The text for the beginning of Lent is always about Jesus struggling with temptation in the wilderness to give up his calling and, for that matter, the purpose of his life. Lent can be a dramatic time in which struggle is very much a part of the season.
Actually, after seeing the movie "The Descendants," I came to the realization that it is about Lent as well.
George Clooney wakes up to discover his wife is dead and his two kids are living lives that he was out of touch with. For that matter, he was out of touch with the life that his wife was leading as well.
Clooney is up for an Oscar, but I am told that in this role he is simply playing himself. I’m not sure, but I do think that he plays the role of a father in a wonderfully, open and non-reactive way. He eases into the discovery that he has been absent from the life his family was living and he has taken much for granted, which was a mistake.
I enjoy the fact that he doesn’t give up but hangs in with his troubled children to discover what their life is all about. Because of his wife’s death, a door opens for him to rediscover what life is all about.
He checked out for a long time, but now he’s into the discipline and routine of what it means to be a parent. Many days parenting is not a glorious job, but rather it is a painfully difficult responsibility.
The reason why this movie reminds me of Lent is that George Clooney discovers that he has lacked the discipline and presence that go into being a good parent. He has been absent and has allowed his wife to handle the responsibility. He has just been the bread winner, which of course accounts for something but doesn’t take the responsibility away from his role as a father.
Lent gives us second chances and challenges us to do better. It is an opportunity for repentance and forgiveness and restoration. Clooney takes advantage of the fact that he is getting a second chance.
He is getting a chance to be there for his kids during a difficult time. He is getting a chance to get to know them in a way that he didn’t before. He is getting a shot at being a real father.
What I appreciate about his role is that he takes a lot of heat from his children for being absent and distant and disconnected. When he tries to reconnect, he gets hit hard with heavy and harsh criticism. But what I like the most is that he is really a non-anxious presence and doesn’t respond to his kids in the same way but rather takes the heat, listens and does not disconnect.
In fact, he reconnects with a discipline he hasn’t known before, namely the discipline of parenting. One of the themes of Lent is discipline. Nothing gets done in this world without disciplined people making it happen.
Back in the days of the first Mayor Richard Daly of Chicago, the slogan was "The garbage is always picked up." It was just another way of saying that there was a discipline in running the city that you could count on and even set your clock by.
Actually when you look at your own life and try to find what you would call successes, they probably are connected to discipline. That is the seeming routine that you go through each day to hold your family together, to provide a sanctuary for your children and spouse and to develop a space where everyone can be nurtured and grow.
Without discipline things just don’t happen and people can’t be counted on.
Lent asks us to take a second look at ourselves and how connected we are to the life God has given us. Over the course of the year, I’m sure we have all suffered setbacks, difficulties and loss of focus when it comes to achieving the important things that not only sustain life but enrich it.
Lent is here for us to re-examine our journey, take a second look at the parts of us that are damaged and have failed. Lent is a chance to regroup, re-establish and refocus on what is important.
It is my hope that we can use Lent as an opportunity, not simply as an obligation.
Originally posted February 22, 2012, at Reflections. Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Marvin Henk’s blog Reflections at Lutheran Blogs.
You might also like to read:
God in close-up
Welcome to Lent
What’s the cost of discipleship?