Schindler's List of Dreams and Tears

Schinder's List is one of those films that I like to watch at least once or twice a year. Steven Spielberg's monumental film about unlikely Holocaust hero Oskar Schindler, is a cinematic triumph. It is hard not to be moved by the film's authenticity in telling the story of the world's most awful genocide in history. I am not immune.

I have seen the film countless times and I always cry at the same place, near the end. Schindler, brilliantly portrayed by Liam Neeson, is forced to go into exile when WWII ends, an unfair reward for the 1,200 Jews he had saved from certain death. The rescued Schindler Jews honor him with a hand-crafted ring expressing their gratitude to Herr Direktor. At this point, Schindler breaks down in tears saying, "I could have gotten more." That is always the place where I lose it.

Every. Single. Time.

There is a familiar story of a man who came upon scores of starfish who lay dying on the beach. One by one, he starts throwing them back into the water. Someone sees what he is doing and says, "You will never help them all." The man picks up another and before tossing it back into the water he looks and says, " I helped that one."

My friend Johnny Rumbough used to always say, "Everybody can't do everything, but everybody can do something!" As a pastor for 30 years, I always felt like Schindler. I could have done more. I could have won more souls to Christ. I could have cared more. I could have loved more. I could have helped more. I could have visited more. I could have called more.

Could have, should have. Four words that crush Christians, especially pastors. That scene always makes me cry. Because of God's grace, I have let myself off the hook from the could'ves and should'ves, but every now and then I still wonder if I am doing enough and making enough of a difference.

There is another film that brings me to tears every time I watch it, Field of Dreams. The entire story told in this film touches many people who need healing from mistakes of the past, and it builds up to one of the final scenes. Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, had unresolved issues with his father, John, played by Dwier Brown. Ray regretted his rebellion against his father when he was young and idealistic. John died before Ray had a chance to make things right with him. The entire film is the journey of healing for Ray and his father.

In the film's apex, Ray looks over to the ghost catcher and realizes it is his father, John, as a young man. The two of them share some small talk that becomes cosmic questions about heaven and the afterlife. As John turns to leave, Ray calls out, "Hey...Dad? You wanna have a catch?" Ironically, the "Dad" was added in post production and was not part of the original script.

And yet, every time Ray says, "Dad." I lose it.

Every/ Single. Time.

I had an estranged relationship with my father that went unresolved because of his untimely death in 1992. What I wouldn't give for a chance to start over with him and even toss a baseball together. We never did that. I would love to talk to him about cosmic topics like God and heaven. We never got to do that either.

Alas, life is not Field of Dreams, and that will not happen for me. The best I can offer my father and myself is forgiveness. Being a father helped me to achieve that with him posthumously. Being a child of unlimited grace helped me with the latter.

I don't cry easily. Not anymore. Yet I always manage that emotional release during these two films. The stories prick my heart and touch my soul.

Every. Single. Time.


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