“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first (Matthew 19:30).”
Lyla Garrity is standing on the side of the highway. Her car has just broken down.
She has just turned in her late-model vehicle to her father, a car dealer, and bought a heap from another person, one her father calls a “crook”. However, Lyla is estranged from her Dad, Buddy.
In fact, Lyla is isolated from just about everyone in the town of Dillon, Texas, her home. As Lyla says to another high female high schooler, Tyra Collette: “It’s been a crappy year”.
At the beginning of the first seaon of “Friday Night Lights”, a TV drama centered around Dillon and its high school football team, Lyla is “sittin’ on top of the world”. She is a popular cheerleader who is dating the Panthers’ first string quarterback, Jason Street.
Then, Jason is paralyzed in an on-the-field accident. This tragedy causes a huge ripple effect on the lives of the people featured in “Friday Night Lights”, Lyla included.
Lyla supports Jason, but once it is clear he will never walk again, she has trouble coping. She has an affair with Tim Riggins, a star on the team and Jason’s best friend, who is also dealing with the pain and doesn’t know how to handle it. Lyla and Tim comfort one another. All this becomes public knowledge, to Lyla’s shame.
Tim also happens to be Tyra’s boyfriend. Tim is not exactly a fine, upstanding citizen. In fact, he’s an alcoholic whose father is also a lush and doesn’t live in the home. Tim’s brother watches out for him (sort of).
Tyra herself is what could best be described as “trailer trash”, although she doesn’t live in a trailer. However, she is loose morally and is known to imbibe, also.
She is trying to get her act together and go to college, which is how she connects to Landry Clarke, a geek who liker her. He tutors her. Landry also comforts Tyra after she is almost raped by a stranger outside a restaurant while she is waiting for him to show up for one of their math sessions.
So, are you with me so far!? Good. Now Tim Riggins is not the only connection between Lyla and Tyra.
Lyla’s father Buddy,who is also Dillon’s most influential football booster, hires Tyra’s mother Angela Collette as a receptionist with less than pure motives. After they have an affair, Buddy fires her, trying to assuage his conscience by paying her a large severance.
Mrs. Collette publicly slaps Buddy outside of church All this leads to a divorce action between Buddy and his wife, i.e. Lyla’s Mom.
But that’s not all of the sordid stuff in Dillon. Jason forgives Lyla and they become engaged. However, as he is recovering physically and pyschologically he begins an affair with a girl he meets at a quadriplegic athletic event. Lyla discovers them and ends the engagement.
Fast forward to Lyla on the side of the road, standing next to her junky broken down car. Like much of Dillon she is on her way to Dallas to watch the Panthers play for the state championship.
As she stands next to her junker, who should come along but Tyra and her “ride” Landry. In Landry’s wagon is also Tyra’s Mom, Tyra’s sister (a stripper), and the grandmother and guardian of Dillon’s replacement quarterback, Matt Saracen.
All of these women are the abused female outcasts of Dillon society, even Mrs. Saracen. She has Alzheimer’s. In fact, she was intending to take the bus to the game when Landry spotted her and offered her a ride.
Landry insists on stopping for Lyla, too. However, this doesn’t set well with Tyra. But Landry says “it’s the Christian thing to do.”
As Tyra and Lyla argue on the highway, the latter asks Tyra,”Why do you hate me so much?” Tyra’s reply:
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the fact that your Dad slept with my Mom and then tried to pay her off with 700 dollars. Or the fact that you slept with my boyfriend, how about that?”
The two trade accusations until Tyra, referring to Lyla’s sleeping with Tim, says:”You don’t know how that felt.”
“Actually, you’ll be glad to know I know exactly how that felt”, replies Lyla. It is then that Tyra understands that Lyla is part of the “abused women’s” club.
Tyra invites Lyla into the car. After the game is over, with the brave boys of Dillon having been victorious partly due to the abusive men who “love” them, Tyra catches Lyla tossing away her cheerleader paraphanelia.
When Tyra comments about it, it is then that Lyla makes the “its’ been a crappy year” comment. Tyra respond to this by saying “We won State” as this makes it all worth it.
Lyla replies, “I think it’s time for a change.” She offers Tyra a ride home and the latter accepts.
Lyla now knows how it feels to be what the Scriptures refer to as “the poor, blind and lame”. Jesus refers to them as he tells a parable about a man who has invited the “great men” of society to come to a lavish banquet.
The movers and shakers make excuses to the man’s servant who is making the invites. They excuse themselves. Jesus describes the results:
The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’
The downtrodden women who were in the car with Landry when they stopped for Lyla represent today’s “poor, blind and lame”. They shouldn’t have even been at the state championship. Tyra and Landry were supposed to go with Tim’s 50 yard line seats, but he gave them away to the neighbor lady with whom he was currently having an affair.
To placate Tyra, he gave her 4 crummy seats. They were in the nosebleed section. Even so, the women were happy to be there.
The Bible describes a time in the life of King David of Israel that seems very much what Lyla experienced. In David’s case, he was minding his own business and running his successful kingdom when his life came crashing in.
David’s own son Absalom rebelled against him. David and his followers had to run for their lives. On the way out of town David got to experience how “the other half” lives. He was verbally abused by an angry man named Shimei, who also added some theater by throwing stones and tossing up dirt.
To David’s credit, he held his peace when his men offered to chop Shimei’s’s head off. He told them:
“Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.” (II Samuel 16:11b,12a)
Earlier, David had told Israel’s priest that he was putting his life in God’s hands. He told Zadok that if the Lord saw fit He would restore his fortunes. He added: “But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him (II Samuel 15:26).”
David now knew how it felt to be part of the “poor, blind and lame” club.
Those who “have it” in this world generally have no clue what the poor, blind and lame go through until they have their own calamities. I’m not rich, but I am not so poor that I can really say I do either. Still, I sometimes get a taste of it when somebody more economically, physically or politically more powerful than I am treats me unjustly.
What do I do in those cases? I get angry and frustrated. Imagine how the extreme poor, blind and lame feel.
Jeffrey Sachs has some idea. He is an economist who has been studying the causes of extreme poverty for 30 years.
Sachs notes that part of the problem is due to how the “rich” countries of this world ignore the causes and refuse to deal with them. How does he feel?
Bono, the famous musician, gives some idea in a foreward to Sachs’ book “The End of Poverty”. He describes Sachs when he speaks to groups on the subject as “angry”.
Mr. Sachs anger is righteous in my view. So was the rage of the man in Jesus parable who threw the banquet and couldn’t get the high and mighty to come.
So how does Jesus feel when the poor, blind and lame are ignored, even abused? Well, first He is angry at the abusers.
But even more, the special place in His heart for these folks comes to the fore. One day the feted and praised of this world are going to be shocked when they find that the people in today’s cheap seats are sitting at the front of Jesus’s awards banquet.
Maybe the celebrated will be in the arena, sitting along the wall. Or maybe they won’t even have a ticket in.