— G.K. Chesterton
Any good story has two things: conflict and crisis. This weekend I watched two movies that had both.
One of the flicks was about a 17 year old snowboarder and surfer who returns to Hawaii to witness the wedding of his grandfather, himself a champion surfer. What the young man, Johnny, doesn’t know is that he will spend his entire time wetnursing the 12-year old son of the young widow his grandpa is marrying.
The boy, Chris, is a brat. While his mother and husband-to-be try to plan a wedding and open a surf shop, all within a week, Chris hangs out with the wrong crowd.
He gets mixed up with some rebels who see surfing as too normal and instead go for dirtboarding. Chris spends a lot of his time running away to be with these kids and prove himself to them.
In steps Johnny. At his grandpa’s request,, Johnny seeks to befriend the boy.
He tries to see Chris’ point of view, and even tries dirtboarding. Yet, Chris keeps rebelling.
It is not until Chris’s mother calls off the wedding because of her son’s rebellious ways, with the intention of returning stateside to a better environment, that Chris does a turnaround. Johnny is there to guide him through it, and also save his grandpa and new bride from an adult dirtboarder seeking to destroy their business.
In another movie I watched, a little girl gets the chance to compete in a beauty pageant in California. Her crazy family all come along.
There is the win-at-all-costs Dad. There is also the beset-upon Mom and her gay brother, staying with the family because he recently tried to kill himself.
In addition, the family includes a teenage brother who has taken a vow of silence until he gets into the Air Force Academy, and a raunchy, drug addicted grandpa.
The family has one misadventure after another. Their old Volkswagen bus has a clutch problem on the way to California and they have to push-start it up to 20 miles an hour to avoid the lower gears.
Furthermore, the father learns he has lost a big business deal, causing the family a major financial problem. Needless to say, Mom isn’t happy about that and has a big argument with Dad.
Also along the way, Frank meets up with his former lover , who ditched him for another man, at a gas station. The fellow has fallen for Frank’s rival in academia, who not only has Frank’s love, but all the plaudits in the university world that Frank deserves.
The teenage boy learns on the drive that he his color blind. Bye-bye test pilot, hello anguish!
Last, but not least, the grandpa dies of a heroin overdose along the way. Since the entire process of dealing with the funeral would cause the little girl to miss her contest, the family sneaks the body out of a hospital and takes it along.
Once at the pageant in California, the family learns they are four minutes late and a stodgy contest judge refuses to register the little girl. The father begs and begs, and finally because a pageant helper tells his boss he can enter them, the judge demurs.
When the girl’s talent performance, taught to her by her grandpa, is deemed too immoral, the entire family goes up on stage in support of the little girl. Even though they are almost arrested, they stand by her, and they all leave the state promising never to enter another contest.
The theme of both movies is that families come together in crisis. More than that, the movie portrays each family having one person who literally saves the day for all of them.
In the first movie, it is Johnny the surfer. In the second, it is the Dad, who does all he can to get his daughter to, into and through the pageant.
The Bible has a story full of crisis, conflict and heroism, too. It is the story of Ruth.
Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi could be poster models for the old lyrics,”if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”. Naomi has lost her sons and Ruth her husband.
They return to Israel from neighboring Moab in poverty. Ruth has to labor in the fields in a kind of welfare-to-work program.
In the meantime, Naomi isn’t very pleasant. In fact, she is angry and bitter over her plight in life.
In steps Boaz. This old man is the legal equivalent of a guardian under Israelite law.
He and Ruth develop a relationship, and Boaz shows favor to Ruth by keeping her around his fields where she won’t be harassed. With all this attention from Boaz, Ruth asks him to marry her, something allowed under Israelite law in the guardian relationship.
However, there is a guardian who is more closely related to Naomi, and Boaz tells Ruth he has to get this man to give up his rights, which he will try to do the next day. All three must have spent a sleepless night awaiting the outcome.
The next morning, Boaz holds a town meeting and discusses the situation. He is a shrewd bargainer and doesn’t bring the requirement to marry Ruth up until after he has discussed the property involved.
When the relative learns he has to marry a foreign woman to get the property, he passes. He tells Boaz to perform the guardianship rights himself, which is just what the old guy wants (Ruth 4:1-12).
The end result is that Ruth, Boaz and Naomi live happily ever after. Ruth has a child, to the thrill of Naomi and all the neighhors.
Naomi’s sadness, anger and bitterness has turned to joy. She is a happy woman (Ruth 4:13-17).
All these stories ended well because someone in the family stepped up. They let the dysfunction stop them from trying to save the day, and they succeeded.
Of course, in the story of Ruth, there was a Person guiding events. This was none other than the Lord.
Ruth and Naomi, in the midst of their suffering, probably had the same prayer as the Psalmist:
Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, LORD, how long?
Turn, LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
Yet, because of the Lord and Boaz, they could sing the lyrics of DarrellEvans:
I’m trading my sorrow
I’m trading my shame
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord
I’m trading my sickness
I’m trading my pain
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.
I’m pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I’m blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy’s gonna be my strength
Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning.
What’s the opposite of anger? My dictionary says it’s joy: sheer delight, pleasure, happiness.
In this life, that kind of joy can only come from God, and whomever He chooses to impart it to us.
Perhaps God has us in the imparting role instead of on the receiving end. It’s our task to be like Boaz tand o give joy to others.
Maybe, instead of looking out for number one tomorrow morning, it’s our job to look out for those we love. That’s where our own joy will come from, seeking their welfare, not our own.
It may be difficult and cost us. It may take courage. But it’s love that motivates us to see the job through.
— G.K. Chesterton