JAN 24, 2019 Devotional: “Life, Death, and Getting Clean In-between”

In our new-age of “on demand” television, I’m becoming more and more of a binge watcher for programs that strike a chord with me.  Such is the case with a new series I’ve been watching called “The Cleaner”.  This show aired on the A&E network for two seasons (2008-2009) and now can be viewed on Amazon Prime.  My wife and I finished up season 1 last week, and we’re already four episodes into season 2.  It’s becoming our routine before heading to bed for the night.

The star of the show is Benjamin Bratt who portrays the character, William Banks.  Banks’ character is based on real-life person, Warren Boyd.  Both Boyd, and “Banks” are recovering addicts, mainly drugs and alcohol.  Banks makes a deal with God as his daughter in born and his life is a rapid, downward spiral of heroin and other drugs.  He tells God that he will commit his life to getting others “clean” if God would help him beat his drug addiction.  God does….and now Banks is working through his side of the deal.

Now whether or not you believe this type of conversation can or does happen between God and us is another question.  As for me, I’m absolutely convinced conversations like this occur….and more often than we understand.  Part of God taking us “as we are” means he also connects with us in a myriad of different ways too.

Banks, himself, admits that he has an interesting way of communicating with God.  “I don’t pray, all right?  I talk….”.  His elder son early in season 1 accuses Banks of being a little crazy as he appears to be talking to himself.  One of the other story lines is the relationship between Banks and his son….very rocky at first, but evolves in season 1 and carries over into season 2.

With each episode, Banks and his team of ex-junkies are faced with the addictions of many.  There’s the cop who stays high so he won’t feel the pain of shooting an innocent victim, a dad who’s so enslaved to alcohol that he asks his daughter to pour his drinks for him, and the prodigal daughter who sells her body to pay for her drug habits all the while her twin sister, also a junkie, masks as “at least I’m not as bad as her…”.

The monologues that represent Banks’ conversations with God are most poignant to me.  Sometimes, they’re accusatory.  Other times, very questioning.  Often times, retrospective.  Upon the death of Banks’ dad’s best friend, the interventionist says to God:

“You make birth.  You make death.  And you ask us to hang out in between and figure out the rest.

Very telling, right?  I mean, is Banks suggesting that God leaves us alone during the long stretch between life and death?  Probably not…but I think what he’s revealing is that God expects us to take some responsibilities of how we’re living our lives, and the consequences there-in.  I think that’s what’s called “free will….”.

At best, I believe a review of The Cleaner series in Christianity Today magazine sums it up quite well:

“Of course, the messy work of addiction recovery is smoothed over for TV audiences; each junkie-of-the-week story-line is wrapped up in an hour.  But all along, we see the complicated nature of Banks’ journey, living with the consequences of his past while slogging through the full, complex cycle of rebirth.  All of us have hit a point where we have recognized our sin, cried out to God, repented, been made new, and shared what we’ve found with others.  And, in that sense, we are all cleaners….”

Here’s to the messiness in our lives….and our efforts to clean them all up.

Amen.

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