The other day I was on Facebook sending birthday wishes to a long time friend. She had written of her acceptance of aging by saying she's learned to accept her age and trusts that her life is worthy of a place in heaven when her life is through. They were lovely sentiments.
Just below my friend's post was one from an another friend, responding to her words. He said essentially "and when you arrive in heaven, He'll say 'that'll do, Sandi, that'll do".
I immediately correlated that wonderful phrase to the movie "Babe"....and damned if I didn't immediately choke up on those dozen or so words. I can't think of a better thing to hear upon arrival at those pearly gates.
Here's why. Any basically decent person hopes to live a life of worth, hopes to make the world just a little bit better, hopes to be able to express their love and appreciation for those whose lives they touch.
And yet we fail so miserably and so often that our sense of a "divine worth" is on trial every hour of every day. Anyone with a serviceable conscience is always their own worst critic and that leads to a constant "self auditing" of how you're living out your life.
Now, I'm not one of those believers in "fire and brimstone" so I would likely be excluded from a good many of the organized religions. I just cannot bring myself to believe that, without baptism, and without the formal submission to all the words in the Bible, that I'm automatically bound for hell. I believe our creator knows our heart, knows if we are sincerely trying to be good, are regretful when we fail, and judges us on "effort" as well as performance.
So, when I read that wonderful phrase .."that'll do, Sandi, that'll do", I could literally feel the warmth of a creator's love washing over me.
What contributes to the poignancy of the phrase is the backdrop of the movie; you have a pig ending up on a sheep farm with a talent for herding sheep. You have the wonderful actor, James Cromwell, playing a sheepherder, a hard taskmaster, a man not prone toward expressing affection, who, after a miraculous exhibition of animal husbandry, can manage only "that'll do pig, that'll do". The scene was so gently played out, the expression so understated that the scene is elevated to magical proportions.
How true to our own lives! From childhood we are introduced to a Bible that can elicit the sense of peace from a psalm and in another chapter, the severe punishment of a harsh God. There are pastors who will scream out the threat of fire and brimstone to keep his sheep from straying. Throughout the years the tenets of organized religions evolve; no fish on Friday's, then fish is okay...divorce is a sin, then divorce is sometimes okay...I can think of dozens of amendments to supposedly hard and firm religious doctrine.
So, many of us grow up believing in a harsh god, ready to mete out the punishment of eternal hell if, like the sheep we are, we stray from that long hard straight line. And sometimes we rebel, especially during those times when we fail, and just say 'to hell with it'...I can't reach those high standards so damned if I'll try.
Then, someone introduces the notion that humans are frail, that temptations are great, and that it is human to fail and to fail often. How comforting then it is to contemplate the image of a merciful God...a God who knows your heart, knows you have endured pain, endured failure, have been struck down in defeat, have been bloodied, but you had the good grace to get up and try again...how wonderful to hear when all your struggles come to an end..."that'll do child...that'll do".
My thanks to Sandi Williams and Alan Stachowiak for giving me the inspiration for this blog essay.