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I went to church today.
No lightening struck, but we did have an unseasonably warm day.
Almost immediately after walking in, I could feel myself finding that quiet that I search for through yoga and my long solo drives. The Pastor read from Luke 13:6-9 and his sermon today was about Non Bearing Trees. He said that God did not create us to occupy until we die, rather God has given us the responsibility of finding our gifts and bringing them to the church and the community.
He ended the sermon with a nod to the Peanuts. The setup was how Lucy always holds the football for Charlie Brown then at the last minute, pulls it away. Realizing she would always be a rhymes with witch, Charlie Brown refuses to fall for Lucy’s shenanigans. Lucy begs him to give her one more time to prove she won’t screw with him. He relents, only to have Lucy pull the ball away as the norm. She tells him:
Recognizing your faults and actually changing your ways are two different things, Charlie Brown!
When we make the decision to give our lives to God, we sometimes have that feeling that just as we get close to change, someone is pulling our football away. There’s always someone or something that is right there waiting to pull us back to where we were or who we were. It’s amazing how this quote sums up the movie Warrior so appropriately.
My sister and her guy first saw Warrior and couldn’t stop raving. The way she explained it, the movie was about brothers and their alcoholic father who enter a fighting match. Effin Guy does a proper and more detailed review here. Please read this (spoilers are in the review) to learn more about the movie.
Not one for violence beyond the occasional chair throwing of Jerry Springer, I figured I would catch this movie when it came on TBS. So I passed when my sister invited me the following week to see the movie in the theater.
“Fiercely Moving” – Peter Tavern, Rolling Stone
That may be the understatement of the year.
The movie follows the story of three men who each live in a past haunted by substance abuse and violence. That the movie’s plot centers around the violent arena of UFC fighting is ironic.
The main characters are Nick Nolte’s Paddy, Thomas Hardy’s Tommy, and Joel Edgerton’s Brendan. Each man is a Warrior in their own way: Paddy fights alcoholism, Tommy fights his bitterness, and Brendan fights his desire to be the opposite of his father. When we meet Tommy, his bitterness comes through the screen. He proceeds to poke holes into everything that Paddy has changed about his life: his soberness, his lack of womanizing, his tidy decorations and pictures of his brother. Tommy is angry, nursing resentment, pain, hurt, and his own substance abuse problem. Tommy remarks about Paddy’s soberness and relationship to God:
So you found God, while mom kept calling out for him. I guess Jesus was busy down at the mill giving forgiveness to the drunks.
Tommy digs in even more by recounting his mom’s death, and you can see that each word that Tommy says causes Paddy to wince,verbally replaying the physical abuse Paddy seemed to dole out to his family.
I identified with each of these men while I watched this movie. Paddy trying to right his past wrongs and stay clean, Tommy allowing bitterness to rule his decisions, Brendan, trying to rewrite the rules of a dad and live up to expectations that he doesn’t ever seem to be able to reach.
I’ve never known the struggles of staying sober, but I know the struggle of staying obedient to promises made in my life as a Christian. No matter how much I follow the process, I still feel like sometimes God kicks me in the ass. When I’m not beating myself up, I have people around me who want to remind me of how I used to be or who are shocked that I eschew most of my past ways.
There’s a scene when Tommy and Paddy are in the casino and Tommy tells Paddy that it’s too late for him to be his dad. I watch this scene with tears streaming down my face. In part of Tommy’s misguided rage, Paddy goes on a binge and the demons he tried to cover with alcohol come back in full force. As Paddy stumbles and fights these ghosts, Tommy possibly sees for the first time that his dad was just as damaged as the damage he inflicted on his family so many years ago.
How many times have we allowed the hard work of our new lives to go by the wayside because we have critics to tell us what we used to be? Or, like the scene where Paddy shows up unannounced to see Brendan. Excited to see his grandchildren since his sobriety, Brendan rebukes him, calling him a silly old man who stopped by. Brendan opted to stay with his dad when his mom and Tommy left, but was never able to get the attention his dad gave to alcohol and Tommy. He claims that he forgave Paddy, but has these intricate rules and conditions that are more to punish Paddy than to really cultivate a relationship. How many times have we claimed to forgive but really really continue the punishment nursing the grudge? How many times have we allowed ourselves limitations on ways to grow because it may be too late, or we try to adhere to a rigid standard, or we just feel stuck where we are?
While not as violent, this movie also reminds me of the family dynamics of Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is addicted to being successful, Biff can’t get his life together because he can’t get passed his dad disappointing him, and Happy just wants to be noticed. That’s these three men in Warrior. Striving to just make our lives a bit easier, fighting to rise above and be a Warrior in our own lives.