“Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.” – Psalm 4:1
It has long been a tradition in our family that soon after Thanksgiving Day has passed the Christmas movies come out, and always – always! – the first one we watch is my all-time favorite, Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Why is it though, I sometimes wonder, that through the years we continue to watch this old movie over and over when we practically know the script by heart? It could be that besides the fact that it is one of the great classic movies of all time with a powerful message, every time I watch it I seem to discover some new tidbit, a little message that had previously gone unnoticed.
So this past cold rainy weekend seemed a perfect time for our annual movie ritual, and once again “It’s a Wonderful Life” was up, and we laughed out loud when one of us recited the lines ahead of the actors. But something struck me at the end that I had never picked up on before. When George Bailey returned to the same bridge where he had earlier intended to end his life, this time he instead prayed to God to give him his old life back regardless of the consequences he faced. Not only did God return him to exactly where he left off (bleeding lip and all), but upon returning home, and much to his surprise, his house overflowed with friends and admirers who had come to his rescue.
The late Dallas Willard, renowned author and philosopher once said, speaking in the context of contrasting success and significance: “I think the critical difference between success and significance is that success has more to do with outcomes I’m in charge of, while significance has more to do with outcomes I’m not in charge of. The beautiful thing about significance is that we resign the outcomes to God, and we let a power beyond ourselves take care of them.”
It was that “beautiful thing” of resigning the outcomes to God that I picked up on for the first time; and George Bailey’s prayer on the bridge asking for his old life back reminded me ever so much of that of the Psalmist, “Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.” Indeed his prayer was heard, and the outcome in God’s hands.