I'm a big movie buff and an even bigger music fan. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become especially interested in Folk/Americana music. That being said, I watched a wonderful movie last night on the early life of Woody Guthrie, called Bound for Glory (released in 1976). For those not familiar with his life, Woody grew up and spent the early part of his adult life in the "dust bowl" in Oklahoma and Texas. I won't go into too much detail, but during the Great Depression in the 30's he left Texas and hopped on a freight train headed to California with other migrant workers looking for work, along the way he found his voice as a songwriter and become an advocate for the poor working class, of which he was a part.
I was really impressed by how, once he began to gain notoriety as a musician, he stuck by his principles and refused to give in to those, including his own wife, who wanted him to tone down his message in order to make him more marketable to the general public. This ultimately cost him a regular, good paying job at a time when jobs were very hard to come by. He could have become a very rich man, but instead stayed true to his convictions and continued to speak out against the oppressive land owners and others that took advantage of the migrant workers by grossly underpaying them. He continually risked his own life to help them unionize and to provide them hope by being their voice when they had none.
As all of us born under the curse, however, he wasn't a perfect man by any means. In addition to numerous affairs, he would often take off for weeks or months at time to "ride the rails" and connect with those he was an advocate for, abandoning his wife and kids without notice and leaving them with no means of financial support.
Still, I understand the tension that he felt between pursuing his passion and being the husband, father, and provider for his family that he should have been. As the movie portrays, this was something he wrestled with as well, ultimately choosing, however, to go his own way. I found myself rooting for him to find a way to strike that balance that we all strive for, but he never could.
Despite his flaws, he did provide a voice of hope to many and was an agent of change for the oppressed in his time. It’s amazing how God uses flawed people to accomplish His purposes. (I always think of King David from the Old Testament. Talk about a flawed individual (adultery, murder, etc.) and look how he was used by God.) The movie reminded me of how easy it is to just give in and go with the flow and how difficult it can be to stand up for what you believe in and fight injustice. I pray that God would grant me the strength to do the latter, but also give me the ability to be the husband and father that He has called me to be and that I desire to be.
This journey we’re on is seldom easy. But the struggle is often what makes us better people and what God uses to help us grow. When our focus is outside of ourselves, that’s when we truly find our voice.