Rick, my mentor, did not play golf. The golf course was not a place where we went to unwind, talk about things away from the confines of an office, or get lost in our surroundings. We went to the theater.
Over the three years we served on staff together we took the occasional field trip. That was Rick’s designation for, “Let’s get outta here.” Caught up in the stories of life that comprise ministry, we often took in stories on the big screen. We measured some by body count – Lethal Weapon, the The Untouchables, or Full Metal Jacket. There were others like Wall Street and Good Morning Vietnam, all from 1987.
Maybe we were vicariously looking to take in that moment where frustration gets vented because our ethics would not allow us the same action in real time. We would envision what it might be like to apply a head but like Martin Riggs’ (Mel Gibson) or dispose of an adversary where we might reply to the question, “Where’s Nitty?” with, “He’s in the car,” like Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner). It sounds odd for a mentor and a young minister. Maybe.
We all venture to the movies and find our way into the story. We identify with this character or that. We root for this underdog or that. We recall different lines that we may use at just the right time. There are scenes that seem to be written with us in mind.
Stories hold power. They open up fissures in our own lives that create the possibility for something new, something different.
We get to share these stories, sometimes with our children. And, we get to share our favorite actors or comedians.
Robin Williams may have been Mork from Ork to me. But, to Kimberly and Tommie we was a Genie! We watched Aladdin together until we could repeat the lines as they were being said on the television screen. As they grew up Patch Adams became Teddy Roosevelt.
It may be hard to accept, but I am not sure that my favorite Robin Williams movies wasn’t Patch Adams. There were certainly places where the dialog has come to mean something in my reflections on more than 25 years as a pastor and nearly 30 years as a minister in a local church. Life does not always work out in the way we dream. We learn that life is arbitrary.
Just this morning an interview of Robin Williams by Charlie Rose was being replayed. Rose asked Williams the hard question about what lies behind the comedian. Many of us know that humor is sometimes a defection, an insulator. Williams said, “Of course.”
The varieties of roles Robin Williams played attests to the diversity of human experience. I find myself still field tripping with Robin Williams. Some days we need the humorist. Other days the teacher. We need the impersonator. And, we need the sage.
When I think about how to communicate what being with is like, I cannot think of what it might be like if we were able to be with others in all the same ways. That would be a gift.
Near the end of the Rose interview with Williams, Robin was asked what it was like to experience life sober. In effect he said, “It was a gift.” It is indeed sobering that those of us who field tripped with Williams, today, also think, “It was a gift.”
Sometimes we find it hard to find ways to express just what we Christians think it like when we talk about the ways in which we believe God is with us. If you are able to draw the parallels here, then you know too, “It is a gift.”
* Featured Image – “Ties That Bind” – Copyright 2007 Tommie D Marshell