Over the weekend I watched “Everybody’s Fine”; a 2009 Kirk Jones film starring Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell. Here is the official description of the movie:
Frank Goode has spent his adult life working in a local wire factory earning every dollar he can to support his family. Recently retired, he realizes that over the years he has spent too little time with his four children and that it’s time to reconnect.
Frank’s late wife was always his main point of contact with his kids but he decides that it’s now his responsibility to keep an eye on them. He is inspired to invite the whole extended family for a barbeque weekend. Preparations go well until one by one, such is modern life, and they all have good reason to cancel.
Despite a strict warning from his doctor, Frank takes matters into his own hands and packs a bag before setting out on a journey across the US with the intention of surprising each of his children and wallowing in their success and happiness.
Frank travels to see his son David “the artist” in New York, his daughter who is “high up in advertising” in Chicago, his son Robert “the orchestral conductor” in Denver and finally Rosie his youngest who is a “dancer in a Vegas show” but before long it becomes clear to Frank that his children are not quite as happy or successful as his wife had always reported.
Returning home from a journey that ends with the revelation of a family tragedy, Frank has the insight and confidence to report to his wife that despite everything “everybody’s fine.”
A heartfelt dramatic comedy “Everybody’s Fine” presents a family picture that is all too common in our modern world. Parents and siblings living hundreds of miles apart, too distracted with the stress of modern life to find time to call each other and too preoccupied with their own family and friends to find time to visit home.
The movie is not a Christian film nor does it claim to be. I am not a film critic and this article is not written as a critique of this film. I simply want to take what I saw and relate it into our lives and apply some scripture to it in hopes that our lives will reflect Jesus more clearly.
What struck me was the image that Frank had in his mind of who his children were and the surprise he experienced when he discovered who they really were. This image was created by his late wife in her edited reports of the children’s lives. His wife had only passed on the good things; sharing only those things that she believed would make Frank happy. (Reading this may spoil the movie for you)
As the visits to the children progress we discover the following:
- David “the artist” is not home and in fact has died in a Mexican prison from a drug overdose
- Frank did not know that David had been arrested, had a drug problem or was even out of the country. The other three children worked in concert to hide these facts from him and while trying to resolve the problem without Frank being involved David dies.
- Amy “the advertising executive” is separated from her husband and is seeing another man
- Frank did not know that Amy was separated from her husband making for an awkward dinner as Amy invited her estranged husband to dinner with her father and they kept up appearances for dad.
- Robert “the conductor” is not a conductor and lives a contented life travelling with an orchestra having given up on his dream of conducting
- Frank did not know that Robert was not a conductor and had never been so.
- Rosie “the dancer” is not a dancer but a waitress. She is also a single, bisexual mother.
- Frank did not know that Rosie had a child.
Sometimes it can be easy to hide the parts of our lives that we are not proud of from other people and other times it can be a real challenge to do so.
Many Christians have become masters of concealing the undesirable parts of their lives from the rest of the body of Christ. Like a professional athlete putting on a “Game Face” we find many of our brothers and sisters preparing for worship services by putting on their “Church Face”. We don’t want anyone to know that we are dealing with troubles, issues, temptation and sometimes sins. We close ourselves off from the people who we are supposed to be able to lean on.
I understand why people do this. Pride and fear are the two biggest reasons. Thoughts run through the mind like:
- “I really want to answer this altar call and get prayer but I am in the choir (insert other ministry) and it would look bad if went down there”
- “I have been struggling with this and really want to surrender to the Lord but my family has no idea and they are sitting next to me and I don’t want to have to deal with all of those questions when we go home”
- “I work with (or go to school with) some of these people and I don’t know if I’m ready for them to see me so vulnerable”
There are many other versions of statements like these that keep people from the receiving the only real solution to their problems. We choose not to respond when the Holy Spirit is moving in a service because we are too concerned with the opinions of the other people in the room. We are too concerned with the social implications and value our current status as more important than receiving God’s solution.
Children hide things from their parents and parents hide things from their children. Husbands and wives hide things from one another. Pastors and ministers hide things from their congregations. Church members hide things from their pastors. We want everyone to believe that “Everybody’s fine”. We even go as far as not taking our issues to God. We believe that if we don’t discuss them with God perhaps He will think that everything is fine and leave us alone. We may be able to conceal the truth about our lives to others but God sees everything. He is not sitting in judgment preparing to deliver punishment and justice. He offers grace and deliverance through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, just like the adult children in this movie everyone is not always fine.
Christ came to earth because no one is fine. We are all cracked and broken. We were all sinners in need of a Savior.
Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:16)
1. We need to get over ourselves
But God gives us even more grace, as the Scripture says, “God is against the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. (Romans 12:3)
Be honest with yourself. Everything we have in this life is a result of God’s grace. We are redeemed but not perfected. We are being continually sanctified and transformed into the image of Christ. There is no need to be proud of our faults and there is no reason to be ashamed either. God is constantly working on us.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)
As long as our concern is to project to those around us that everything is fine in our lives we will be unable to receive what we need from God.
2. We need to get over other people
If we are going to be New Testament believers and operate New Testament churches we are going to deal with the problems that people face when they are separated from God. We are going to deal with sin. We are going to deal with cracked and broken people. We are going to deal with the unlovely, the downtrodden and situations that come from living in a world dominated by sin and its destructive results.
When people come out of darkness and into light they have a lot of things that need to be dealt with. Their sins and lifestyle challenges may be radically different than the ones you deal with but they are no different in the sight of the Lord.
But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mark 2:16-17)
Sinners and believers need to feel the freedom to bring their problems to the church and their problems to the Lord. The ever watchful judgmental eye of the “fine” Christian must give way to the mature Christian whose life mission is to make other disciples.
3. We must never get over grace
God’s grace is ever present and ready to deliver the believer and unbeliever. There will never be a situation in your life that will take God by surprise. He is always prepared. He is always capable. He is always ready to meet you at the point of your faith.
We cannot outgrow our need for His involvement in our lives. Correct Christianity becomes more dependent upon Christ as it matures; it does not become less dependent.
At the end of Frank Goode’s life he discovered that his perception of his family was completely false and it left him reeling; wondering why his children would ignore him and hide these things from him.
Our lives must not fall into the “Everybody’s Fine” trap. We must risk exposing our true selves to God so that we can receive the grace He wants to give. We cannot condemn others for dealing with problems in their lives. We must create an atmosphere of grace and deliverance. People should feel confident in bringing their problems to the church, knowing that there is love and power enough to deal with what they are going through.
Everything and everyone in your life does not have to be fine. We serve the God who makes all things new – let Him do it.