It’s a Wonderful Life. My family watches it, at least, once every Christmas. Despite its oddities, it’s a film that I look forward to every year. Watching George Bailey grow up, marry, have a family, experience loss, and then hit rock bottom before he is shown how different the world would be if he had never been born. It’s an interesting movie, spanning a long stretch of George’s life. The Singhs even watch it in 24 Days Before Christmas, though they don’t watch a lot of films.
However, as much as I enjoy the film, one thought started to creep into my head in these recent years. A thought that, instead of taking it captive to the obedience of Christ, I fed and nourished.
I wish I could have the same experience as George Bailey. I wish someone would show me all the good things that wouldn’t have happened in the world, if I hadn’t existed. And I wish there would be as many things for me, as there were for him.
If you can’t tell by the above statement, besides having an inordinate amount of focus on myself, I have struggled with feeling useless or unneeded or even worthless. Not only were my thoughts unhelpful in purging those feelings, they didn’t help me snuff out the spotlight that I had trained on myself either. Instead, they bred more self-focus and a sinful discontent. I also realized that I may have missed the real point of the movie.
George Bailey didn’t ask to be told how important his existence had been or shown how much of a blessing he had been to his fellow men. He had lived a life of putting others first, in a humble way, not elevating himself for it. He didn’t ask to be honored for his love and service before or, what struck me most, after he saw the impact that he had made.
George didn’t go running though the streets of Bedford Falls, puffed up with pride, shouting how wonderful it was and how honored the citizens should feel that he had been born in their town. He didn’t start yelling, “Look what I’ve made possible! Look what my life has influenced! Look what I have done for you all!”
No, he ran through those streets with a renewed love and gratefulness for the life and people and places that he had been blessed with. For the wife, children, brother, mother, family, and friends that had been given to him. He cast aside his discontent and despair, not in a selfish glow of pride, but in a beautiful burst of thankfulness. And all before his troubles changed. He still thought that he was headed to jail, didn’t know how he was going to take care of his family, and might have pictured the Building and Loan soon to be in ruins.
I always thought the movie was about showing George how important he was. While the movie is about the life of George Bailey, or part of it, the message points to thankfulness and recognizing the blessing staring you in the face, even in the midst of a storm, as well as remembering that your life does impact others in ways you may never even know or simply don’t think about. (I mean, seriously. If George had thought about it really hard, he would have known that if he wasn’t there, some things would change, most obviously being that he wouldn’t have a wife or kids. He didn’t really need Clarence to show him some of those things. George just never seemed to have thought that far.)
Sometimes, we’re not meant to see the ways we impact others. At least, not this side of Heaven. We are told to consider it all joy during trials and to give thanks to the LORD in everything. That last would require recognition of, at least, some of the blessings that the LORD has given us. If we’re to give thanks to the LORD in everything – than there must always be something to thank Him for. Even in the deepest, darkest moment. There is always something that we can thank the Father for, even if it doesn’t feel like it. (And I’ve been there, in the dark, where thinking alone hurts, much less trying to think of thanking the LORD.) It’s a Wonderful Life is a good reminder that sometimes we’re blinded to our blessings or we take them for granted in such a way, that we never even think of them, let alone thank our Creator.
Did Frank Capra think through all that when he created the film? I have no idea. He certainly didn’t lay it out in so many words. Yes, the movie is still a little weird and theologically skewed. (Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings – really, the only thing going for that line is the rhyme.) Still, it was a great illustrative reminder for me. I am so thankful that the LORD can use whatever means that He pleases to illustrate His truths to us!
To the KING be all the glory!