Monday, March 14, 2011

Get Low

Get Low is an example of my favorite kind of movie - an intelligent, compelling story about relationships and redemption with fine acting and interesting cinematography. It doesn't have to be a big-budget blockbuster for me. In fact, that kind of movie seems to always disappoint and I want my money back. But I love these independent films that connect with the heart and illustrate eternal themes.

Get Low is set in the rural South in the 1930s. Robert Duvall plays Felix Bush, a hermit who has kept a painful secret for over 40 years. Based on a legend about a real-life guy who lived in Tennessee, the movie starts off with a flashback to a burning house and a man leaping out of an upstairs window and running away. Not until the last few minutes does the viewer find out what that was all about. Along the way is subtle humor, hints of Bush's secret past and lost love, and excellent performances by Duvall and Lucas Black, who plays the assistant undertaker to Bill Murray's Frank Quinn, owner of the town's funeral parlor.

Early on, Bush visits a local preacher and tells him he (Bush) needs to "get low." The rest of the movie makes clear what that expression means. To "get low" means to repent, to come clean, to admit one's failings. It's what the apostle James exhorts us to do:
"Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:8-10, NIV).
For four decades Bush has tried to suppress the awareness of his sin and its consequences. His guilty conscience has driven him away from people to a place of isolation, bitterness, and paranoia. That's what sin does to us when ignored. It won't just go away. Instead, like a cancer sin eats away at us, destroying not only our own peace of mind but our intimacy with others. Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy" (NIV).

In other words, the way up is down. The way to experience healing and restoration is to "get low," to be honest about our offenses and rest in the righteousness of Christ instead of a facade of self-righteousness.

Job knew this. His final words to his three friends were, "If I have concealed my sin as men do, by hiding my guilt in my heart because I so feared the crowd and so dreaded the contempt of the clans that I kept silent and would not go outside...then let briers come up instead of wheat and weeds instead of barley" (Job 31:33-40, NIV).

To get low, however, requires a death - a death to the idols of reputation, approval, success and security. (That's why in this movie, Felix Bush arranges to make his confession at his own funeral party.) And to die to one's idols appears so costly that few of us live with complete honesty. About leaders Dan Allender writes,
"Most leaders avoid naming their failures due to fear.... If a leader were to openly acknowledge that he is frequently mistaken, that he is deeply flawed, and that he will continue to miss the mark on occasion, the ramifications could be disastrous. A leader with that much candor could lose the confidence of his staff, his clients could take their business elsewhere, and his board could fire him. At least those are the fears that keep us silent. But what actually does happen when we overcome this fear and come clean about our personal flaws?...Paradoxically, when we muster the courage to name our fears, we gain greater confidence and far greater trust from others." (Leading with a Limp, Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2006, pg. 5)
Sure enough, when Felix Bush finally "gets low," there is redemption, restoration of relationships, and resurrection.

Because of the cross and God's unconditional love, we have no reason not to get low. We are safe because of Jesus. Even if people reject us for our confession, the one Person in the universe who really matters has said he will never leave us or forsake us. God accepts us - not because we have a perfect record, but because Jesus kept a perfect record for us and died for our offenses. We think we will save ourselves heartache by keeping our secrets to ourselves. In reality, the truth will set us free.

Very good movie. Thanks, Hollywood.