Friday, December 11, 2009

a face of love

Not for a long time have I been as moved by a movie as I was with "Dead Man Walking," starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. I saw it for the first time tonight; it brought me to tears and I haven't stopped thinking about it. It spoke to me.

It is the story of a man on death row, Matthew Poncelet, who reaches out to a nun, in the hopes that she'll be able to help him find a lawyer that can help to spare his life. A relationship develops between the two and she ends up being a "spiritual advisor" for him in his final days. With her guidance and love, he is in the end, able to admit - and seek redemption for - the part he played in the murders that landed him in prison, and that ultimately, led to his own execution.

When the parents of the murder victims get upset and ask the nun why she is defending Matthew, she says that she is trying to follow the example of Jesus, who said that every person is worth more than their worst act. Her devotion and willingness to see past his evil deeds really was Christ-like and it inspired me.

Throughout the movie, Matthew appears tough, unfeeling, denying all responsibility - even going so far as blaming the victims for being in the woods at that particular time. He's hateful and comes off as the monster that everyone believes him to be. But at the end of the movie, as he's facing death, his defenses start to crumble. His wall of bravado melts; he breaks down in to tears and admits his role in the teenagers' deaths and the remorse that he feels.

I think it was that death was immediately before him. I think it was coming to a place where he finally realized the impact of the choices he made. I think it was the fact that he had found a friend in Sister Helen, who sought to see the good in him despite those choices, who refused to judge him and write him off as evil and worthless. She reminded him that he was a child of God. She brought forgiveness to a person who did horrible things and to whom everyone else reacted with hate (as justified as they may have been in feeling that way).

Seeing him remorseful, trembling, and afraid made me see him as a lost, innocent, little boy. Matthew Poncelet represents us all, with the hardened, protective egos we wear. Not all of us kill, of course, but we all act in hurtful ways sometimes. None of us are perfect. I, myself, have done manipulative, dishonest things to people that I cared about. I've acted with greed and jealousy. I've been petty, sad, afraid, disrespectful. We all have. As children, we're pure and open to life - and then as we get older, yes, our bodies grow and our knowledge expands, but we're still children, really. We lose ourselves in fear-based conditioning, fear-based behavior patterns. When we act with fear and hide our true selves, resorting to things that we know are not in our - and everyone else's - highest good, we are being childish and spiritually immature.

It takes a special kind of person, with a special presence, not to react to those fearful, hateful behaviors in like manner. It takes someone who sees through the eyes of Source to see past the fear and hate being expressed, who can see the Divine taking place underneath it all. It takes a trusting, or a knowing, really, of a higher order to react to people and situations that most people would turn their backs and run from. Sister Helen demonstrated this. As did Jesus, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and countless others.

And I want to be among them.
I've come to see that I am meant to be among them.

In the final moments, as they were getting ready to take Matthew in for his lethal injection, Sister Helen said, "Look, I want the last thing you see in this world to be a face of love. So you look at me when they do this thing. You look at me. I'll be the face of love for you."

I cannot think of anything that I would rather do with my life than to be a "face of love" for someone - for everyone.

Yesterday, I read a blog post by Steve Pavlina, about discovering your life's purpose. The exercise was to take a sheet of paper, write at the top: "What is my purpose in life?" and then to answer it with whatever pops in to your mind. And you answer it as many times and as many ways as you can, until you write one down that makes you cry.

I know I am meant to offer hope. I am meant to be Love for the world - or my little pocket of it, anyway. I didn't do the written exercise, but the question has been in my mind for ages. The answer has been there all along, just waiting to be acknowledged. I am meant to give Love. The exact details, the money, the "making a living" expression of it will follow.

I've found my answer; I feel it. I've felt so lost and I don't anymore. God spoke to me through this movie and being a Source of Love is what I'm meant to do. I heard it in Sister Helen's words. I know that they were meant for me as well - because when the thought occurred to me, when I heard her words as my own...I cried.


  1. I cried when I got to the part that said you cried! I love this post, and the blessed clarity that the movie inspired in you. I haven't seen it yet, so I added it to my queue. sounds like I better keep a big ol' box o' kleenex handy ...

    Here's to giving love! A noble mission indeed.

  2. I got a copy of the book from the library and have already started it.

    I'm so glad you're gonna check it out.
    I really think you're going to like it.

    And yes, here's to giving love!