I love the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I just watched it again for the umpteenth time a few evenings ago. It’s a Christmas season staple on T.V.
There are a number of reasons why I love this movie. It has all the makings of a really great story; a flawed yet heroic main character, George Bailey, faced with internal and external obstacles to achieving his dreams of success, and finally finding resolution through an “otherworldly” experience that puts his life, his dashed hopes and his struggles, into proper perspective. I am moved to tears nearly every time by the final scene of the movie where there is a generous outpouring of support and love to rescue George in a time of great need by family and friends, many of whom he had helped in some way in the past. At the very end of the movie the camera zooms in on a written quote spoken earlier by Clarence, George’s unlikely guardian angel, “No man is a failure who has friends”.
Why does this movie move me? First, it touches me at a core need to know my life has been worth living, that others, within my sphere of influence, are better off for me being born and living the life I have lived….that somehow, in the bigger scheme of things, my life has made a difference for good. Second, I am moved by George’s willingness, though reluctant at times, to help others even at his own expense. Finally, I am touched by the ultimate richness of George’s life through the many relationships of friends and family. His life was part of a larger tapestry of community.
This movie does a good job of cutting through all the superficiality of what we humans think is important and laying bare the issues of life that are most important and of which make for true success. Though George Bailey is not portrayed as a particularly “spiritual” person in regards to having a close relationship with God, he certainly is not without spiritual sensitivities. The movie really reflects a time in American culture that was overall still much more “in touch” with a Christian or biblical influence. However, the issues and truths this movie addresses are timeless in nature and are not simply the product of a particular world view. Rather they reflect the ageless moorings of the human heart and conscience that can still be felt by those retaining even a slight semblance of either. This yearning for significance and our need for connectedness is anchored ultimately to the very source of our being, God, regardless of how separated and alienated we may be from him.
Stories, such as this reflect the longings of the human heart for the kind of world we were meant to live in. A world filled with hope, generosity, good will, the triumph of good over evil, significance and meaning, love and community. The more absent these things are the more the heart aches for them. Why? Because God has placed heaven in the human heart.
“Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”