I recently watched Glory Road, the inspirational true story about a basketball coach who defied status quo in the 1960s when he recruited black players onto his college team. The movie shows how the team fought exhaustion, racism, personal differences and social pressure, resulting in one of the most remarkable college ball seasons in history.
I love movies like that. I am always inspired by those who see mountains of impossibility as challenges to overcome, and oceans of uncertainty as opportunities to spread big sails. But I can’t help but feel frustrated when I watch sometimes, for the following reasons:
In real life there is no sound track. There is no music building to a crescendo when a person is about to reach success but doesn’t know it yet. The string instruments that romanticize a difficult moment are replaced by silence.
In real life the journey takes a long time. If a movie is an hour and a half in length, that provides the character with about an hour’s worth of struggle to work through. The rest of the film is filled with glorious moments or snapshots of fun or comedy that allow the viewer to relax and grab a handful of popcorn.
In real life it is harder to catch the artistic beauty of your surroundings. A camera can zoom in on a mother’s tears, a leaf falling to the ground, or light breaking through a window. It can make run down buildings look epic and the freezing cold look perfectly comfortable.
In real life you can’t practice a scene to get it perfect. You don’t get to choose the ideal person for a role. You can’t pick and choose what parts you want to keep and those you wish to leave out. You can’t simplify a story line for an audience but instead have to wrestle through complexities and messy situations.
When a person is living a life worth making a movie about, it does not always seem like a ‘glory road.’
For those who are trying to make a difference in this world, terms like glory, success, and triumph are often replaced by words like tedious, discouraging, and exhausting. I wonder what it was actually like to be William Wilberforce when his poor health did not permit him to get out of bed, or Mother Theresa when her feet were sore, or Thomas Clarkson writing late into the night when everyone else had long gone to bed, or Nelson Mandela as he sat for decades in a cold prison cell.
I think of today’s abolitionist movement to end slavery and exploitation. I think of those who are busting down doors of brothels only to have business return to normal the following day. Those who are trying to help victims they’ve rescued, only to see those same girls and boys return to life on the streets because true inner healing is so hard. Those who are raising awareness wondering if anyone even cares or remembers what they say. Those who work hard all their lives to serve others and no movie is ever even made.
I struggle too. I feel small an insignificant, untalented and ineffective. Too unorganized and fearful. Not driven enough, productive enough, dedicated enough. Fighting resistance is hard. Fighting for justice is going against the current, and the current is strong.
We need each other. We all need encouragement and support. We need reminders that this is worth it, that people’s lives are at stake, that we have been given a stewardship. We need to take time and look for beauty around us, in the old run down buildings, the eyes of a mother, or a crisp fall day. And maybe, just maybe, we need to take world changers off their pedestals so we can identify with them as real people that can show us how to overcome adversity without an orchestra playing in the background.