A rustic little sign is positioned on the wall above my kitchen window that says, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It brings back warm memories, for sure, of when our kids were in their early teens, and they had urged us to watch the movie with them on Christmas Eve.
Dan and I had tried unsuccessfully to watch the movie several times before that, but I could never get through the melodrama in order to enjoy it to the end.
Then one year, after our children had seen the movie at a friend’s home, they convinced us to make it a part of our Christmas Eve ritual–after our traditional Christmas Eve ice-skating-and-fondue-dinner routine. (I admit, the movie takes a much more interesting turn once Clarence arrives on the scene.) So, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was part of our tradition for a long time.
But that’s not the primary reason that I keep this sign in my kitchen. It’s the phrase itself that I gravitate to– and that I need to be reminded of on some days. Because the truth is, if we really believe, as I do, that no matter what the circumstances are that may come and go in our lives, God is always Sovereignly in control– then it’s true: that it really is, ultimately, “a wonderful life.”
In fact, life itself is a “wonderful” story– a drama, perhaps, or a symphony– written by One Author/Composer before the world was even formed, and certainly long before any of us had even arrived on the scene. In God’s providence, He has placed us strategically within the timeline of history (His Story), as participants in the greatest drama there will ever be! We have the amazing joy and privilege of being part of something so much bigger than we are!
But understanding and truly believing that God’s Story really is “wonderful” can only happen when we first (and always) understand that there is only One hero, only One “Star of the Show,” only One in center stage, only One focus. And it’s not us!
A couple of years ago, my husband Dan was playing the bass guitar in an incredible Christmas musical performance at the church we were attending. A magnificent choir performed with a full, skilled orchestra, creating one of those breathtaking experiences when the music seemed to sweep me right to the edge of eternity!
During the presentation, I was particularly drawn to the deep notes of the bass guitar, and found myself enthralled, focusing on how significant that beautiful bass was. Obviously, because of my love for Dan, my attention gravitated to his role in the symphony. In a sense, it was all that I heard. Then very abruptly, it suddenly occurred to me (silly me!) that Dan was only one small part of a much, much greater story, and that if I only focused my attention on his bass notes exclusively, I would miss the true symphony and the focus of the whole magnificent performance: this breathtaking declaration of the glory and majesty of God Himself!
In truth, as much as I love him, Dan was not the star. He had the privilege of being only one of many participants– a “supporting actor,” if you will–whose purpose at that moment was to fully perform, along with everyone else on that stage, his individual role so that together the full, majestic music would bring attention and glory to the true focus of the “story”: the breathtaking majesty of Jesus Christ.
Similarly, in all of life, we so often slide into an inordinate fixation with the “supporting actors” of the story, and forget that there is only One who is the focus! The true Gospel never exalts or brings attention to any man– nor does it demand that man ever be the entitled focus of God’s adoration, though He loves us with an everlasting love and chooses to give us the unbelievably great joy of participating in the symphony. We serve Him. He does not serve us.
The true Gospel always and only points to Jesus Christ. The true Gospel is deeply “THEOcentric,” or GOD-centered, and never exalts any man. Only Jesus Christ is the Lord, and He will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8), regardless of the fact that Oprah finds this bit of information annoying. Even her very vocal irritation cannot change the reality that by virtue of His Holiness and Purity, and the fact that He holds the Supreme Right of Ownership by having created all things by His own Mighty Power, He alone is to be praised and glorified. (Would anyone begrudge an artist his worthy due for having created a masterpiece? How much more the God who created, gifted, and sustains the artist himself, as well as every other detail of the universe, without exception?) The story is His Story, not anyone else’s.
When we truly comprehend “man’s” role in the story, then we are amazed that God would give us the privilege of being one of His many “supporting actors,” being one of the many who point others to the glory of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when we find ourselves in “chapters” that are uncomfortable, or even harsh– job losses, financial pressures, betrayal of those we thought were friends, sickness, even the death of those we love– we have the confidence that God is working all things for the good of His ultimate purpose (Romans 8:28.)
Every year that passes is another chapter in “His Story.” Some years are such good ones, full of great happiness and success. Others, inevitably, are very intense years of difficulties, discouragement, or adversity. Yet, as Gerald Sittser wrote in his book, “A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss,” even those most difficult and trying times in our lives are merely “bad chapters in a very good book!”
Yes, for sure: “It’s a Wonderful Life!”
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