I tend to lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to, well, basically anything that is popular at any given time. This is especially true of TV shows and movies. But, thanks to Netflix, we can now binge-watch all kinds of shows that we missed out on when they originally aired.
The hubby and I just finished watching all seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy, or SOA as many refer to it. It originally ran from 2008 – 2014. If you haven’t watched it, I won’t give away anything specific. But, I will tell you, it is a show that my hubby and I both got sucked into and ultimately really enjoyed. I think I was drawn to it because it is basically the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but with a motorcycle gang set in modern day California. (And, well, I am a theatre nerd after all—so how could I resist?)
I will also tell you it gets really bloody, and really messed up. I mean really messed up. There are quite a few scenes that are very disturbing. Plus, the basic content of the show can be considered, well, bad. To give you an idea, it is about a motorcycle club that runs guns, porn, and gets into drugs. There is lots of gruesome stuff; killing and death. There is also a lot of bad language. Basically, it is a violent show. These reasons alone are solid reasons to NOT watch it—especially if you can’t handle those sorts of things.
On the other hand, if you enjoy lots of action, a ton of twists and turns, and highly complex characters that take you on a journey and can somehow make you either relate to them or have empathy for them or both, and can handle lots of blood and gore, then look no further. Sons of Anarchy is FX’s highest rated series of all time, so that should tell you something. I think it is also important to note that Hamlet is a tragedy, and so is SOA.
So, considering it can and probably is viewed by Christians as an unsavory show (to say the least), why on earth would I be writing about it on Focus on God + Good? Well, I must be honest with you: 1) because these characters reverberate the many ways in which we are all human and hence, flawed and 2) because I think there are some valuable lessons to be gleaned from watching this show.
Without going into specifics of the show and thus spoiling it too much for you, I thought I would share with you some of the bright spots that I took away from watching it.
First, people change. This is something that we all know. What I enjoyed so much about some, but sadly not all, of the characters on SOA is we see them go from having compulsive disorders or being addicted to drugs, to being rehabilitated, vibrant people who become valuable members of the SAMCRO family. (SAMCRO stands for Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original.)
It is a beautiful thing to see people go from bad to good, lost to found, unloved to loved. It is also a great reminder that in real life, people can and do change for the better. Seeing the characters that did change for the better gives you hope that, if they can do it, so can anyone.
Second, we get to witness the major internal struggles of the main characters. While many shows on TV gloss over the internal struggles of their characters, SOA hits them head on. The conflicts that arise on SOA are many, varied, and deep. And, the variety of ways that they are written into the show lends an honesty and credibility to the show.
As you watch the characters change and grow over the course of seven seasons, you come to identify with them and their trials. The actors on SOA do an amazing job of living out their unbelievable, complicated lives. They connect their characters to real life. They make you care about them. You understand them because maybe you or someone you know has been in a similar situation. Or, you think about how you would act or react if you were in their shoes. Or, as is the case for me, you just come to the realization that life can be a very complicated and messy thing. (If we let it.)
Next, and this is my biggest take-away from SOA, is that during the course of this show, a truth that I have known for a quite a while now was substantiated time and time again. And, that truth is this: forgiveness is a powerful and blessed thing.
I think the reason this was so poignant for me was because there seemed to be very little, if any, forgiveness in SOA. There was however, loads of revenge, tit for tat. During almost every season of this show, I kept thinking to myself how much better off these characters would be if they just learned how to forgive each other and themselves. All the retribution, all the death, it clearly ate away at the core of the characters, ate away at their souls. And, the really sad part to me, was that most of it did not need to happen. (Yes, I realize that this is a TV show where, had the characters learned how to forgive, there would not have been much of a show left. But, I digress…)
I kept thinking of how much trouble they would have saved themselves, if they had just learned how to forgive. I kept thinking of how many lives that could have been saved, if they had just learned how to forgive. I kept thinking of how much sorrow they could have avoided, if they had just learned how to forgive.
Learning how to forgive and extend grace and mercy are vital to our growth as Christians. I think the sooner that we grasp this, the better. Watching this show gave me an eye-opening perspective on just how beneficial forgiveness can truly be. And, why it is so worthwhile.
We learn from reading the Bible the importance of forgiveness. Lack of forgiveness blocks access to our wonderful God. Forgiving allows you to cleanse yourself of any resentment or bitterness you have. It frees you! It is the lack of forgiveness that weighs us down and comes between us and God. Matthew 5:23-24 tells us, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the alter and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the alter. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” We can also read about forgiveness in Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18:21-25, Mark 11:25, and Psalm 103:12, among other places.
Oddly enough, while there was very little forgiveness or mercy in SOA, there was quite a bit of religious symbolism that reared its head throughout all seven seasons. Just for fun, I thought I would end this post by sharing some of the ones I came across with you.
· There are many scenes located in the chapel of the local hospital, where one main
· The grandfather of the main character, Jax Teller, was a Reverend for fourteen years.
His name is Nate Madock. My favorite line from Nate is, “God forgives everyone
sweetheart.” (Yes! He certainly does.)
· The title of season 6, episode 11 is "John 8:32" (Then you will know the truth, and the
truth will set you free.)
· In season 5, episode 10, entitled “Crucifixed” a crucifix is used as a murder weapon.
· Season 6 premiered with a young boy shooting up his Catholic school.
· In the series finale, a homeless woman, whom we have seen before in other episodes,
is found eating a loaf of bread and drinking a bottle of wine.
· And, my favorite of all—in season 7, episode 6, called “Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em”, has
the character of Juice in a convenience store looking for a specific brand of cigarettes.
The brand is called St. Dismas. Dismas was the penitent thief who was crucified at
Jesus’ right hand at Calvary.
Life is a crazy thing. Some days and seasons of our lives can feel like we are on a run-away train. Other days and seasons can be slow and rote. Good days, bad days, ups and downs. That is just life. But, the basic ins-and-outs of the everyday pressures can be mind-numbing. We can easily grow weary, tired, worn-out. Life is full of hills and valleys. The Bible tells us this, often. Most of the time we find a way to slog through and do what we feel like we must.
No matter where you are today, valley or hill, I wanted to share a little something with you. In the past, I have talked about how important it is to pray. Well, not only is it important in our spiritual walk and to our spiritual growth, it is indispensable.
As you grow, you will learn to pray more adeptly and more often. I know I have. (And, as a side note, the more time you spend with Jesus, the more time you will want to spend with Him. It truly is an amazing thing!)
And, in the vein of prayer and how critical it is, I would like to share with all of you my new basic, go-to prayer. I stumbled upon it not too long ago while I was reading a book. (And, sadly, I read so many books, I can’t even remember which one it was. But, I digress…) It is a simple prayer, but one that I now find myself praying often. And, I think it is one that each and every one of us can use and find great value in.
That simple prayer is this: Change me, Lord.
Change me, Lord. Change. Me.
So often in our lives, we pray for what we want, or how we want things to be, or how we want people to be. I think it is so easy to forget the fact that the only person we have any control over is ourselves.
And, I don’t know about you, but I want to change. I want my heart to change. I want my mind to change. I want my thinking and my way of life to change. I want my sight and my hearing to change. I want to see people the way Jesus does. I want to love people the way Jesus does. I want to be more and more like Jesus every day.
In order for this to happen, I must change. Me.
But, as I grow in my spiritual life, I have also realized that I can’t do any of this on my own. I need Jesus. I need His help in order to change. I need His strength in order to change. I need His grace in order to change. I need His mercy in order to change. I simply just need Him. And, I need Him more and more each day.
Now, this is not to say that I don’t pray for other people, things, events, or outcomes. I most certainly do. However, with this simple prayer I have learned to look at everything I pray for with fresh eyes and a new perspective. I believe that everything and everyone we pray for is an opportunity for us to grow. I can’t change a person or a situation, but I can change how I see them or it. I can ask God to change me and my heart and how I see things. I can also ask God to change the hearts of others. He can do these things. He has done these things. I have seen Him in action. It is wondrous to behold!
When we pray, we change.
Why? Because we are talking to God; communicating with Him. We are seeking more time with Him, and spending more time with Him. And, when we spend time with God, the person who loves and cares about us the most, we change.
You know it’s true. Just think about it; you are the company you keep. There is an old Japanese proverb that says, “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” That speaks volumes, doesn’t it? That is why it is necessary for us to spend time with God each and every day. (Not just on Sunday mornings.) And, not only should we be spending time with God every day, we should be spending GOOD, QUALITY time with God every day.
This is how we change.
And, the first step is as easy as saying one simple prayer: Change me, Lord.
Have you ever been at a point in your life where you realized that you needed to make some changes? Maybe you have some health issues you need to address. Maybe your finances are starting to get out of whack. Maybe there are some friendships you want to work on. Maybe you just need to take care of yourself a little better. There are many areas in our lives where we should get serious about making good and lasting changes. The benefits we can reap are tremendous, if we are willing to put in the work.
Eating nutritious food and starting an exercise program will give you better health. Creating a budget, spending your money wisely, and saving some cash each month will help give you peace of mind about your finances. Spending quality time with your friends and loved ones gives you much needed social and emotional support. Taking time out each week to do something that you enjoy allows you to rejuvenate and relax. By making these types of changes, you can make your life better and more enjoyable.
To make any real and lasting changes in our lives, we have got to be deliberate and sincere in wanting to make those changes. We can’t be wishy-washy. We can’t be double-minded or go back and forth. We have to REALLY want it and be intentional about making the changes we need. However, in order to make these changes, YOU have to be the one decide to do them. YOU are the one taking action here. Only you can make the decision to change your life for the better. No one else can do it for you. You are the responsible party and you are responsible to and for yourself.
As I have been growing in my relationship with God and wanting to make better, more responsible life choices, something has occurred to me. No matter what other areas of my life I need to work on, there is one specific area that I should be devoting most of my attention to: my relationship with God.
I truly believe that once we get serious about our relationship with Christ, He will give us the help, strength, guidance, and wisdom we need to make better life decisions in every other area of our lives. With His help, we can get serious about making significant changes elsewhere. God wants us to live lives of abundance and happiness. (See Psalm 37:3-4, Psalm 126:2, Luke 6:21, and John 10:10)
So, if you seriously want to get healthy and lose weight, get serious about God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
If you seriously want to get your finances in good order, get serious about God. Luke 14:28 tells us, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
If you want to seriously nurture and grow your relationships, get serious about God. Ephesians 4:2-3 tells us, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
If you are serious about living a better, joy-filled life, get serious about God. Psalm 89:15-16 tells us, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness.”
So, are you serious about making changes for the better? I hope so! The first step is to get serious about God. I will leave you with one last bible verse. This one connects the dots to all the others I mention above. Matthew 6:33 tells us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”
I walked into work this morning and my co-worker asked me if I had heard about Anthony Bourdain. I had not. But, by now, thanks to the world we live in, where information is shared in a split second thanks to social media, I am sure we have all heard this sad news. Death by suicide. It comes in the same week that we lost Kate Spade. Also, death by suicide. My heart just aches for them, their families, friends, loved ones, and everyone who knew and loved them.
These two famous deaths this week have brought suicide to the forefront. #SuicidePrevention, #YouMatter, and #SuicideAwareness are all trending on social media right now. As they should be. I can only hope and pray that anyone who is in such a dark place will find the help and hope that they need. Actually, that is why I am writing this post.
I think back to other famous people we have lost to suicide. People I like and respected. (Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, and Chris Cornell to name a few.) I think of friends who have lost family members to suicide. I also think of people that I know personally who have taken their own lives. (Or, I guess I should say people I have known.) I have seen how devastating their actions have been on the people they leave behind. Honestly, just thinking about all this right now is making me cry.
I understand how easy it can be to let things in your life get you down. It is easy to let things fester in your mind and only focus on the bad things. It can become a slippery slope. It can be easy to just sink further and further down into that nasty pit. And, as I have said before, in a post just a few weeks ago, that is exactly where the devil wants us.
But, I am here to tell you something: Do NOT Give up Hope. You ARE loved and Beloved by God. He created you for a purpose and He loves you like no one else ever can or ever will.
You may be thinking that only a miracle can help you, only a miracle can save you. Guess what? You have that miracle. It was given to you as a gift approximately 2,000 years ago, when Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins. Then, when He rose on the third day, He became our miracle, YOUR miracle. (And, I can’t help but think about that 80’s song from Mike & The Mechanics, “All I Need Is A Miracle” – the lyrics go, “All I need is a miracle, all I need is you.” Listening to this song I realize that all we need is God and He IS our miracle and He is ALL we need. My little Musical Hide and Seek with God game has come in handy yet again! lol)
If you are in that abhorrent pit of despair and you feel like you are all alone, please, please, please reach out to God and receive your miracle. He is waiting for you and He longs to give it to you. He has already paid the ultimate price for you. His deepest and greatest desire is to grab you by your hand and lift you up out of that horrendous pit.
Once He has you in His hands, and you put your faith and trust in Him, you can be assured that He will be with you forever. He will take loving care of you. He will be your shelter. He will be your light in the darkness. He will give you everything that you will ever need. You will become His child and He will be your father. Please, I am begging you, reach your hand out to Him. Let Him be your miracle.
I want to leave you with some Bible verses that illustrate the points I make above. Take some time to sit and read them and soak them in. These are words that were written specifically for you. For. You. Hide them in your heart. Take Jesus in your heart and hide Him there too. Then, allow Him to do His work. Pretty soon you will want to let Him shine brightly through you for all the world to see. He is pretty amazing like that!
Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
John 3:16-17 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 15:13-14 – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Matthew 28:20 – Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Psalm 23:4 – Even thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Zephaniah 3:17 – The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by this love; he will exult you with loud singing.
Joshua 1:5 – No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Deuteronomy 33:27 – The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and He drove out the enemy from before you, and said, “Destroy!”
Isaiah 25:4 – For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall.
Deuteronomy 3:22 – Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.
Lamentations 3:25 – The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the ones who seek him.
John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light and any good thing that I come across.