On Sunday afternoon, I saw Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler. It's the comeback story of an aging pro wrestler, Randy "The Ram" Robinson. "The Ram" is a battered, broke, lonely hero, living in a trailer park when he can pay the rent and his van when he can't. A heart attack hastens his retirement after which he tries to mend his damaged relationship with his daughter, as well as pursue a romantic relationship with his favorite stripper, Cassidy. Both of these attempts fail. Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei give stellar performances. The story is rough, harsh, abrupt, shocking...and tender. The film is a strong R, please hear that.
On Sunday evening, I saw the latest installment in the story of another wrestler. It's the won't die story of an aging megachurch pastor, Ted Haggard. He preached for years that we don't wrestle against flesh and blood, but he sure as hell wrestled with some - his own. A gay sex scandal full of drugs and deceit hastened his retirement a few years back. My gut tells me he's battered and lonely, although not-so-broke; he's not living in a trailer park or a van. The last I'd heard he'd gone through the "steps" of some accountability-group-directed-step-program and was considering days ahead as a counselor; he'd healed and was ready to move on and help others with their damage. Dear God.
The film is a fiction told to tell the truth and as such caused me to care about Randy "The Ram" Robinson. The news story appears to be a truth told to cover lies and as such elicits a radically different response in me: I don't care. The Wrestler is an honest story. The Haggard saga seems to be an ongoing exercise is managing appearances. I'd pay six bucks to see the film again. I'm fine not to ever hear another word about the other story.
As I thought about these two wrestlers, I also thought about us, and me, the other wrestlers. If we're alive, we're all in the ring to some degree. Yes, we're wrestling against principalities and powers but we're also wrestling with our own flesh and blood, ourselves. The choice I, we, have is the same choice "The Ram" and the pastor had: honesty or spin. The latter seeks a bright red bow wrapping everything up nice and tidy. The former seeks something much deeper, much more true and lasting - redemption - and trusts our landing off the top rope is ultimately in the director's infinitely tender hands.