Near the end of Little Big Man, the 1970 film with Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, and Chief Dan George, the aged medicine man—who has survived the massacre at Wounded Knee and seen victory at the Battle of Little Big Horn—prepares to die. On a high, lonely mountain he sings and dances before the god he calls “Grandfather” and he cries out this prayer:
It is a good day to die! Thank you for making me a Human Being! [as the Cheyenne called themselves]
Thank you for helpin’ me to become a warrior!
Thank you for my victories—
and for my defeats!
Thank you for my vision—
and the blindness in which I saw further!
You make all things and direct them in their ways, O Grandfather….
When you listen to Old Lodge Skins give thanks for defeat, knowing how brutal and treacherous that defeat was; when you hear his thanks for blindness at the hands of the enemy; it’s startling. But your outrage dissolves, with his, in trust in divine providence.
It’s too bad the movie sums up Christianity in the person of a pious but hypocritical, sexually frustrated woman (Dunaway) who has nothing of spiritual value to offer and is only (somewhat) likable when she turns to prostitution. Because the truth is, the spirit of thanksgiving and the trust in God’s loving plan shown by Old Lodge Skins are central to the Christian faith. And forgiving the unspeakable violence and betrayal pictured in the film is possible only by the grace of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s death on the Cross.
Today, let’s learn a lesson from Old Lodge Skins. Set aside your grievances, forgive those who have done you wrong, and above all, in whatever circumstances you find yourself, give thanks.
You might meditate on Scripture to bring the lesson home further and to give you strength and help if you need it. The Old Testament story of Joseph and the brothers who betrayed him (Genesis 37-50) is a rich source of food for meditation, ending with this profound truth:
As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)
St. Paul has much of comfort to say on the subject, including these words:
See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18)
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7)
Blessings on you as you “come into the Word”! And as you meditate on his truth, “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13).
© 2019 Sarah Christmyer
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The Scripture in this post is taken from the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE). The Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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