. An old passion became new and the hope he had lost, was found. He discovered a purpose that placed him on the path to a life he had longed to find. God wants the same for America. He wants it enough to do what it takes to get our attention, to provide a wake-up call. A pandemic, especially one like COVID-19, is rare. While I can remember other world-wide diseases that required a change of life, none in my 58 years required this kind of change. Everything we’ve come to take for granted has either become more difficult to obtain or far more challenging to do. From grocery shopping to school attendance, from fellowship at church to being with friends and from job security to enjoying our communities, American society has been brought to a standstill … and I don’t believe it is simple happenstance.
Is the impact of a pandemic God’s way of getting our attention? Is He reminding us that the aspects of life we’ve taken for granted for so long can’t be taken for granted any longer? Is He redirecting America to a way back to a more honest society, one where others come first and the obsessions over money and power don’t exist? I’m convinced that the answers are yes. Yes, God wants our attention and we should give it. During these precarious days, we should do a gut check – a gut check that enables us to improve how we live. In doing so, we will discover how important our families are, the blessings of great health, the power of giving to others and the gift life in America is. God is at work and if we can embrace what He’s doing, I’m certain we will be stronger for it.
And maybe, just maybe, we can find our way back.
Scott Brooks is the Publisher of the Waxahachie Sun and President of Upward Media Group. Contact Scott at email@example.com or 972-316-7712.