I’m told that the phrase ‘the truth will set you free’ can also be translated ‘reality will set you free’. Actor Ambrose Hilliard thinks he is being cast as the dashing hero Johnnie in an upcoming film about the rescue of 338,000 soldiers from Dunkirk. He has a cruel awakening when he discovers that he is actually being offered the part of the washed up ageing Uncle Frank. He still thinks of himself as romantic lead material, as the one who gets the girl and saves the day. Not a ‘shipwreck of a man’; ageing and looking older than he actually is. Time moves on, it’s the natural way of things, and not even the debonair ‘Inspector Charnforth’ can stop it.
Ambrose would prefer not to think on this kind of thing. And he does not want the kind of role which will set him in the shadow of a younger, better looking leading man. But his agent Sammy knows different. Parts are in short supply during the war, and this film is an attempt to bolster morale and bring encouragement in a dark and difficult time. Ambrose could do with setting his ego aside, facing reality and focusing on other things right now.
It was Jesus who said, ‘reality will set you free’, in John’s account of his life, chapter 8 verse 32. One of the things about following Jesus that has helped me, is the freedom to be more honest about who I am. At first I thought I always had to present the image of being a shiny happy Christian all the time, but that is not the biblical message. The message is that we are daughters and sons of dust. And can be honest about that sort of thing. Psalm 103 verses 13 and 14 assure us – ‘The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he understands how weak we are; he knows we are only dust.’ We come to this good father God for help and hope, knowing we are dusty and will continue to be so. I used to think Christianity was about becoming more powerful, more spiritual, in the sense of getting better at things, but these days it seems to me it’s more about bringing our humanity and frailties to God and seeing what he does with them. I like what Mike Yaconelli writes in his book Messy Spirituality: ‘Spirituality looks like whatever you and I look like when we’re thinking of Jesus, trying to find him, trying to work out what Christianity looks like in the real world.’ Combine that with Adrian Plass’s advice: ‘Bring your weaknesses to God and see what he does with them.’ And I find a hopeful, workable, realistic kind of faith. Not necessarily easy (who wants to pontificate about their weaknesses??) but St Paul himself said, ‘I will gladly boast about my weaknesses so that Jesus’s power might work though me.’ (1 Corinthians 12 v 9)
To close an old film about wearing masks and the one who can help us with this ongoing dilemma. In the Bin…