…“I’m your huckleberry…”
Don’t believe everything you see in the movies. Hollywood can embellish a good story. Old John Glenn did go back into outer space but the Space Cowboys (Dirty Harry, US Marshall Sam Gerard, President Coriolanus Snow and Brett Maverick aka Eastwood, Jones, Sutherland and Garner) probably didn’t have to as we have no evidence the Russians ever placed nuclear warheads on a satellite. And there’s that moment Martin Luther was to have given Duke Frederick a copy of the Bible in German in person. They never met face to face to speak (although he did dedicate the translation to him!) Even now, others are trying to disprove Noah had Transformers help him build the ark. The crowds rise and fall on embellishment, don’t they? We buy the tickets; the movie companies produce the stories! Yet, as we trust the fact our hearts and minds are being seduced just a bit, we still look for that thread of truth which runs through the stories of our lives.
In the last 20 years of cinema, the movie Tombstone remains one of my favorites. It’s an inviting story filled with saints who are sinners and sinners who are saints! But, despite my affinity to this saga, I rarely yearn to have lived in the days of a wild west and the carving out of the nation this side of St. Louis. Please understand, however, how much I appreciate the folks who turned deer trails into roads, moved the rocks to clear the land, plunking post oaks in the ground and especially for all those who perfected air conditioning back in the 1920’s. Living in Texas? YES! Tombstone? Not so much. It’s the steady unfolding of life and its details that makes the difference. Couple that with an invention or two and everything’s up for grabs! Time tells the story… not the movie makers!
Back in the 1800’s the west was more than wild; it was rugged, dangerous and deadly. Every day was a struggle, working another pre-dawn to sunset shift to make it to the next. Just one more day; that was the goal. That was the hope. No one was ‘working for the weekend!’ No wonder why people were hung for stealing a horse; shot for cheating at cards and even fined for spitting on the street. (Note: I think the person who first got that ordinance passed had an uncle or cousin who owned and operated a cuspidor and spittoon factory!) The movie, Tombstone depicted the best and worst of the west. People came to that mining town for opportunity and chance. A chance for a better life and people coming to that mining town to earn a living from those who were earning a living. Economics 101. Quality of life stuff. Law and order stuff. Gospel and grace added in. Not much has changed. Sounds like the town where I grew up. And, Tombstone, like my town and yours, was filled with saints and sinners!
So, who would you be in that drama? Old Wyatt, a reformed drunk and horse thief turned town Marshall whose name would be unknown had he lived in this generation? The state police would have nabbed him before he ever left Arkansas. What about Doc Holliday? He was raised a Georgia red clay gentleman , whose teen years were interrupted by the war between the North and the South. His move west was one of necessity and choice as his dentistry practice declined due to his patient’s dislike of him coughing in their faces with his onset chronic tuberculosis. Gee. Then there was Ike Clanton, a ruffian who ran with a group of thugs called ‘the Cowboys,’ living by a set of rules known only to them. Yet, there was aspiring actress Josephine Marcus living in Tombstone, too. She was the daughter of some pretty wealthy Prussian immigrants but ran away as a teenager and was living with the local county sheriff before she met Marshall Earp! Finally, Johnny Ringo’s name lands on the page. He was related by marriage to the Younger brothers (cousins to Jesse James!) and solidified his ‘bad boy’ street cred with the Cowboys as well. I find a bit of myself in all of them. But, here’s where my grumbling unfolds…
Our world is quick to point out the good guys and the bad ones. Rarely, do I hear people on the news talk about the good exploits of a rotten person or the perverse dealings of an illustrious squeaky clean do-gooder. Have you? It’s always one or the other. Never both. And why is that important even? Keep reading. We all have a beginning and we all have an end. It’s what happens in the middle that makes the difference. So, let me get personal. What makes you do what you do? What is it that drives you through the day? How does your list of motivations bring clarity to your hours and moments? What do others see? We all have holes in our hearts. They come and go. Some are larger than others. What’s that all about? Maybe there’s a thread of truth here… maybe that’s what makes us more like one another than not.
So, here we have Wyatt and Doc talking about their nemesis Johnny Ringo. They are all broken in some way. Fear and death are just up the road. You may remember the conversation from the movie…
Wyatt Earp: What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?
Doc Holliday: A man like Ringo has got a great big empty hole, right in the middle of him. He can never kill enough, or steal enough, or inflict enough pain to ever fill it.
Wyatt Earp: What does he need?
Doc Holliday: Revenge.
Wyatt Earp:: For what?
Doc Holliday: (long pause) Bein’ borned.
Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Joi2F60Veqo (at the 1:00 mark of 1:50)
“Revenge? For what? For being borned?” That’s what they said… or at least that’s what the script writers said they said. How’s that for motivation? How’s that for perspective? Regret being born? Well, it was tough times. It was a live or die world. But, so is ours. It’s still tough. It’s still live or die. Time hasn’t altered that reality. It’s just our turn and with the perspective we bring to it! Is there a line in the sand here, then? A point of clarity? A defining truth that helps me be less like Johnny Ringo? A posture for life that helps me be more than what he seemed he could not be? A way to live that evades self-destruction? Let me get personal here. Yes. But, it comes with a price. It would have been better if Doc Holliday would have been an optometrist in order to give Johnny Ringo a new set of glasses rather than a new choppers. Well, at least that’s how I’m seeing it.
When I was born, I came into the world with nothing. But, I was born into a world that has everything I need. Thus my life was full already. At the core of my baptismal posture is my understanding that in the grace-filled waters of Jesus and the Word and promise of God attached to that water, I have been given everything I need to live well for the rest of my life. Did you get that? I’ve been given everything I need and the benefit of walking a life of faith and seeking to be a disciple of Jesus is knowing I have a lifetime to discover all that has been given to me and to experience joy in that journey … a joy Jesus called complete, overflowing and a joy that cannot be taken from us (see John’s gospel)! No wonder why St. Peter called it ‘inexpressible’ joy (1 Peter 1:8)! So, then who needs revenge? Why would one regret being born? If my purpose in life is to be self-fulfilled then I will be in trouble. If my life’s task is grasping for everything I think I need and in turn holding on to those things which are really not needed at all… then I won’t have much time or space for others. Can you picture that? Arms filled with all I don’t need? A daily pre-occupation with protecting it all? This only leads to a paralysis of purpose as our hearts and minds cling to all that seems to now be ours vs. a freedom of giving away everything God has provided already. Could it be that simple? Perhaps. It’s battle proven, I think. St. Augustine put it this way… “Lord, our hearts will remain restless until they find their rest in you.” I’ve always liked that… like what my old mentor Rev. Dr. Arthur F. Haimerl preached often… “we discover ourselves as we give ourselves away!” Carry that around a while… then let go!
At the end of the day, Wyatt Earp didn’t have the showdown with Johnny Ringo. Hollywood said, Doc Holliday showed up instead. But, even that re-vision is not worth trusting as records show old Doc was 500 miles away in court with his lawyer the same day Johnny Ringo died. Gee. But, Ringo did die… and he died from a single bullet shot to the head. Ringo’s pistol was in his hand as the body was found under a tree in Turkey Creek Canyon on July 13, 1882. He was 32 years old. Wyatt Earp lived with Josie Marcus for 42 years. He died in 1929. Time tells the story.
Don’t believe everything you see in the movies. Hollywood can embellish a good story. They always do. But, my story is mine and yours is yours… So, I’m going to get on with my life now and look for the thread of truth that flows through all of our stories… trusting that some days I will be more of a sinner than a saint and other days trusting God’s grace to keep alive the saint I’ve been made to be already. No ticket required. I’ll trust that for you as well…
And may your hearts be filled with joy…