After watching some dark series on Netflix, we recently decided to rewatch one of our favorite, uplifting movies: “Field of Dreams”. Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t watched this film, you should stop reading this and do so immediately. I do not want to ruin the movie for you. I used the movie to help students understand Abraham’s call.
Abraham’s Call and Vocation
When I taught high school students about God’s call to Abram (Abraham), I found that it was difficult for students to grasp the significance of Abram’s “yes,” the lack of support he likely received from friends and family, the risk involved in moving to a new place, and the level of trust he displayed in God. God said,
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1-2)
In an era when one did not see planes flying across the sky, leaving one’s home and going out on one’s own was a life-long decision.
Abraham continued to follow God’s call. In this way, it became his vocation.
“Field of Dreams” and Call
Although “Field of Dreams” is not a religious film, it does feature mysterious calls, responses from Ray Kinsella, and a great deal of risk for his family. The family has a farm in Iowa and Ray is a fairly new farmer. While in his cornfield one day, he hears a voice that says, “If you build it, he will come.” It takes him a while to realize that the voice wants him to plow under some of his corn and replace it with a professional-level baseball field. He thinks a player named Shoeless Joe Jackson (who is dead) will come.
Shoeless Joe does come and brings some other players from the early twentieth century. Next, Ray hears the voice say “ease his pain.” Ray and Annie attend a PTA meeting discussion about banning books. One book on the chopping block is by a fictional author, Terrence Mann. Ray figures out that he needs to drive to Boston to take Mann to Fenway Park. His wife reminds Ray that they are in danger of losing their farm because of the expenses from the field and the smaller harvest. In addition, all of the neighbors are laughing and calling him a fool for building the field. He convinces her that he needs to do this.
At the Fenway game with Mann, Ray receives another message, “Go the distance,” and sees “Moonlight Graham”on the scoreboard. Graham is a former baseball player who only played in one inning before quitting baseball. He and Mann drive to Minnesota and learn that Moonlight has become a town’s beloved Dr. Graham. They urge the doctor to accompany them to Iowa but Dr. Graham will not leave his town.
Mann and Kinsella return to Iowa. Along the way they pick up a young man named Archie Graham and later he fulfills his dream of hitting the baseball in a game.
Meanwhile, the bank is taking the farm and Annie’s brother is going nuts because Ray will not sign the paperwork. (Annie’s brother is unable to see the players at this point). Annie and Terrence Mann start saying, “People will come.” When Annie falls off the bleachers, Archie Graham leaves the baseball diamond to become Dr. Graham and save her from choking. All of the players disappear into the cornfield with Terrence Mann. In the distance is a long line of cars that are approaching the farm. These people who have heard about the players and the games, and want to enjoy a piece of the past. Clearly, the farm will still bring in income.
Then a man appears on the field and Ray realizes that it is his dad as a young man, a person with whom he never connected well. He had shared with Terrence Mann that he often did not agree to play catch with his dad when his father offered and he regretted that he had not. He invites his father to play catch.
I had not put this together before but I believe all of the messages – “if you build it, he will come;” “ease his pain”; and “go the distance” were really about Ray and his dad rebuilding their relationship.
Call and Vocation
Learning about vocation and call from the Abraham story in the Bible can be a difficult for some to grasp. For teens and many of us, biblical figures from a distant time can seem quite different than people currently alive. While many young people will think that the movie itself is old because it came out prior to their births, it is not as old as the people in the Bible.
While God did not call Abraham to plow under his field, leaving family and friends likely seemed like a foolish move to his family and friends. It was likely risky for Abraham, Sarah and their household traveling among other peoples on his way to the land God would show them. Believing that he would be the father of a nation was ridiculous as his wife was barren and old. Trust in God is what enabled him to take the several risks God asked him to take during his life. Abraham was not perfect and his trust wavered, like it does for most of us. But sure enough, he and Sarah did have a son and Abraham’s grandson had twelve sons all of whom created the people of Israel, a great nation.
Not every person feels a dramatic call, so it may be unusual that family and friends question their thinking, or one that has high risks associated with it such as losing a farm. I thought that my college degree in Theology was a risky move even though it was a good choice. Moving to the West Coast where I knew only two people there took some courage. Letting go of my PhD dream felt risky. Somehow, through, I felt a peace and trust in God that was bigger than any certainty that I could manufacture on my own.
Christians see Abraham as a model of faith. He certainly let go of his planned life direction and let God lead him.