Updated: Jun 25, 2021
One of my favorite movies is called, Walk the Line. It is a story about the life of Johnny Cash (also one of my favorite country singers.) His life was filled with despair, excitement, bad choices, loss, broken relations, fame, and redemption. There are a couple scenes in that movie which made a profound impact on me. I want to share them with you.
Scene One: (Spoiler alert)
When Johnny was just a young boy he had an older brother (who was himself a kid) who really loved him, watched out for him, and modeled integrity and devotion to God. His brother wanted to become a preacher when he grew up and had already begun to prepare by reading and studying the Bible. Johnny looked up to him and observed the specialness of his brothers integrity, kindness and love for God. This was highlighted by the fact their father was an alcoholic who would often become enraged and take it out on his wife and the children. They were poor yet his mother demonstrated a richness of soul in that she sang praises of the Lord daily. One day when Jack (older brother) and Johnny were working in a saw mill, Johnny desperately wanted to go fishing instead of work. His brother told him to go on and he would join him later after the work was done. Johnny left. Within a few short hours his brother was preparing for death as he had accidentally been mortally wounded in the saw mill. With Johnny and his family in the hospital room with him, Jack quietly slipped into eternity to meet God.
Knowing this was a true story, I could not help think why would God let someone like that die so early? Why would God allow Jack's life to be cut short considering how much Johnny’s brother could have led so many people to Christ? My mind kept going back to this for a long time. Finally, one day as that scene again graced my mind it dawned upon me that God does not use us as commodities nor does He depend upon us to achieve His purposes. He gives us life to live, to have meaningful relationships, to laugh, to pray, to deeply love, to work, to seek Him. Johnny's brother lived such a life although he died so young. Some people live a long life but they do not really 'live.' Jack (Johnny's brother) had experienced a robust life more than some people who live into old age because He lived for Christ in all he did. He impacted those around him who would be blessed with a long life, like his famous brother Johnny Cash. In the movie Johnny could not reason as to why God let him live rather than his brother. Later Johnny became a devoted Christian and had finally reached a place spiritually that Jack had know very early in life. So perhaps the answer to Johnny's question as to why God allowed him to live is because of God's GRACE. Sometimes, we all wonder why we are here. Why did this or that happen? Why so much grief and pain? We will wonder that until we see the Lord with our own eyes. But regardless of the length of our life or the suffering involved we can know that God see's us, loves us, knows us, and desires for us to come to Him. It is also comforting to know that God is in control of life and death even when the event is surrounded by chaos, darkness, and confusion.
Matthew 15:35-37 “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
The next scene I found very interesting was when Mr. Cash was trying to make a record after years of playing in a band and writing his own music. He had talent, experience, and desire and just needed a break. He was living in Memphis so he made his way to Sun Studios where Elvis made his records. Cash begged for an audition. The director agreed and made an appointment to listen to Johnny and his band. He got dressed up (all in black of course) and found himself in front of the glaring and crinkled eyes of a producer. And then he began to sing an old gospel song. He was quickly interrupted by the producer who asked him if he had anything else to sing because that would not sale. Johnny became angry and asked the producer what he has against gospel music. What the producer said was very profound. He said, "I don't believe you. If you were hit by a truck and laying in a gutter and you had one song to tell God what you thought about the time you spent on this earth or a song that would tell the world what you were about--what would it be? The song you came to sing has been sung over and over just like that-a hundred times just--like--that, the way you sang it." Guilty of the crime, Johnny took a second adjusted and began to sing a song he wrote called Folsom prison. This song's lyrics could not be more opposite than the gospel lyrics he sang seconds before. They were peppered with heartache, lostness, lawlessness which reflected his circumstances of a crumbling marriage, pressures of life, and drug use. This is why it was so believable. Because it was real. Meaning poured from eyes and his demeanor expressed every word. It was a mesmerizing scene. You may be saying, “What is your point Zelda?“
Just the way Johnny was singing that song exactly like the radio played it a hundred times a day, we as Christians pour forth Christian cliches or platitudes just---like---we---heard--it, just--like--that. It's empty words parading around like meaning. Piling words upon people without meaning behind them is tragic. It's tragic because the spoken word is the most powerful force on earth for good (Jesus) or evil (Hitler.) We have been given such a gift by God and our words should be laced with integrity and meaning not empty cliches. This is especially true if we use our words in talking about God or Scripture. To replace the profound power of God's word with cliches is just....well....empty and meaningless.
Rarely you will come into the presence of someone speaking words with weight. Their words are full of knowledge and are loaded with meaning. So much so that it sleighs you to your core when you hear them. You walk away a little different inside than when you came. This applies to reading books too. Why does that happen? Why is it that when you listen to a preacher, a sermon, or a speech and you walk away like, "ehh?" Well --it could be because of where you are spiritually or emotionally or it could be number of other reasons. However, I will offer what I think could partially be the reason for it.
Some people do not know Scripture and are dependent upon what they hear from others or they borrow from others content. Hence, they offer little more than cliches or empty platitudes as spiritual advice and this often does more harm than good. Others not only know the Scriptures but they live them out in their daily lives. They thread the Scriptures through every experience. They have embodied God's word through times of joy, times of sorrow and loss, days of success, and nights of fear. They have thought deeply about God's word and plunged it's depths for understanding. This is why when they speak it seems deeply meaningful.
This is true for other fields or disciplines....like therapist or counselors that are not spiritually oriented. When you hear some therapists it often sounds like they borrowed their word from a book. It seems almost artificial. Other times you hear someone in the same profession and his words seem to come out of his soul. The latter has deeply thought about not only techniques and methods but the meaning involved in helping put back together a life torn apart by tragic events. He is connecting, applying, and seeking to know the person in front of him. He is not merely interested in dispensing words or information. He is interesting the meaning and hope he can offer the person in his darkest hour.
So what can we learn from the above content? Well, I will let you think about it and come to your own conclusion. I know what I have learned. Thanks for reading❤️