The wry comedy of Albert Brooks was on full display in the 1991 heavenly comedy "Defending Your Life" which he directed. In the film, Brooks stars as a man who has died and finds himself in a purgatory-like pleasant way station where he must actually, literally defend his life in order to advance into Heaven itself. In his preparations for his 'hearing' he meets a character played by Meryl Streep, someone who appears in so many ways to be more intellectually and morally advanced than Brooks. Through the emotional help of this woman along with a self-examination of his own life, Brooks is able to find success in his defense, and entry into paradise. What this pleasant little film highlights is that there are any number of moments and periods in all of our lives where we fall short as human beings. Where our own physical, intellectual, and moral shortcomings win out, and our human weakness takes over. Where we do the wrong thing when we clearly know what is right, or where we fail to learn from past mistakes, and where these errors end up hurting not only ourselves but also those around us. In the end, Brooks is saved from his many moments of failure and weakness by the overall generosity of his heart and spirit, his ability to love truly, and particularly by his faith. In my own life there have been many challenges, some circumstantial, many self-induced, which I have had to overcome in this life journey to self-improvement and character building. On that journey, I have had tremendous, soaring highs and deep, destructive lows. But the one abiding, over-riding habit that I can point to for my salvation is the fact that I have never, ever lost faith along the way. In my weakest, darkest moments the Lord has been there for me, to not only chastise me, but to wrap his arms around me, comfort me, forgive me, and welcome me home. When I had forgotten Him or placed my will above His own for me, the truth was that He had never left my side. I have recently been reminded of my many faults in life, and how my own children have had theirs as well. I have three beautiful, wonderful daughters and two adorable grandchildren, all of whom fill my heart with joy and love. Have they and will they make mistakes during their lives? Absolutely, and like my own, some of them have been particularly self-destructive and others have created what might seem to be overwhelming challenges. But what I have learned to tell them, what took me so long to learn because I had no one to properly guide me on the path, is that they are not alone, and things are never hopeless. You only need one thing to overcome all of the hardship and hurt that this world can throw at you, and that you can insert into your own life. That one thing is true faith. Faith that God is there for you, that Jesus loves you, that Christ came to this world and died for these sins that you have committed. He has already redeemed you. You only need do two things: turn and acknowledge Him, and then begin to set aside your old ways and move forward. Once you have done the first, you will find that any time you slip again it will not be into total darkness. You will always have that light of Christ's love to guide you back to the right path, the path towards salvation. Having at times to defend your life is a good thing. In fact, I would recommend that we should all be doing this kind of self-evaluation from time to time. We should also never fail our loved ones by failing to shine a light on their misstepes, not judgmentally, but lovingly in a genuine, caring concern for their welfare, and for their immortal soul. In the end, it is that soul that needs nurturing, so that when your own inevitable time comes you will be successful in defending your life.
This is another in a series of 'Sunday Sermon' postings, which come each Sunday here at the website, and which can all be accessed by searching under that label.