Well it is official, all of this Bible study and Jesus stuff has ruined me. Tonight I did something I have not done in a very long time but something that holds fond memories for me – I watched a John Wayne movie. You see I loved watching John Wayne movies with my Dad growing up and so tonight I thought I would watch one I had recorded. So after the Dear Wife had gone to bed and the Little Pauper was asleep I settled on the couch for a bit of fun and nostalgia with The Duke in “The Wings of Eagles”.
As the opening credits began to roll for this John Ford film, I was really looking forward to seeing this film about Frank “Spig” Wead for the first time. The opening scenes set up a typical Wayne military movie with side splitting hijinks and the usual fisticuffs. Oh, what memories and the fun. The only problem is that as the film portrayed this very real man and his trials and successes, all I could see was the sub-plot of his failings as a family man. You see while “Spig” was making a career in the Navy it was at the expense of his family. Then when he realizes what a dolt he has been and is trying to put his family back together he has an accident and is rendered a quadriplegic. After a surgery to save his life and hopefully help him walk again, when he would most need his family, “Spig” does the “heroic” and I guess “expected” (for the era) thing and tells his wife to go make a life without him since he will “never” be any good to her now. She foolishly listens to him and leaves. The story then goes on to show how “Spig” eventually walks with 2 canes and leg braces, goes on to be a successful screen and playwright. All the while his DAUGHTERS grow up without him and while he saves his money for them, it is not until he is old and they are in college that he attempts to re-connect with them. Then just when he and his wife are about to once again try to put their marriage back together again WWII breaks out and his mistress the Navy calls him like a Siren away from his family and into active duty once again. The only thing that stops his march into the Naval War in the Pacific is a heart attack. The movie ends with all of his Navy buddies saluting him as he rides a ship to ship transfer seat headed home.
Now John Ford meant this movie to be a tribute to his friend who no doubt made a lasting and significant contribution to the Navy and the War effort. The problem for me is I can’t get lost in the fantasy painted by those without Christ anymore. The father’s heart that beats in my chest watched this movie and broke for a man and a family I have never met. I am not sure how much of the movie is “real” and how much is “dramatic license” but for me it did not matter. You see as one who YHWH has begun to teach about the importance of fathers and who has turned my heart to the hearts of my children (Mal. 4:6) all I could see was the mess left by an absent, albeit ambitious, father. I could not see the achievements, all I saw was the sad story of a man who had gained the adulation of the world (even played a part in saving it from the Axis Powers) but had traded the souls of his wife and daughters to get it.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” (Ephesians 5:25, ESV)
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, ESV)
See I told you am ruined. As one for whom Jesus is turning on the lights of his wisdom through his Word, my flesh might want to return to bliss of the dark where movies are just harmless entertainments but I can’t. Even if the lights went back out, the brightness of His truth would be so burned in my retinas that the illusion of the dark would still reveal its horrible ugliness. ………. Sure makes you want to come and watch a movie at my house doesn’t it?