Our friends Robin and Jason just went through a long and arduous journey to save their home. They had perhaps just as many close calls and reversals in their story as in ours. And a different ending. A week ago Friday, they signed the papers to refinance.
Robin alluded to Frank Capra’s classic It’s a Wonderful Life as she returned home from the signing. All of the frustrating parts of the house, the unfinished trim or the loose towel rack prompted the same metamorphose in the soul of hatred to love that Jimmy Stewart exhibits so well when he grabs that loose finial in the stairway and, when it comes off and sits resting in his hand, covers it with kisses instead of emitting curses about another pesky thing gone wrong. Losing something for awhile transforms the feelings about it. After having a vision of that two-bit-no-good town of Bedford Falls change into wicked, dark Pottersville, George Bailey fell in love with the real thing for perhaps the first time.
I wonder if Prineville is Paul’s Bedford Falls.
He never really wanted to move to Prineville in the first place. It was me who made that decision. His teaching four, ten-hour days and having the school a half-hour away east of Prineville made me want to eliminate as much of the commute as possible so we could have more time with him. That was in 2000. He’s been trying to get out ever since.
Like George Bailey, Paul enjoys and loves the people in Bedford Falls … uhm, I mean Prineville, but like George Bailey, Paul wants to see the world. He loves stickers on his suitcase and stamps on his passport and planes and trains and wild places that no one has ever seen. He has the energy to hike mountains, swim lakes, and bike miles all in a given day. And yet, many obstacles have kept him from really getting away or experiencing the life he feels is his true destiny. He’s got a big soul full of adventure and passion and … well … Prineville is just a quiet, unassuming town that likes moving along at its own leisurely pace.
The beautiful log home Paul built was the one last tether to keep him there.
And it was cut.
But instead of sailing into the wild blue, we wind up back in Central Oregon with Paul teaching in Madras. Our log home was perfectly situated down the Madras highway so the commute would have been minimal. Why didn’t he get that job last year? Why now? After all cords have been severed?
His teenage daughter thinks there’s nowhere else to be. His sister, who lives in Prineville, just got a job in Madras and is hoping I’ll watch baby Bo, whom she’s reluctant to leave. The rents are low. The coaches are good.
He’s feeling the pull, the tension of following his heart and figuring out his duty. Do you remember when Harry returns with his lovely wife and the excellent job offer in her father’s firm? He was supposed to take over the Building, Savings, and Loan so George could have a turn. But George puts Harry first. Like he always does. And do you remember the part when George and Mary are in the taxi and finally leaving for the honeymoon? And there’s the run on the bank? And Mary begs him not to look, not to turn around, and tries to keep the taxi going. But George stops the taxi and then, fatefully, gets out to see what’s the matter. And uses the traveling money to rescue the old Building, Savings and Loan.
Why does that movie speak to us so deeply? Why has it lasted? Like Casablanca, its tension is wrapped up in sacrifice and rewards not yet received and results not completely recognized. To summarize, it has heaven in the background. Or, for those less spiritually-minded, the wrestling of conscience — doing what is right rather than what is desired. Though our hearts hurt at Rick or George never really getting Ilse or to travel, we admire the man who sacrifices what he loves or desires for something greater or for someone else.
But all this is just a tangent. I have no idea if Prineville is really Paul’s Bedford Falls or if it is just a town that has played its part in our lives and is best seen disappearing as we wave goodby to it.
Yet I see Paul conflicted. Looking into Anne’s eyes as he admits he’s looking in Bend for rentals. And revealing the walks around Bend hoping Elsa will recognize there’s more to life than sports in Prineville.
Prineville is often said with a long exhale of exasperation. The idea of going back brings a look of frustration, of bitter acceptance, of disappointed resignation.
Though I can so romantically tie his struggle to George Bailey, I wonder if it is unwise or perhaps even manipulative. Perhaps I want to go to Prineville — back to what is comfortable, back to what I know, back to what I can control.
I try to stay out of it, though, because if I’m home, I’ll be happy.
As for Paul, there are times to play the martyr and there are times to move beyond that. Perhaps this is the time to move beyond.
We just watched Secretariat. Had Penny Chennery played the martyr, Secretariat may have never run his race.
You can argue almost anything you want any which way. Especially me. My mother told me I needed to become a lawyer all my life.
It is man’s lot to seek his destiny. And God’s prerogative to thwart and help plans and weigh the motives of the heart.
As for Paul, I pray for him. I pray that whatever decision he makes, it be made without allegiance to fear. That if he goes where he does not want to, it be due to a great love. And if he chooses to live where he’s always wanted to live, it be because of bravery and choosing to run his race.
And no matter where we end up, that we run the Great Race with a Secretariat-sized heart, unafraid, and without regrets.