Fences / The Movie and … Real Life

I went alone because I was compelled to watch the movie. So I bought my popcorn and small coke, found a seat in the high balcony and settled in to soak up the story of “Fences.”

This movie took place mostly in front of this two-story home, or inside of it, or in the backyard. The narrow brick house nestled between other homes appeared like any other house. But the family inside tossed words that stung and hit at the core of ugly, or how difficult life can become through choices, racial issues, and hard places in life.

Children played in the street. People went to work. Some attended church. And smoke billowed in the sky above rooftops from a factory. All seemed fine. Or more like a cloud forming, ready to burst.

Denzel Washington played Troy, a father, a man still dreaming of success in the major league baseball world, a man who was convinced he didn’t make it because he was black.

He fought with his father at a young age, ran off, became a robber, killed someone and ended up in prison for 15 years, too. After he got out, he worked hard at the sanitation plant, brought home his paycheck, raised two boys. Well, actually Rose (played by Viola Davis) raised their first son while Troy was in prison.

I was anxious watching the show, the dynamics were tense. Often the serious troubles behind the front door of this family pushed into what felt extreme, but the reality of the story resonated in a way that I don’t like to consider. But I can’t stop thinking how broken life can really be, and how serious racial issues are, even in this current day.

We often open the door to our homes and greet our neighbors with a smile. And yet, we struggle. We can get bitter, and the innings of life (like baseball) are hard to process without hope.

For we all have dreams. When we’re younger, we think anything is possible. And then life rarely plays out like the seventh inning rally in a baseball game, or like the dreams from our childhood.

This movie hit home for me. The longer I think of it, the more I applaud the acting, the topic, and the lessons to learn from it.

I have a past that has haunted me from time to time. Now it doesn’t keep me from moving ahead in today, but the what if’s of life can cause me to pause and to reflect. I get a lot wrong. I get some parts right. I have let others fence me in like a captive to the past. While others compel me onward.

To open the front door to the new day, I have to forgive myself. And I rest in knowing Christ has forgiven me. In the movie, Rose had her faith and Troy fought his inner demons. He was like a lost boy in grown up clothes beating himself up over lost chances and being the wrong color. On not having the perfect life. Or enough money.

It was one of the saddest movies I’ve ever watched. It’s sad that life is filled with sorrow beyond comprehension, which without Christ and having hope in Him, we can feel alone like Troy. He fought an ongoing battle to get up to bat in a white man’s world, and for me, the disappointment grew into bitterness, a consuming hurt that went all the way back to his disappointment in his own father.

So the lines in the movie, “Some people building fences to keep others out. Some building fences to keep others in,” resonated with my heart. We will leave behind a legacy. Some parts are not something you wish to see on a movie screen, either. Some parts are beautiful. Some hurt. Some keep others at bay. Some have let others inside our world. Some invade. Others use the gate. Some are priceless.

When Troy had his affair, when he wouldn’t let his own son have the chance to play college football, and when he asked Rose to raise the little girl from the affair, I’m reminded that life comes with consequences. And still, we find a way to survive. If we’re not careful, we’ll become bitter, too.

A lesson for me came from the baseball hanging on a the rope in the backyard, where Troy swings his bat at the allusive dream of baseball, and how he got caught in the past and missed the joy of today.

His ugly fell onto that of his family and friends, too! He ran to the bottle. To another woman. To accusing others. To distrust. (Oh, how I would love this story more if Christ had redeemed his life, instead.)

Goodness, may I forgive others who have hurt me. May I strive to open the gate to the fence of God’s opportunity. May I live with joy in Christ. May I be a light for someone who may be fighting old dreams, and a past that haunts. May I be a friend to a lonely heart along the way … and not build a fence to keep others out or to keep them inside.

May I put down the baseball bat of my past, and rise up and see the glory of Christ in this very moment! And open the gate to living!

Isaiah 43:18-19
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.”

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