In 1991 one of the popular movies was City Slickers with Billy Crystal and Jack Palance among others. If you haven’t watched it or haven’t seen it recently, it might be a great one to add to your list of movies to catch up on during this time when we are home.
In the movie Billy Crystal is on an adventure with two friends to try to find himself. The trio has often gone on adventures together, but the character Billy plays isn’t sure he wants to go this time. He feels pretty empty (I would say depressed), but his friends prevail on the outing to a dude ranch. The excursion is hilarious since all three of these friends are city dwellers, true “tender foot” guys.
The trail boss in the movie is played by Jack Palance as only he could play it. He’s salty and rough around the edges as he tries to manage these three and some others on this excursion none are prepared for.
One of the dialogues between Palance (Curly) and Crystal (Mitch) is worth remembering:
Curly : Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Curly : This.
Mitch : Your finger?
Curly : One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean …
Mitch : But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly : [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out.
Today this dialogue came to mind and I think it speaks so clearly into this time of sheltering in place or self-quarantine.
We can either get lost in daily news items that threaten to wreak havoc on our souls, or we can settle in and consider what is that “one thing?” What is the secret of life for you? Our usual activities and busyness rarely allow for us to reflect on how we might answer that, but the answer is important. It will reveal where we anchor our days and what we choose to adjust as a result of what we learn during this time.
Our minds can too easily be pulled to look at not only what we are missing out on today, but what we will miss next or the week after as this continues. That’s natural for all of us as the things on our calendar are no longer options for us, but if we keep looking at all those days ahead, we will miss the beauty and provision that will be there when we get to those days that were altered.
Today we are not unlike the Israelites we read about in Exodus that needed to learn to live on the provision for “one day.” If you know the story you recall it was not something they did very well at the outset. The manna the Lord provided was not something they could store up ahead of time, but some of them tried it only to discover it was rotten and full of maggots the next day. This incredible gift of manna seemed a boring menu, so they begged for meat at another point because they still had not come to rest in the Lord’s provision one day at a time.
There is so much truth within that lesson for them and now for us. We presume we have tomorrow, next week, next month, and more on a routine basis, so it can be easy to forget that what we have is the one day we are living now. It can cause us to miss so many glimpses of beauty and provision if we fail to stay in that focus.
If we make the shift, we discover things that give us joy. For me it was seeing crocuses blooming near our garage door recently when I took a walk despite the cloudy, rainy, chilly temps. Another day it was tuning in to the sound of a bird I could not name but sang a beautiful song that I really took time to hear and listen to.
I have begun to notice how long my gratitude list is each day during this time as I notice little things I would have missed when life was as it used to be. How could I have missed that bird song on other walks? Why didn’t I notice the bulging buds on the trees preparing to burst forth into blossoms and leaves?
Corrie Ten Boom left a rich legacy for us as she shares her story of life during her time in a concentration camp during WW II with her sister. As she lived one day at a time, the Lord brought to mind one thing their father had taught them as children that encouraged them now in this agonizing time.
She retells the story in her powerful book, The Hiding Place:
“She confided in her father that she was afraid of death and was quite sure she did not have the strength to be a martyr. Corrie’s father reminded her of the train ride to Amsterdam. “”When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?”
“No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train.”
“That is right,” her father said, “and so it is with God’s strength. Our Father in Heaven knows when you will need the strength . . . He will supply all you need just in time.”
And so, these illustrations point us to how to traverse this time in what may feel like a wilderness, while we live apart from one another and with no certainty about when that will change.
Mitch and Curly remind us in “City Slickers” we each need to determine the secret to life. The Israelites remind us to appreciate the provision for one day at a time. And Corrie’s father’s story reminds us that the grace we need for whatever is ahead cannot be allocated today because it isn’t for this day.
One thing…one day.
Find the goodness in it.