In 1994, the movie Shawshank Redemption became a beloved film to just about anyone who saw it, and no less so in the eyes of this man with a head chalked full of Andy Dufrane “shitty pipe dream” propensities. The movie impacted me greatly to say the least; to the extent that after watching it at least once a year since then, the admiration for the “Andy Dufrane” approach to life has become one of my favorite colloquialisms I give out to anyone who will listen. Particularly to those who have for far too long allowed the worries and past mistakes of their current existence to incapacitate them from dreaming bigger than what they can see, just beyond the dreadful Shawshank prison yard of their lives.
Andy of course is the “middle finger” to this even more debilitating form of imprisonment, and thus has resolved to know nothing of the sort. And as he talks to Red in the prison yard, his famous “get busy living, or get busy dying” discourse begins. He then ever so doggedly echoes to his only true friend in the world that he wants to go to Zihuatanejo and rent a little hotel and fix up a boat; somewhere on the vast Pacific where it is said that it “has no memory”. His deduction is that since he is not guilty of any of the crimes he was accused of committing, and of which he has now paid for dearly; it is the very “least” that life now owes to him. And as he makes his way through the cesspool of human excrement to the precipice of the realization of his newfound dream, we rejoice and even travel along in our hearts and minds to this remote destination with him, where there is no memory of his 20-years of “hell on earth”. Somehow, Andy has therefore become our archetypical hero of escape from life’s mirror of human suffering and injustice that we are also too eager to escape–and understandably so.
There are times however in this life, and particularly on the narrow path of the Christian life, where Zihuatanejo and the Pacific of “no memory” should not be our desired destination; at least at first. In fact, most people who struggle with depression find the exercise of “self-reflection” and finally sitting down with the “man in the mirror” particularly difficult, especially as they recall through years of bad choices with the entourage of scars and stripes to prove it. But as they navigate through the painful, yet more cozy cathartic process, the time finally comes to “own up” to whatever sins we “have” committed also ourselves, with a plan to actually do something about the mess that is our lives–and this of course is a “fly in the ointment” for most of us. And if we are not careful, this sometimes agonizing confrontation with the truth can become the impetus for an insatiable desire to escape with Andy and Red somewhere that will never again remind us of where we have been, and continue the endless cycle of our own version of “self-medicating” that will allow us to permanently walk away and forget– until of course the next thunderous sound of silence, with only us and the mirror in the room to tell the tale.
James, the brother of the Lord Jesus reminds us of this proclivity that each of us is prone to wander into. His word to us is to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only”, which he says is to “deceive oneself” quite frankly. In fact, he says if we are like this (and we often are), we are like a man looking ever so intently in a mirror, yet in a New-York minute, to Zihuatanejo of the Pacific we go, indeed forgetting our both enlightening and equally intimidating reflection.
I’ve found that the Lord gives us an incessant amount of days contrary to popular misconceptions to correct this path, if we will avail ourselves to His myriad of opportunities. For one, by the time a man or woman is in their 50’s, the phrase “becoming bitter or better” can be quite instructive for those enrolled in the class of the desire to “make a change” as a result of our own mirror check. Equally educational is the reality that we really are on “The Back 9” of our lives, and “measuring one’s days” as the Psalmist echoes, is in fact the “key” to “gaining a heart of wisdom”–which the world around us desperately needs for a lot more of us with grey hairs to have! And yet, if you are like me, even with this billboard of reality ever before the highway of our lives, we can numb ourselves with the night’s belly full of wine, favorite sitcom, never-ending leisure, or distractive workaholism; to the point at which the mirror no longer beckons us to take a little look see, or until we’ve simply covered it up with sticky notes of reminders that have now become eternally opaque. And so, as fate would have it, the Jerry Maguire memo never gets written, the Ebenezer Scrooge sleepless night of present, past and future mirrors drifts back off into slumberous forgetfulness, and George Bailey prefers to live in the fate of Pottersville, rather than the potential of a new and better Bedford Falls as we then “exit, stage left”.
As I awakened the other evening in a somewhat introspective state, it occurred to me that the reflection of the man in the mirror I have known for far too long is still the most wonderful salve salvation ever brought to me, despite my share of life’s contributions to the mirrors ammo. The ability to look into that beautiful mirror, and to ask for the matchless grace of the Lord Jesus for the ten-zillionth time, and to once again through the Spirit’s help, having been given the self-revelatory ability to see a man who really can and must “daily” change his ways, is indeed the partial treasure we should sell everything for to have. And though Zihuatanejo of the Pacific has its addictively sedated appeal still, the mirror’s laser-like image is just what the Dr. ordered, and the only place where the dreams of God for our lives actually begin.