I’m a rabid sports fan and have to be careful not to spend too much time watching sports on TV. While I’m making confessions, I must also admit to being a movie addict. I love all types of movies – action, drama, comedy and any combination thereof. Though I often watch a movie to “escape”, I find that more often than not I will watch a movie then try to see how the characters or theme relate to my life.
One such movie is Field of Dreams. Set in rural Iowa, a farming family has a “calling” that leads them to build a baseball field and experience a series of encounters that nobody else believes. At the end of the movie, the main character (Ray) is able to reconcile his differences with his deceased father in one of the most poignant scenes I have ever seen. Ray realizes that this whole series of events that occurred throughout the movie were designed to help him come to grips with the issue of forgiveness and his father.
Ray and his father had a falling-out, and Ray vowed never to talk to his father again. His father died before they were able to reconcile with each other. At the end of the movie, Ray and his father come together, and Ray appears to forgive his father for his stubbornness. But I think something much more important happens. Ray learns to forgive himself for his part in their disagreement, which led to their bitter estrangement. Ray discovers that to move on, he has to accept his role in the split (forgiving himself) before he is ready to understand and extend forgiveness to his father. One of the famous lines in the movie is “If you build it, he will come.” But I think the “he” is not Shoeless Joe Jackson or even his father. The “he” is Ray himself. If he will accept this calling (building the ball field and the series of strange encounters to follow), he will finally reconcile with his father, forgiving himself and extending forgiveness toward his father. He “will come” full circle with these acts of reconciliation.
Now, some fans of the movie might disagree with my interpretation. This movie had an intensely personal message for me, so the interpretation is based on what the movie says to me. My father’s alcoholism and at times abusive behavior has made it difficult for me to reconcile my feelings toward him, especially after his death. So, I found myself in Ray’s shoes at the end of the movie, hoping for the one last game of catch to try and work out my ill feelings and the need to extend forgiveness.
As I learn to practice forgiveness, I learn that I must always initiate the process. What do I mean? Usually when we feel that an individual or group of individuals has committed a “wrong” against us, we feel hurt, anger, and bitterness. We can keep those feelings inside for a long period of time (and we often do), or we can move on after the initial shock and continue to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. By doing so, we do not let the wrong-doer alter or destroy our own lives. We have to recognize that we must make the first step (forgiving ourselves for our continued anger or bitterness) and then extend forgiveness. Only then can we continue to make a positive difference in our lives, the lives of our fellow citizens, and the life of our community. I have to pay attention to the signs around me.
Forgiveness is essential as we strive to improve ourselves and the lives of our fellow citizens. Let’s pay attention to the signs (church, movies, and music to name a few) that can provide the guideposts for us to recognize our current situation and make a positive change. This change (forgiving ourselves first) must occur before we can make a difference.