Over the past two evenings The Wild One and I watched the classic movie A Nun’s Story starring Audrey Hepburn–first time we’d seen it. (Long movie, so we broke it into two parts watching it from our DVR.) It was about a young woman, the daughter of a famous doctor, trained as a nurse, who entered the convent with a sincere desire to serve God and care for the underprivileged. We watched as throughout the nearly three-hour-long movie she stumbles over the legalistic rules of her order that stop her from making common sense decisions for the people she is treating–epitomized by the requirement that she must leave off treatment of a patient (no matter how severe) when the bell calls her to prayer and communion. Their explanation for such requirements? “Your medical service must be secondary to your religious life.” After years of suffering from inside politics and constantly finding herself guilty of breaking one rule while trying to keep another, she finally decides to renounce her vows and is shunned by the order. The thing is, she is the one who is acting most like Jesus throughout the film. It is a classic example of people missing the point, of not seeing the forest for the trees.
It reminds me of the recent experiences of a blogger friend of mine, Heidi, who is not a nun and has nothing to do with the movie except that her tale is another example of how often we Christians miss the point, and mistake the substance for the form. I urge you to read her story in her own words here.
Both of these stories remind me of something Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matt. 23:23, NASB)