I grew up watching classic movies and television. My mom and I would settle in on the couch with popcorn, ice cream, and our drinks to watch Gone With the Wind when it was on television. On the weekend while we folded laundry or did other chores, we would watch the black and white westerns on the PBS station. I knew the kind of John Wayne-type hero I wanted in my life from a very young age. I also knew the kind of heroine I admired and who I didn’t.
Whenever we watched GWTW I would cheer for Rhett Butler, the rough-around-the-edges-ladies’ man and shake my head at the mousy wimp, Ashley Wilkes. He just didn’t seem like he would ever be able to withstand the strength and power of Scarlett O’Hara. I knew I wanted someone like Rhett Butler in my life.
All these years later, I find myself thinking back to those days and I realize that although John Wayne and Clark Gable were strong men, Ashley was strong in his own way. He stood faithful to Melanie while being aggressively pursued by Scarlett. That takes a lot of willpower. His fidelity is what eventually turned off Scarlett in the very end of the story. Ashley didn’t yell or threaten or get aggressive with Scarlett, he just admitted he would be lost without his wife. He was honest, humble, and didn’t hide his weakness. In the end, he was the better man.
Lately I have watched some of the men in my life, family and friends alike, battle with situations in their lives. Some of the men have decided to try to force their position to change all on their own strength. Others have been willing to ask for help, to admit they don’t have the power and skills to go on without someone walking beside them.
I think of Jesus and how He lived with His disciples during His ministry. He could have acted on His own, but He didn’t. Jesus knew that trying to live life on His own would only go against His Heavenly Father. He knew He had to work with God, the Holy Spirit, as a part of the Trinity, to impact this world for His Father’s glory. Only with God could Jesus truly succeed.
The men, younger and older, who force things end up tired, bitter, and without hope or joy in their lives. All of their energies have been spent trying to make something happen that is not able to go forward without God in the middle of it all. Those who chose to stop, speak honestly, be humble, and ask for God’s wisdom may still battle things, but they battle with the power of God on their side.
All of my adult life I have believed that trying to go forward as an individual, who needs little to no help from others was a sign of success. Now, I see it as a sign of someone who is petrified to be told how to try something differently. Best Beloved, we always seem to look to the rugged individualist who pulls him or herself up by their own bootstraps. But Scripture is clear in Ecclesiastes there is a better way.
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
We are created to be in community, Ashley knew that. He surrounded himself with family and friends. The weathered cowboy spent his time alone in the saddle. Room for only one. I find it surprising to say, but I am going to cheer for the Ashleys of the world. They understand the way God made them.