Sometimes there is a man for his time and place. An unlikely hero charged with settling the moral order straight. Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, who’s only ID is a Ralph’s supermarket card and who spends his time with Vietnam Veteran and personal security specialist Walter Sobchak, is that man in the Coen brothers film The Big Lebowski. The Dude has his rug stolen in a case of mistaken identity. The other Jeffrey Lebowski, the wealthy, entitled, rigid and rational one, was the intended victim. The entire movie is about The Dude trying to get his rug back. It really tied the room together.
The dude…his dudeness… el duderino…if you're not into the whole brevity thing, is an aging hippy antihero who changed my life.
I grew up on Walter Sobchak Christianity. Walter Sobchak does not roll(bowl) on Shabbos. He doesn’t work, he doesn’t drive a car, he doesn’t handle money, he doesn’t turn on the oven, and he for sure doesn’t roll. Saturday, Shabbos, is the Jewish day of rest and Walter takes the rules of his faith as a line in the sand that shall not be crossed. During a league bowling game Walter pulls a gun out on an opponent because his foot may have slipped over the line. He then states, “This is not ‘nam...there are rules.”
Walter represents the faith of my past. Rigid, obsessed with rules and quick to name wrongs. The faith that proclaimed that Jesus died so we would avoid punishment.
The Dude is different. He is unfailingly kind and adaptable. He’s beaten by thugs on two occasions, verbally assaulted by the real Big Lebowski, attacked by marmot wielding nihilists in his own bathtub, menaced by a Corvette owner with a crowbar, involved in three car accidents, doped into a stupor by a laced White Russian, hit in the head by a Malibu police chiefs coffee mug, and thrown out of a taxicab for protesting the playing of the Eagles. Still, he keeps his peaceful easy feeling and seeks restoration over retribution, tranquility over anger, presence over self-centeredness and love over hate. The Dude abides, loving his neighbor as himself.
The Dude represents the faith I have found. The faith where Jesus died for us because he loves us, and allows us to be present in that love every moment so that we may show it to others. The Dude loves Walter, even though he is somewhat of a maniac. The Dude is the man for his place and time and he is the man for me.
At some point, most of us find ourselves in a valley of the faith we’ve grown up with , or without, and the faith we see God calling us to. We must embrace both, because Christianity is big, beautiful and full of diversity.
Though they find themselves on different sides of the valley, The Dude and Walter are best of friends. I don’t relate totally with the faith of my youth, but I need it. Like The Dude, I am still best friends with Walter. My faith has become like a well made White Russian: A lot of The Dude (vodka) a touch of Walter (Kaluha) mixed together by the Holy Spirit (creamer).
I need to remain in the tension of my valley of faith; between what I practiced in my youth and what I practice now...it really ties my life together.
Breakfast for dinner! When you’re in the valley you look back on your faith, your day and your life. You look to where is started and use that to inform the future. So let’s eat for dinner what we normally eat for breakfast! Serve up some cereal, bacon or pancakes and enjoy.
I love vinyl records and make a record cleaner (instagram.com/rockettsrecordcleaner) so I would have to encourage you to listen to an entire album and not just one song. Like the journey of our faith an album often brings us on a journey with many valleys.
I recommend Joan Shelley’s album, “Over and Even.” As you listen to the whole album pay special attention to “Not Over By Half.” It’s beautiful.
The Serenity Prayer:
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Abide. Be present. Reflect on the past and imagine the future.
Paint your valley for those you are with. Look at your past. What did your faith look like?
Look at your present. What does it look like now?
Look to the future. How is your faith being challenged?
Be open, vulnerable and understanding with your group.