Saturday, August 22, 2009

Grace in "The Soloist"

Last night I watched the movie "The Soloist." What an inspiring film! The movie is based on a true story of the relationship between journalist Steve Lopez (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) and brilliant, but mentally ill, homeless musician Nathaniel Ayers (played by Jamie Foxx).

The relationship between Lopez and Ayers develops into a friendship that has many ups and downs. Lopez works for the LA Times, is dissatisfied with his job and life, and is looking for a meaningful story to write about. Ayers is a musical prodigy who dropped out of Julliard after developing schizophrenia, is living on the streets of LA and playing a two-string violin.

The friendship between Lopez and Ayers transforms both of their lives, which is the inspiring part of the movie. At one point, Lopez is telling his ex-wife (who is also his editor at the Times) about how he feels about helping Ayers. He says, "I can't find the right word to describe it." She answers, "The word you're looking for is 'grace'."

Seldom have I seen the word 'grace' so accurately and beautifully portrayed. Grace is that undeserved and unexpected love and acceptance we receive in life. It can come through a relationship with another person, with nature, or with God. Theologian Paul Tillich's synonym for grace is "unconditional acceptance." He believed that grace often strikes us in the midst of life's difficulties, "when we are in great pain and restlessness."

Discovering grace is one of life's transforming moments. When grace comes, we often don't recognize it, or call it by the right name. Yet, we know it as we experience it. It is the experience of wholeness, unconditional love and overwhelming joy.

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