A Life Worth Living
Million Dollar Baby tells a story of a young woman, Maggie Fitzgerald, who grew up knowing one thing: she was trash. Her brother is in prison, her sister cheats on welfare by pretending one of her babies is still alive, her father is dead, and her mother is a selfish person who does not care about her. Having been waitressing since she was 13, she eventually sees boxing as the one way she can escape waitressing for the rest of her life.
Maggie has never had much, but there is one thing she does have that very few people in this world ever do: she knows what she wants and she is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Frankie Dunn, the gym’s owner, has to tell Maggie the blunt hard truth: at the age of 32 she is too old and he does not train girls. But unwilling to give up on her life’s ambition, Maggie wears herself to the bone at the gym every day. Finally won over by Maggie’s sheer determination, Frankie agrees to take her on. With unshakable focus and a tremendous force of will, Maggie wins fight after fight. But more than anything, what she needs is someone to believe in her. “I got nobody but you, Frankie,” Maggie says. The bond has grown strong, and he has been like her own father. And that power of belief carries her from her first fight to the fight for the world championship title—a fight that proves to be her last.
She breaks her neck during that last fight. Suddenly her life takes a cruel twist. She is now paralyzed from the neck down and needs a respirator to aid her breathing. She wishes to die. She asks Frankie to help her in dying, but he refuses. In a desperate attempt to bleed to death, she bites her tongue. The nurses are able to save her. But finally, after some struggle in thought, Frankie agrees to grant her wish.
When I watched this movie, I was emotionally drawn into it such that I could not accept the twist in the plot. The ending was utterly painful. But a movie that makes us think, I think is a good movie.
There is something we can think about on why Maggie chose to end her life the way she did. The way she saw life had influenced her actions. She had placed her life’s meaning on the path she had chosen to take, and when life took another path she had never chosen, life was no longer meaningful for her. She had chosen boxing as the path to a meaningful life, and when she found that the path had gone, she had nothing to live for. The life she had before she took boxing as her life’s path was miserable. The life after she took boxing thus far had been meaningful for her, and now when paralysis came and took her right to live, she was unwilling to lose it. The only way she thought she could keep her right to live is to die.
What happened with Maggie I think was a misplaced meaning of life—a futile effort to relate life’s meaning with things in life. For Maggie, it was boxing. For other people, it could be jobs, family, friends, study, or looks. But life’s meaning is not to be found in those things. Those things cannot contain it. They are just things in life. Our life is eternal. Those things are not. Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Our life’s meaning is to be found in Him, or rather, He gave us meaning when He found us. In fact, He is the Logos. He is the Meaning Himself. We are not to seek meaning in things. There is no need to do so. Why search for meaning if Meaning has already found us?
There is a strong link between life’s meaning and life’s purpose. It is true that very few people know their purpose in life. In this regard, Maggie was quite exceptional. She knew her purpose in life, and with sheer determination she fought hard for that purpose. It is hard to be determined if we do not know our purpose in life. Those who do not know their life’s purpose would live reluctantly. Their life is void of vigour. They become apathetic. They ‘just’ live. Unfortunately some of us are like that. Oftentimes we ‘just’ live, with no determination whatsoever. And this is because we fail to see our life’s purpose. The Westminster Catechism writes, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” We need to be constantly reminded of this. Paul writes, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” (1 Cor 10:31) and “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Col 3:23). We need to be determined of doing one thing: to glorify God.
In the movie, Maggie found someone who can believe in her, in the figure of Frankie. She was able to give her all in every fight, despite broken noses, battered jaws, swollen eyes, and ghastly cuts, knowing that Frankie was always there. Sometimes we feel lonely and unworthy, as people fail to see the significance of the things we do. But when people do not care about us, we need not be discouraged. Our Lord always cares. Small things which may not matter to men, matter in His eyes. Knowing this, we can run not like a man running aimlessly, or fight not like a man beating the air, but we can run and fight in such a way as to get the prize, and enjoy God forever.
A life worth living is a life by faith. The movie Million Dollar Baby has made me think if God were to put me in the same hardship as He did Maggie, would I respond as He would like me to respond? Is your life and my life a life worth living?
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- April 4, 2005 / 03:13
- Christian living