George was frustrated over his unrealized youthful goals which he thought would have made a world of difference. What appeared to him and a few others as commonplace and routine was just the opposite. Then Angel Clarence gives him heavenly help at the critical moment.
The connection becomes unmistakable between George Bailey and Jesus’ explanation of the last judgement in Matthew 25. We can picture George someday surely standing there among the sheep asking Jesus, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you drink? When did we welcome you away from home or clothe you in your nakedness? When did we visit you when you were ill or in prison?”
And the answer George would get hear: “I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers” — the people in Bedford Falls like Ernie the cabdriver and Burt the cop who came to the Bailey Savings and Loan; the immigrant families over whose heads you put a roof; the misguided like Violet to whom you gave a helping hand without thought of repayment; bumblers like Uncle Billy who you treated with patience and love; those ill like Zuzu who you cheered and uplifted; those whose lives you saved like Old Man Gower and you kid brother Harry; and the Bailey family that you sacrificed for — “you did it for me.”
But before that George is blessed. Clarence the angel shows him what the town would be like and how others would have suffered if he’d gotten his wish and were never born. Psalm 91 was taking over — “For to his angels he has given command over you, that they guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
That’s not all.
Decades later, Stewart recalled the moment eventually leading to the revelation. In that scene, George believes his life is a shambles, and he’s on the point of despair. Yet deep inside him there’s a spark of insistent hope.
Stewart explained that he followed the script, pleading, “God…God…dear Father in heaven…I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way.” And as he said this, Stewart said he “felt the loneliness of people who had nowhere to turn,” and his “eyes filled with tears.”
“I broke down sobbing,” he said. “This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realization that our Father in Heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears.”
The spontaneity stayed. Director Frank Capra worked hard to transform the unscripted, unrepeatable, heartfelt honesty into a telling close-up of that moment in the story.
Years later it also brought to mind how Psalm 91 ends: “He shall call upon me and I will answer him, I will be with him in distress; I will deliver him and glorify him; with length of days I will gratify him and will show him my salvation.”
Capra, the Norman Rockwell of movies, explained in detail what he had wanted to accomplish in It’s a Wonderful Life. One major goal was “to show…that each man’s life touches so many other lives.” Though in his isolation and desolation George Bailey didn’t know it, that’s exactly why the townspeople were at the very same moment praying for him.
It also reflected Capra’s major ideas and intentions in making movies.
“I will show the overcoming of doubts, the courageous renewal of faith,” he wrote in a book, “…and I will remind the little man that his mission on earth is to advance spiritually…my films must let every man, woman, and child know that God loves them, and that I love them, and that peace and salvation become a reality only when they all learn to love each other.”
The prayers of the Bedford Falls townspeople that Christmas Eve were answered. George gets the rare gift of seeing that his supposedly commonplace, routine life has truly been a wonderful life — a life that’s tremendously helped make others’ everyday, ordinary lives shine as worthwhile and wonderful too.
So, who was this Larry Johnson
- Known frequenter of donut shops
- Dachshunds fanatic
- The one who honored WWII veterans by opening their meetings with invocations he took weeks to prepare
- The one with such respect for Civil War history that he bought uniforms to re-enact Civil War battles
- And with brother Ron… Shot Stonewall Jackson (See Gods and Generals)
- The one holding the hands of parishioners as they died
- Who held babies and children as their parents were being were arrested in the middle of the night
- Who cried every time a police Officer was killed in the line of duty
- Who prepared to preach with a care and study worthy of Charles Spurgeon
- Who stared down Cancer and followed His Lord to the end
Who’s Larry Johnson?
It’s easy…sometime over this Christmas season lift a glass and give a toast…
“To Larry Johnson… The richest man in the world”