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What’s in it For Me?

July 3, 2012

Part 2 of a series on the Field of Dreams

Check out the clip* here

*You’ll have to watch the clip, let the next one load, and watch some of that one, too.

This is a great scene. Let’s look at it with this angle: Shoeless Joe is God, Ray is us, and Terry is anyone other than ourselves.

We’ll address this scene in two parts: The Gift and What’s in it For Me?

I’ll present each section with a transcript of the scene, with some translations in italics.

Section 1. The Gift:
Shoeless Joe:
Hey, do you want to come with us? I have something special for you. Would you like it?
Ray: You mean it?
Shoeless Joe: No not you, [points to Terry] him. It’s not for you. It’s for him.
Ray: Him? Him? That guy? Seriously? You’re giving him something?
Terry: Come with you? You want to give me something special?
Ray: Him? Seriously!? Him?
Shoeless Joe: Out there. Yes, something very special. Would you like it?
Terry: What is out there? What is it?
Shoeless Joe: Come and find out. It’s good. And it’s for you. Come find out.

This is one of the coolest parts of God. He loves us and wants to shower us with gifts. Jesus tells us about the goodness of God in Luke 11:What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” God only wants what is good for us. He is not out to “get us,” but only out to get us the very best, and most of the time, he knows so much better than us what we need, what will truly bring us joy. He is offering us these good gifts all the time, we only need to say yes and accept them, even when we don’t know exactly what they will be, knowing that if God’s giving them to us, they will be good.

Section 2: What’s in it for Me?
Ray:
Wait a second! Wait a second! Why him? I built this field! You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me. well you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t- He’s getting a gift? What did he ever do for you? Look at all I’ve done!
Terry: I’m unattached, you have a family. This gift is for me and my unique situation. You can’t have it. I wouldn’t be good for you.
Ray: I know, but I want to know what’s out there. I wanna see it. I know, but I don’t care. I want it!
Shoeless Joe: But you’re not invited. But it’s not for you.
Ray: Not invited? What do you mean “not invited?” That’s my corn out there! You guys are guests in my corn! Not for me! Not for me! Alright then, even what I’ve given you, I want back!
Terry: Ray-
Ray: No, wait. I have done everything I’ve been asked to do. I didn’t understand it, but I’ve done it. And i haven’t once asked what’s in it for me.
Shoeless Joe: What are you saying, Ray?
Ray: I’m saying, what’s in it for me?
Shoeless Joe: Is that why you did this? For you? [long pause] I think you better stay here, Ray.
Ray: Why?

The prodigal son‘s older brother comes in from the fields and his name is Ray. Check it out: a man has two sons. The younger demands his inheritance early, sells everything, leaves town, and wastes it all on prostitutes and “loose living.” Broke, working for a hog farmer, and jealous of what the pigs are eating, he comes back home, repents, and is accepted by his father. He pop is so glad he’s back, he throws a huge party. The older brother, coming back from working in the fields all day, sees the party. When he finds out it’s for his brother, he turns into a world-class grump. His father comes out to talk to him. He tells his father. “Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ And [his father] said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”

The older brother/Ray/us from time to time, is pooping his diaper because he can’t understand the love of the father. Wait, your love for me isn’t based on what I do for you? Just who I am as your son?  Just like we can’t work our way into Heaven, we can’t work our way into God’s heart. We’re already loved by him. Instead of seeing Shoeless Joe’s invitation to Terry as a gift, Ray views it as a payment, a privilege given for services rendered. And Ray reveals his own dried-up, selfish heart when he admits he wants to know what’s in it for me?  He didn’t build the field because the voice asked him to. He didn’t drive to Boston and take Terry to a game because the voice asked him to. He didn’t go to Minnesota and pick up Doc Graham because he thought it was a good idea. He did it because he thought it would pay off for him in the end. 

He’s so desperate to get something out of his labor, that he wants to take anything that’s being given out, even if it’s not for him. We find him snatching at Terry’s gift, knowing that it’s not only not for him, but he can’t even take it! An invitation beyond the corn, into the unknown. Terry makes a wonderful point when he says, “I’m unattached, you have a family.” He might as well be saying, “We don’t know what’s going to happen when one of us non-ghosts goes out there. Who knows if I’ll live? If I’ll ever come back? You’ve been given the gift of a family. It’s your job to stay here to provide for and to protect them.” And Ray says, “I know, but I want to see what’s out there. I wanna see it.” It’s like he’s saying, “That’s a great point, Terry, but frankly, I don’t care. I’d rather satiate my curiosity than be prudent and think about others for a change.”

Shoeless Joe confronts him about it. Asks him point-blank. “Is that why you did this? For you?” And if we approach God is prayer honestly, he’ll sometimes slap us upside the head like that, too. And then Shoeless Joe tells Ray, “I think you better stay here, Ray.” Not so much as a correction, not so much as a punishment for his selfishness in wanting to go beyond the corn, but rather as an encouragement. Like he’s saying, “Ray, be patient. If you leave, you’ll never receive what I have in store for you.” That’s a message we need to hear, because sometimes right before the blessings rain down, it seems like all hope is lost. Like the dark before the dawn, the silence before a concert starts, the pain before a birth, all are necessary, all are little reminders that all hope is never lost, we are always just waiting for the next time our heavenly father showers his gifts on us. And that gift Ray receives? That’s the subject of my next post…

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