Failure, Real Life, and Terri


In the TOTALLY under-the-radar 2011 film Terri, John C. Reilly and Jacob Wysocki play a high school guidance counselor and a troubled teen, respectively. They form an unlikely bond (sounds like a indie movie, right?) as Reilly tries to help Wysocki pull himself together. In this scene, Wysocki has confronted Reilly about a lie he's told, and this is Reilly's response:

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"Life's a mess, dude." Truer words were never spoken, until seconds later when Reilly says, "Maybe I will do better, or maybe I'll do even worse. I don't know. I screw up all the time, 'cause that's what people do."

The story Reilly tells about the secretary in his office and the temp who replaces her is a moving (in an "oh my gosh, I'm just like that" way) description of the brokenness of human life, and yet another reminder of the distinction between our insides and our outsides. We think, as Reilly's temp does, that the important thing is how we appear. We know when it's appropriate to be sad, and so we make our display. We know we're supposed to love our neighbor, so we act the part. But Reilly (and usually, the people in our lives, too) see right through us. We are significantly more transparent than we believe we are, and everyone knows, inherently, that what's most important is what's inside us.

And then Reilly admits that, ultimately, he's just like his temp. He messes up. He does his best (we all do), but he's likely to keep messing up. This is true of enlightened guidance counselor types and this is true of Christians. We screw up all the time, 'cause that's what people do (see: the Armstrong/Hamilton Conundrum). I have a good friend who once said, "People are bad, and Christians are people." Simple, yet profound.

As usual, the best news for us is the Good News, and the Good News is only good if it's true for Christians, too: "Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners'" (Mark 2:17).

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