October 31, 2014

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Christian faith helps us dance in life’s puddles

Sean GallagherOne of my favorite movie scenes is from the 1952 classic Singing in the Rain when Gene Kelly sings the title song. Kelly’s character, Don Lockwood, is in love and has just dropped off his sweetheart, Kathy Selden (played by Debbie Reynolds), at her apartment on a rainy night.

Now that he’s won Selden’s heart, Lockwood doesn’t care that he’s in the middle of a pouring rainstorm. Indeed, he shoos away the taxi that had brought him and Kathy to her apartment.

His heart then overflows in a remarkable song and dance scene. As the song reaches its climax, Lockwood madly dances in the street in front of Selden’s apartment building, splashing in puddles to his heart’s content.

It’s all brought to a halt when a police officer breaks in on the scene. Lockwood unapologetically finishes his song with a shrug of his shoulders, continues on down the sidewalk and gives his umbrella to a fellow pedestrian who didn’t have one.

As heartwarming and technically amazing as this scene is, a part of the backstory behind it makes it even more astounding. Kelly, while looking like he was on top of the world with water pouring on his face, was suffering from a 103-degree fever while shooting it.

Part of what makes this scene so great is that Lockwood’s reaction to being in a rainstorm isn’t typical. Most people tolerate rain at best. Oftentimes, it can be quite a nuisance, especially in cold, autumn rains this time of year.

This is most people’s reaction to being caught in the rain. But children, especially boys, have a different attitude. They’re more like Lockwood. For them, rainy days are mud puddle factories, and they’re their biggest consumers.

The 20th-century writer and poet e e cummings summed up well their perspective on rainy days: “The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”

Now I suppose as they grow older, my boys will experience the inconveniences of rainy days. But I hope that they don’t lose their ability to find joy in difficult circumstances, which, for me, is embodied in their current attraction to mud puddles.

The Christian faith that my wife, Cindy, and I seek to instill in their hearts can nurture such joy in difficult times. That is because Christ’s resurrection, which followed his horrific suffering and death, is at the heart of the Gospel. For those who place their faith in Christ, this joy is as real as the hand in front of your face.

When Gene Kelly sang and danced in the rain with a smile on his face while enduring a 103-degree fever, he was acting. On the other hand, the saints, all of whom we celebrate on Nov. 1 on All Saints Day, lived through many a rainy day and saw the world around them as “mud-luscious and puddle wonderful.”

In having this attitude, they were not sticking their heads in the sand and denying the hard realities that life was throwing at them. The saints were realists in that regard. But their faith was so strong that the worst that this world could offer couldn’t keep them down. Caught in the midst of one of life’s downpours, they got up with the power of grace.

One aspect of their faith that helped them find joy in their trials is that they knew from Jesus that carrying their crosses was a necessary step on their path to heaven: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24). That doesn’t mean that we go out in search of our crosses. Life gives us enough of them that we don’t have to do that.

But having a strong, Gospel-founded joy in the midst of life’s rainy days can help us get through them, and not just with a smile on our face. It can also, like Don Lockwood did when he gave away his umbrella at the end of his song, lead us to help other people carry their crosses.

When that happens, we can all sing with Lockwood, “Come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face!” †

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