One of our family Christmas traditions is to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” together. This year as we watched it together many thoughts came to me. Maybe it is because of the economic climate and the realization that many are having a very hard time this year, or maybe it’s just because I’m getting older that I saw the movie through a different light. I see so many parallels in this movie to our Christian walk, and it was a much needed reminder that my life, no matter how humble, is really quite wonderful.
George Bailey always had a plan for how he wanted to live his life, which included travel, adventure and excitement. He saw Bedford Falls as a sleepy, boring town that constrained him. He wanted to do something important. Don’t we want this? I know that I do. I often see others’ lives as important or exciting and see the life they lead as somehow better or more important than mine. In reality, I have been placed in this life, to serve the purpose that God has for me. When all the girls are having asthma trouble, the nights get long, and my work seems never ending, I can feel overwhelmed. I see my life as mundane and unimportant. As I begin to pray for encouragement, the Lord reminds me that He has placed me here. He has me going through this circumstance to help me to grow to be more Christ-like. The role He has given each of us is important. We only need to serve Him faithfully and work to bring about His purposes.
One of George’s greatest character traits was his unselfishness. When there was a run on the bank, in order to keep the Savings & Loan afloat he used his own money to help others out. I know that selfishness is a battle we must all fight. One of the greatest things I have learned through being a mother of many, and one with special needs, is to set my own wishes aside. Like George, I often don’t set out to do this and may even resent doing it. With time I am learning to set aside my desires, and the way I am able to do this without having resentment is by realizing I am doing the task in service to the Lord. When I try to do things with other motives, it always seems to bring about frustration and resentment. When I see every task as a service to Him, it seems that the frustration and resentment melt away.
Mary Bailey was great at making lemonade out of lemons. When the money for her honeymoon was gone and George had spent the day saving the Savings & Loan, Mary could have built up resentment toward George and their circumstances. Instead, she made the best out of a bad situation. She put her own desires aside and looked for creative ways to serve George and to make their honeymoon special. We often put pressure upon ourselves to have everything “just right.” We especially heap these expectations upon ourselves during the holidays. On Christmas Eve as I was cooking our holiday meal and things began to go wrong, I started to feel that pressure. The three younger girls had been down with asthma & colds, and Lindsay was the only one who was able to help me prepare the meal. Then mid-afternoon, she realized she had the flu. I sent her to bed and continued cooking. For a while I let the pressure of trying to have everything “just so” get to me. As the feelings of frustration and defeat began to take hold, I began praying. I realized that I was taking the burden of the holiday being special on my shoulders, and I felt it’s success or failure rested wholly on me. It was only when I began to realize what made the holiday special was our time together and enjoying one another, was I able to relax and enjoy the day. I still had a good deal of work to do, but when I saw it as serving my Lord and my family, it became a joyful task instead of a burden.
As George’s life went on, he became more and more dissatisfied with his circumstances. He seemed to always be wishing for something other than what he had. Discontentment is a joy robber. When we are discontent, we are truly being ungrateful. We are saying to God, “I know that these are the circumstances that you have given me, but I would really like to be somewhere else. ” Think on that for a moment. We are telling the God of the universe that we have a better plan. I cannot count the number of times I have done this very thing, and not even subtly. I have flat out said that I had a better plan. It makes me cringe to think of it. How often do we ask God to deliver us from our current circumstances, when we should be looking to see what He is trying to show us. Through many trials the Lord has shown me so many truths. I look back on my life and see the various trials I have gone through, not with regret or remorse, but with a thankful heart. I feel blessed that the Lord has seen fit to show me His mercies and truths.
Times of despair will come to all of our lives, just as they did to George’s. Often they are not of our own doing, just as George’s desperation wasn’t through any fault of his own. Where do we turn when those times of despair come? Who or what do we lean on? When we first found out that Sarah had medical problems, all we were told was that her head wasn’t growing. Because we had no health insurance we had to wait for three months to see a neurologist. I knew enough to know that if her head wasn’t growing, but her brain was, there were serious issues. All of this sent me into the pit of despair. I had nowhere to turn, no one with any answers, except God. I did a lot of praying during those three months. When we finally did see the neurologist, the news was not good. We were told to institutionalize Sarah, because she would never walk or talk and would basically be vegetative. At those words the bottom fell out of my pit. It felt as if the world were crushing in around me. The only thing that got me through it all was the knowledge that God was in control. I knew that He had me in His hand, and that nothing would happen that He wouldn’t help me to handle. That doesn’t mean it was easy. Each day had a great many struggles, but I made it through each day. He gave me the grace and mercy to make it through each hour, but He only gave me the grace I needed for that moment. I learned a great deal about faith , and with each step I learned to have faith that He would be there to hold me up for the next step.
At the end of the movie Harry makes a toast to George saying, “To my big brother George, the richest man in town!” Harry was right, George was rich . . . in everything that mattered. This is such a wonderful picture. Mr. Potter, who had all the worldly riches a man could desire, had none of the riches that really mattered. He may have lived in comfort, but he was bitter and lonely. George, while poor in the things of this world, had love, family, and friends.
The jewel of life that matters most can’t be purchased for any amount of gold. That jewel is what Christmas is all about. It is the redemption that was bought for us through the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. As the decorations and lights come down, please think about the meaning behind your life and who you have served through it. Though you may be rich or poor in the things of this world, at the end of time only one jewel will matter, that is the jewel of Christ Jesus. If you would like to understand this better, please read this article.