I read an article about my favorite Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life. The author of the article says that George Bailey lived a virtuous life that brought him to the bridge, to the point of brokenness. Perhaps because I relate so strongly to George Bailey, the movie has become my favorite.
I have stood at the bridge. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in my twenties and fibromyalgia in my thirties. Heart issues have plagued me over half of my life. In the movie, George Bailey also encounters health issues. He loses his hearing and is declared 4-F and is not able to join his brother and friends in defending his country.
Health problems have brought me to my knees more than once. I have cried for God to ease the pain and wondered if God has heard.
I have stood at the bridge. I lost my father when I was in my twenties and then chose to provide care for my mother. My mother knew I'd remain by her side, come hell or high water, and often took out her frustrations on me. I endured them, although not always with equanimity. In his twenties, George lost his father and was forced into a difficult situation. His hatred of the Building and Loan was not stronger than his sense of duty. Humiliation dogged him, not only from Mr. Potter, but also from the embarrassment of not providing adequately for his family.
Like George, I prayed for God to take the burden from me or to ease the strain, and like George, often thought God had not heard my prayers.
I have stood at the bridge. Daily living has a way of knocking the breath from your dreams. George Bailey had not completely given up on his dream of being an architect. Tucked in the corner of the living room, in the midst of family chaos, were a model, a drafting table, and books. Like George, my family has infringed upon my dream, in my case, of being a writer.
I, too, have knocked my dreams aside, dashed them to the floor in a rage, and prayed to a God whom I thought did not answer.
I have stood at the bridge. People I've known have brought me to frustration and tears, much like George's uncle who brought him to financial ruin. I have faced betrayals and lies and had no clue how to handle them. And often, the actions I took only added to the heartache.
With tears streaming down my face, I have cried to God to ease my anguish and only heard my own echoing cries.
I have stood at the bridge. Like George, I've seen someone floundering in the water, about to go under, and have jumped in to help. George jumped in, literally, to save Clarence, and by doing so, was given a chance to see the impact he'd made on the lives of others. I have not seen the impact I've made and won't, not this side of heaven, or at least, not completely.
I have cried to God and asked if I have made a difference and have only encountered silence.
And yet, it is in the silence where we find God. In the moment of stillness, when we are completely aware, we know our lives are not in vain. God answers, in his time, in his way. Health problems teach us compassion. Struggles teach us patience. Frustrations teach us to rely on God. And even when we think we are at the end of our rope, God can still use us to help one more person.
Sacrifices we make are not unappreciated, are not useless, are not wasted effort. A sacrificial, virtuous life is a wonderful life.