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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Never Too Late to Try

My wife and I recently watched the movie Danny Collins. It's about an aging pop star (Al
Al Pacino in "Danny Collins" 
Pacino) who was hugely talented as a young man, but chose money over art. He made a fortune singing the most shallow brand of pop tunes. He lived the life of a rock star -- booze, cocaine, women -- and now well into his 60s, it's starting to catch up with him. 

One day, Danny's manager (Christopher Plummer) brings him a letter, written to Danny by John Lennon forty years earlier. Danny never got it. His agent intercepted it and sold it. In the letter Lennon tells him how talented he is, and that he should follow his music. 

In a moment, Danny realizes that he's wasted his life. He wonders how his life would have been different if he'd got that letter when it was first sent. 

But he makes some changes. He cancels the rest of his tour. He moves into a hotel near his hometown in New Jersey. And he tries to make amends with the son he fathered on a one-night stand with a young groupie, but has never known. 

It's a story about how it's never too late to change. It's a story about the possibility of redemption. 

What I liked about it, though, is how believable the story is. The letter from John Lennon motivated him -- but it didn't magically transform him into a totally different person. He didn't suddenly become a saint. Change comes hard. He continues to hurt people and let them down. 

But he perseveres. The movie closes on a question mark -- but it's a beautiful question mark, opening onto an unknown but hopeful future. 

It made me think of my life (I'm 62) and, of course, the church. (Everything makes me think of the church these days.) It made me think of all the times I've thought it was too late to change, too late to start something new, too late to try to undo old mistakes. 

It made me think of all the times I've believed that about churches -- and the churches I know have believed that about themselves. It's hopeless. We're too old, too few, too far gone. And when that's the story we believe, it's hard to see moments of grace when they come to us. 

Danny Collins reminded me, that, while we can't turn back the clock, it's never too late to try to fashion a different tomorrow. 

Recently, I've been involved in a couple of church situations that I really thought were hopeless. "These people will never make it," I thought. And then, unexpectedly, there was, if not a transformational breakthrough, at least a cause for hope. 

We are where we are. And where we are is where God comes to us, and calls to us, and can use us if we are available. The God of the Bible is always at work creating a new and unexpected future. We are never past the point when we can do something to get on board with that future.