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The Family Man

August 22, 2009

I just watched the movie The Family Man with my wife a little bit ago.  In this film, Jack (Nicholas Cage), an obscenely successful Wall Street arbitrage trader, Meets Cash (Don Cheadle), a thug who threatens to rob a store in which Jack is shopping on Christmas Eve late.  Turns out old Cash is not what he appears, and in response to a comment Jack makes about “having all he needs”, cash zaps Jack into a “glimpse” of the life he could have had if he’d made different decisions early on.  If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend the movie, especially if you are a family man yourself.  Ladies, you have permission to not watch it, and to not force your husbands to watch it againt their will :-).

What I found intriguing, and even touching, about this movie is the subject of this post.  The point of the movie, without spoiling the plot for those who will rush out to Blockbuster to rent it, or onto Netflix  to have it sent to you, is that fulfillment in life comes in many forms, and it may not be in the form you think.  Typical motivational movie stock, right?

This is what struck me.

I am a 1982 graduate of the United States Military Academy; I count that time as among the most formative of my life.  I have classmates who are general officers; I have classmates who are presidents of companies (all you cellphone users, my classmate Brett Commoli runs your insurance company!).  I have former roomates who are senior State Department employees.  One of my classmates is a senior vice-president for the Brazilian operation of a large US firm.

Many of my classmates would qualify as rich; many others are influential, and will be rich later in their lives.  I graduated with men and women who are doctors, lawyers, captains of finance and industry; in short, the folks I went to school with are some outstanding people!

Others of us, though, have not aspired to such lofty positions.  Some of my classmates are stay-at-home moms; some are schoolteachers.  a few are pastors.  Like me, they have chosen, or had choices placed on them by their circumstances, to be people of simpler means and simpler aspirations.  They will never own apartments in New York; they will never jet off to tahiti for a vacation.  Some won’t even be able to pay their kids’ way through college without financial aid.  They will remain solidly middle-class all their lives.

But in the final analysis, just as the characters in “The Family Man” found out, their bank balances are not the pint of this thing we expperience as life.  Those who have achieved much are to be applauded; I am proud of every one of my sister and brother classmates who has reached to heights that we could only imagine as twenty-somethings leaving the Academy.  But there are more ways to achieve success than to earn a large salary, or to command the respect of large numbers of subordinates.

My classmates who are staying at home to raise children are raising the next generation of leaders in our nation.  Those who are ministers are nurturing the souls of those placed in their care.  The corporate drones are providing the living that keeps their families going.  And they are all, hopefully, happy in their states in life.  What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his soul, the Bible asks (Mark 8:36)?  In the end, it profits one nothing.  So, while I might dream of what might have been, I have to be mighty thankful for what is:  a wife who loves me, four daughters who think I am the smartest man in the world (OK, three, but the seventeen-year-old will come around in a coule of years!), a home that’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and a job that allows me to return home each day knowing that my efforts have actually improved someone’s life.  I could be richer; I could be prettier (OK, well, maybe that’s a stretch…I look pretty good!); I could have more education or a position of more authority.  But all of those things, in my life, require some trade-offs that I am not willing to make.  I am working to be as happy in the here-and-now as our situation warrants. 

God places each of us where He wants us to prosper.  While we can force our way into other places, ultimatelym, we will only really be happy in the place God has called us to.  My place is here in Bartlett, TN, with my wife and family, working both for my company and for the Kingdom of God.  Everything that isn’t consistent with that place, with those missions, is ultimately going to make me unhappy.

Thinking about what your life could have been like “if only…”?  Take a peek at the movie.  And consider what your life is like now.  How has god gifted you?  How are you making the best of what your life is like right now?

Some of us, most maybe, are blessed beyond our wildest dreams…

If we can just see it.

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