Great Expectations

Everyone has a favorite movie. Back in my hopeless “drinkin’ days,” I watched several that touched me deeply on repeat and insisted that all close friends watch them with me.

Satan rules Hollywood (2 Cor 4:4). However, if the Lord wants to reach a person, He is powerful enough to get a message through some of the least expected channels.

Circa 1999, my high school group gathered at Erin and Meghan McCracken’s place and watched Great Expectations (1998) for the first time. This film remake of the Charles Dickens classic, set between a poor fishing town on Florida’s Gulf Coast and New York City, follows the life of Ethan Hawke as amateur artist Phineas Bell. His voice-overs are especially captivating.

Through a series of early circumstances, Fin’s God-given gift lands him a privileged position serving Mrs. Dinsmoor (Anne Bancroft), the wealthiest woman in the region (Prov 18:16).

In what appears to be a relatively insignificant childhood run-in, he helps and shows compassion for hardened criminal Arthur Lustig (Robert Deniro).

Bitter for having been left at the altar years prior, Mrs. Dinsmoor has trained up and weaponized her beautiful daughter to destroy men. It’s too late for Fin, however. He has already fallen for Estella (Gwyneth Paltrow). Wielding greater confidence and status, she toys with him incessantly and plays hard to get.

Many years pass. The most notoriety Fin received from drawing was to be featured at a local Savings & Loan. Nobody cared. So he had given up on using his gift and returned to fishing.

Then one day, a suited lawyer, in from New York City, approaches the fisherman. The man says he is empowered by his “client” to make Fin’s dreams come true – to fly him to New York for an art opening at a prestigious gallery – if Fin is willing to return to using his God-given gift.

Assuming his client is Mrs. Dinsmoor and that she intends to raise his status in preparation for marrying Estella, he returns to her now dilapidated mansion. In a highly cinematic exchange, Mrs. Dinsmoor reveals, “Estella is in New York!”

Fin flies to New York, and his show sells out. Finally “worthy” of her (in the world’s eyes), finally elevated to her status and still sporting his tuxedo, he goes to her home and shouts up to the window, ‘I did it. I’m filthy rich! … Everything I do, I do it for you! …’

But Estella is not home. Inside, Anne Bancroft shares that she is up from Florida for Estella’s wedding… to another man. With tears in his eyes, Fin invites the old woman to touch his broken heart. He explains that her bitterness has not resolved anything but has only served to create a “pyramid of pain.” Suddenly awakened to the gravity of her offense, she cries out, “What have I done?! What have I done?!!”

Fin delivers yet another legendary voice-over, “The girl, the money, fame, revenge. They had been Mrs. Dinsmoor’s sick obsessions. And now they were mine.”

When the hardened criminal of years past (Robert Deniro) shows up on Fin’s doorstep and ultimately dies in his arms, he reveals that he was the “client.” He was the benefactor all along: “I did a lot of bad things in life, a lot of bad things. But the one good thing is that any money I had, I gave to you… I set you up. I sent you to New York… I bought that show. I did it all.’

Fin had been “the one person” who showed compassion to him, “who did a really good and pure thing for” him. And that is why he was rewarded. In application, people did not appreciate Fin. But the Lord appreciated Fin. The Lord rewarded Fin.

Time passes. The old woman has passed away, but the ruins of her coastal mansion remain.

Perhaps out of nostalgia, Fin returns to the mansion. He finds Estella, who likewise returned to reminisce. She is accompanied by her daughter, the spitting image of Estella at their first unforgettable childhood encounter.

In the final voice-over, looking out over the sea, gripping her hand, Fin concludes, “She did know me. And I knew her. I always had, from the first instant. And the rest of it, it didn’t matter. It was past. It was as if it had never been. There was just my memory of it.’

In application to the sometimes messy Christian walk, whether in this life or the life to come…

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”

Praise the Lord!

The Church: We Shoot Our Wounded, is now in proofreading.

Any of us could die at any moment.  CLICK HERE to find out how you can know enduring peace, God’s purpose for your life and be sure you will go to heaven when your brief time on earth is up.

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