The Battle of Bedford Falls

Posted on November 30, 2011

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Life takes turns that we would not have chosen, frequently leaving us with less than we need to do what we need to do. I am reading Rough Stone Rolling, a delightful biography of Joseph Smith, and a different picture of the man more than 13 million living souls revere as prophet than they might assume through their religious study. I suppose tales of his foibles and follies might be trying to the faith of someone who believes that people land in their missions polished and prepared at birth, somehow simply growing taller. It’s refreshingly human to me, reminding me of Peter’s description of Elijah as a man of “like passions” – a person with a fascinating mix of absurd and divine qualities. It fires my faith to see what God can do with a poor, uneducated boy without the apparent resources to accomplish the grand mission laid out for him.

The reverse, or perhaps a shadow of the same truth, is what God does with someone of great possibility. George Bailey, in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” stood at the brink of a life of promise, and in doing his duty gave up many of the accolades his brother was then free to pursue. The heartwarming message of the movie is that his greatness was in his ability to minister personally, to see small, local needs and to fill them quietly. In scriptural parlance, we call this “choosing the better part.” Perhaps it’s a shadow of the choices sometimes apparently forced on those of limited means, like Joseph, who are put in the way of the better part by a series of unfortunate events consecrated. It shifts our vision of one another, from judging by something meaningless like polish or financial wisdom or opportunity to simple contribution.

Many of us fight the battles of Bedford Falls, with a loose banister finial and a hungry, hovering banker, but also petals in our pockets. A line from a hymn has been humming through my mind all morning … “let no spirit of digression overcome you in the evil hour.” It’s from “Choose the Right,” and it quietly reminds us to stay our course, to let the waves pound around us as we walk on water, ministering to people with runny noses, fearful countenances, or a perennial need to talk. It’s a line upon line, grace for grace kind of development with little external evidence of success. It forces us back to God regularly to get a better perspective. It invites him to be part of our growth, to mold us into his version of great.

If you’ve been placed in the way of the better part by circumstance, reversal, or struggle: what a blessing. If you haven’t, perhaps, as George Bailey, an opportunity will present itself to choose that way, a moment of decision where you could drive away or go back into the bank when you see the crisis build. Either way, there is great honor in the simple things you do, the unknown sacrifices you’re making, the divinity that is quietly growing within. In this sometimes lonely, unheralded walk, let no spirit of digression overcome you. You are destined for greatness.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

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