My son’s soccer team is on the other side of the mountain playing another away game (something that is pretty common when half of the district is on the other side of the pass). It is raining and my plans for sitting down and catching up on lost reading time with The Surfer’s Journal is suddenly altered by the appearance of a movie my wife has turned on.
In digressing a bit… how often have you ever watched a movie were you swore you would never do something somebody in the movie just did, but found out you have done just that? What about relating to a certain character in a story, only to find out that upon further examination, you not only noticed a few distinct differences in the plot (from the last time you saw it), but now fully relate with one who plays opposite the character you’d once related to? Confused? I was too.
Well, this very event happened this evening and it very much, threw me for a loop. The movie was A River Runs Through It. The character I found myself drawn to this evening was not Paul, not Norman, but “father” Maclean”; wow! This surprised the heck out of me. The crowning point (in this epiphany) was “fathers” discussion with Norman (in the study) regarding the plans his son has for himself (he has just finished college). Norman’s response was pretty typical and one I related too in years past… essentially saying…”dad, I am not sure yet… “The father’s response was…”son, you have had six years to figure this out”. I thought, “Man, he has every right to question his son’s plans”; after all, he had just paid for his son’s six year excursion and sojourn for life’s meaning and is now expecting a return on his investment. I know Norman didn’t see it this way, nor did I, the first time saw the movie.
Many years had past since Norman and Paul (just young kids) reclined at the rivers edge wondering what they were planning on doing “when they grew up”. The River of Life, the fluid motion of events planned and not, will always cut and create as many options as obstacles and possibilities as problems. As parents, we are directed to set before our kids, as standard bearers, a plan for success and significance. As kids, we are admonished to listen, learn and respect the honor bestowed on us by our parents.
Solomon (who chose Godly wisdom over riches) said this to his offspring: “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding and if you look for it as silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Huge words to be spoken and even larger to be accepted.
My heart began to sink as I watched Paul (the youngest son) gradually fall into a life that was cut by both passion and slavery simultaneously. Time and time again, Paul created art in his fly fishing, and his passion was not in question, but his life was divided by indiscretion and a lack of discipline; which would eventually cost him his very life. Norman, however, was seduced by the seductive allure of literature and the theme of life, but not really understanding the meaning of all he had learned. An interesting dichotomy… one lives life without prudence, the other studied it without living it.
Norman eventually came back to very core of his father’s teaching that brought guidance to his early years and I was reminded that my own son and his father are running the same parallel course. I love my son so much, yet this very love is the only thing keeping me from running his life for him. The high-light of the movie occurs for me when the father and Norman are watching Paul in his element… the rushing river, senses ablaze and a fish on the line. Giving no heed to the dangers down stream, Paul dances with his partner and his life’s book is beginning to change chapters and “father” Maclean is realizing the complexity of words therein.
A river may change its course many times in it's life time and so too will a man’s. Passion and purpose must run side by side with accountability and responsibility. The measure of a river is its wildness and so too is a man’s. I am slowly learning that my job as “father” isn’t to tame my son’s life, but to keep him solid and strong. That he would apply his heart to understanding. The knowledge of God is not unlike a wild and scenic river. Only the wise and humble can approach His banks and life is no different and River Runs Through It.