Fences and Grace #2

In this second part of the blog, I’d like to explore the other line in the film that stood out for me in terms of grace and the gospel.

Rose: I been standing with you! I been right here with you, Troy. I got a life too. I gave eighteen years of my life to stand in the same spot with you.

This conversation takes place after Troy confesses to Rose that he had an affair with another woman and that he is going to be a daddy, again! Troy is 53 years old. He is an old man. Rose has been his faithful companion. Rose cannot believe what she just heard. She is bamboozled and then begins to lay out her case because she just cannot believe what Troy said to her.

At the basement, Cory has been listening to the conversation the whole time. When his father grabs his mum’s hand, Cory in a fit of rage comes out and tackles him. Cory then throws a punch that hits and knocks him down. Troy and Cory are both stunned by what just happened.

Troy gets on his feet and guns for Cory, but Rose stops him.

I can’t do justice to explain to you the anger, bewilderment, shock, disappointment that Rose exhibits. Her anguish and tears are beyond words.

On being good

Both Troy and Rose show us something about life – something about being good. Troy is a good and hardworking man. He has taken good care of his family. He is a responsible man. He takes nothing from his paycheck. He gives it all to Rose. He is at home most of the time. He loves working with his hands. He loves his wife and son. 

Rose is also a good woman. She has been there for Troy. She met Troy when he only had a decent job and got married to him. Despite her life being on a standstill for eighteen years, she has persevered and endured. She is a faithful woman. She is a religious woman — goes to church. She takes good care of Troy and her son. She loves her husband and their son. 

In this film, you can clearly see that Troy and Rose are good people but one makes a costly mistake and the other will suffer the effects of the other’s mistake.

This is a question that we always ask — why do bad things happen to good people? As if to mean because you are good, then only good should happen to you. Ever heard of karma? The informal meaning of karma is this — If you are and do good, then good will come back to you. If you are and do bad things, then bad will come back to you. However, the truth is that the facts of life often throw to the curve the law of karma. Life many times defies karma. 

The truth is that the facts of life often throw to the curve the law of karma. Life many times defies karma. 

Unfortunately, many Christians and people of faith live under the law of karma. They take this stance in life —  we’ve done right — we’ve obeyed — we’ve prayed — we’ve been to Church— we’ve given our tithes — we’ve submitted to our leaders — we’ve applied the principles, keys, steps etc — we’ve spoken in tongues — we’ve fasted — we’ve been faithful — we’ve been pure and holy — we’ve served — we’ve been to bible school — we’ve loved God with all our hearts. minds and souls and our neighbors as ourselves— we’ve attended membership classes — we’ve been involved in the local community etc. Basically, what we say is this – WE’VE BEEN GOOD.

Let’s listen in on excerpts of Troy and Rose’ conversation

Rose: I done tried to be everything a wife should be. Everything a wife could be. Been married eighteen years and I got to live to see the day you tell me you been seeing another woman and done fathered a child by her. And you know I ain’t never wanted no half-nothing in my family. My whole family is half. Everybody got different fathers and mothers . . . my two sisters and my brother. Can’t hardly tell who’s who. Can’t never sit down and talk about Papa and Mama. It’s your papa and your mama and my papa and my mama . . .

Rose: I’ve got eighteen years of my life invested in you. You ought to have stayed upstairs in my bed where you belong.

Rose: What the hell was I there for? That was my job, not somebody else’s.

Troy: Rose, I done tried all my life to live decent . . . to live a clean . . . hard . . . useful life. I tried to be a good husband to you. In every way I knew how. Maybe I come into the world backwards, I don’t know. But . . . You born with two strikes on you before you come to the plate. You got to guard it closely . . . always looking for the curveball on the inside corner. You can’t afford to let none get past you. You can’t afford a call strike.

Rose: You should have held me tight. You should have grabbed me and held on.

Rose: I been standing with you! I been right here with you, Troy. I got a life too. I gave eighteen years of my life to stand in the same spot with you. Don’t you think I ever wanted other things? Don’t you think I had dreams and hopes? What about my life? What about me? Don’t you think it ever crossed my mind to want to know other men? That I wanted to lay up somewhere and forget about my responsibilities? That I wanted someone to make me laugh so I could feel good?

Rose: You not the only one who’s got wants and needs. But I held on to you, Troy. I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams . . . and I buried them inside you. I planted a seed and watched and prayed over it. I planted myself inside you and waited to bloom. And it didn’t take me no eighteen years to find out the soil was hard and rocky and it wasn’t never gonna bloom.

Rose: But I held on to you, Troy. I held you tighter. You was my husband. I owed you everything I had. Every part of me I could find to give you. And upstairs in that room . . . with the darkness falling in on me . . . I gave everything I had to try and erase the doubt that you wasn’t the finest man in the world, and wherever you was going . . . I wanted to be there with you. ’Cause you was my husband. ’Cause that’s the only way I was gonna survive as your wife. You always talking about what you give . . . and what you don’t have to give. But you take too. You take . . . and don’t even know nobody’s giving!

Troy and Rose (representing all of us) forget this one important thing — Grace says no one is good

Romans 3:10-12 (ESV)

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

None of us is good or does good. It is futile for us to depend on our own goodness when Jesus has declared that we are not good. You and I are not good even though every one around us speaks highly of us. Think of it this way — could you drink a glass of water that has one drop of sewerage water? Absolutely not. One drop of sin in your glass of good contaminates the whole glass of good. We are all sinners — some saved by grace but nonetheless sinners. That’s who we are.

The realization that you are not good frees you to deal with your sins appropriately. Once you realize this you will get a better handle on how to deal with pain and disappointment. Here’s what I mean? You stop relying on your goodness when facing life. When bad things happen to you, it’s not because you weren’t good enough. You weren’t good at all. Suffice to say then that bad things happen to bad people.  When you sin, you are not overwhelmed to the point of giving up. When you do good things, you don’t get proud because in fact you are not good at all. This is how grace looks like.

Whenever you rely on your own goodness, you set yourself up for failure and disappointment, just like Troy and Rose. Their story is a warning against depending on our good works in life. Grace is not karma. Actually, grace is counterintuitive. Grace gives you good when you don’t deserve good. In this film, We see Rose giving grace to Troy. Even after Troy confessed, she didn’t leave him. She actually took the child from Troy’s affair and raised her as her own child. That is what grace looks like. 

As a gospel believing Christian, I depend on Jesus’ work on the cross for me. I depend on his goodness that has been credited to my account. I depend on the reality that I have been received as a son in the family. I refuse to depend on my own goodness. 

When “good” people fall

“Good” people fall. If you haven’t seen one “good” person fail, then continue living. If you are good, time tells tales.

I had a conversation with someone about leaders and their sins. Their take was that these leaders are just hypocrites that need to be outed and thrown to the wolves. I insisted that leaders who sin don’t hate their wives and kids. They absolutely love their wives and families. Deep down these leaders love their families, but they make decisions that ultimately impacts their lives.

This is exactly what happened to Troy.

Based on my friend’s philosophy, it is possible to look at Troy and hurl stones at him. Yes, he is wrong. Yes, he made a costly mistake. Yes, his mistake will have major consequences. But not so with grace. Jesus is not surprised when we sin. Not at all. He knows we will fail. He expects us to sin. Perfect people are only found in heaven (Hebrews 12:23)

Jesus is not surprised when we sin. Not at all. He knows we will fail. He expects us to sin. Perfect people are only found in heaven 

You and I will eventually sin — colossally and bigly. The truth about grace is this – nothing bad or wrong that we do will ever be held or used against us by God. Absolutely nothing!

Living with a “Troy”

In view of Christian teaching, wives are to submit to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22) The husband is the head of his family. He dictates the direction his family takes. Right?

But what about if the husband is directionless because he has lost so many opportunities or because opportunities were taken from him? Or, what about when he blames everyone else apart from himself? Or he doesn’t make headway on life because he wasn’t the right fit — race, age, experience, education etc?  Or he lives with this addiction that he can’t shake off? What if you are in a relationship that is not going anywhere? A dead-end marriage? Or your hubby just lost his mojo?

As I watched the film I thought about own life and the excuses I’ve told Jenny for a while now. I thought how many times I’ve allowed my own fears to hold me back. I’m not good enough. I’m not educated enough. I’m not the right color. I don’t have experience, connections etc. They will not allow me in because I am not like them. I’ve got daddy issues. I watched Troy and saw myself.

I’ve used these excuses for such a long time. Yet, Jenny has had to be patient and put up with all my shenanigans. I think it’s tough to be submissive to a husband who is not going anywhere. I think you need tons of grace to be able to live with such a man.

Ultimately in the end a bitter, directionless man really poisons his family. Troy poisoned his marriage and family. His marriage became stale and his son eventually went and joined the marines – thwarting his dreams to join college and become a sportsman.

What happens to such a wife? What happens to such a family?

A wife has a variety of responses. One, she could get bitter, berate and belittle her husband as many women do. Secondly, she could ride out his frustration until the husband dies like Rose did. In the meantime, she could lose her youthfulness, dreams and most importantly time. Thirdly, she could lean hard on grace and live to see her husband’s transformation or not.

Abigail

The bible has a story of a wife. Her name was Abigail. Her story intersects with David in a dramatic way. David was livid because Nabal (Abigail’s hubby) had refused to help his men. Guess what? Nabal’s name means a fool or stupid. Yet, they had protected him and his wealth from marauders. When David heard that he had mocked and sent away his men, he armed himself to the teeth and went after Nabal.  

On hearing that David was coming to kill Nabal, Abigail organized some gifts for David, mounted her donkey and went out to meet David. (1 Samuel 25) Her one action saved David from wiping out her entire family. In the words of Tim and Kathy Keller, she became a Jesus to her husband and family. She became an advocate — a go between — just like Jesus is to us with the Father. 

1 Timothy 2:5 (NLT)

For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.

 Why be a Jesus to your spouse? Remember, Jesus has had to put up with you too. Right?

As a wife, you haven’t lived up to all his expectations of you, yet Jesus has loved and cared for you. You have failed him. You haven’t kept your word. You haven’t been good all the time. You have also become bitter because of missed opportunities. But Jesus still lives with you as His bride. Jesus still loves you. Jesus is all in for you. He will never leave you or forsake you.

Becoming a Jesus to your spouse is no guarantee that your spouse will change. They might not change. In the case of Rose, Troy did not suddenly become this visionary with lofty ambitions. No. The ending wasn’t good. However, she stayed. She saw this thing through. Abigail’s hubby didn’t change. He died a fool as his name suggests.

You will need to lean hard on grace for the long haul. Hope in grace David said. Leaning on grace does not guarantee change but it will certainly change you. More and more you will become like Jesus which is the end goal of grace. When you lean into grace, your life will transform and in the end you will come out looking like Jesus. 

Grace is your only hope. 

That’s what grace looks like

Schulter

 

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