We have all heard of Kiefer Sutherland, the star of Designated Survivor, and the counter-terrorist hero Jack Bauer who fights his way through each episode of 24, saving the world.
In 2007, his name was splashed across the tabloid newspapers. The brilliant actor had been arrested on a misdemeanour drunk-driving charge. He pleaded no contest and served 48 days in jail during the Hollywood writers’ strike to everyone’s shock.
There is a fascinating interview on YouTube, as he explains why he chose to take this sentence. Acknowledging his guilt and explaining how foolish he was and what he expected by being in prison. His good intentions flowed freely; he even communicated optimism about what he would achieve while incarcerated. He would workout, become super buff and walk out of the experience looking great; that is what people do in prison, right?
The show’s host asked enthusiastically, ‘what happened?’
‘Nothing,’ he explained, ‘I failed’ He certainly did not come out ripped, and he could barely do push-ups in his cell between his bed and the toilet.
A young father explained to me recently that he feels like Sutherland through this lockdown period, describing it as a wilderness. Like many of us, he wanted to make the best of it, be creative and productive, but instead, he admitted he just “did his time.”
Maybe you feel like that through the pandemic, you have so many great ideas and good intentions. When I think of Moses, and his 40 years of wilderness experience, I imagine he felt much the same. He had already made one attempt to save his people 40 years earlier, and it was a disaster. Despite receiving all of the best training in Egypt and Pharaoh’s court, he had failed repeatedly.
Difficult times will shape our character — if we let them. It is not our outward appearance that needs shaping, but our inward character that needs the work. Often, we look back on those times of difficulty, wilderness or lockdown and realize what was achieved by God on a soul level, when we thought nothing productive was transpiring.
We can see why God put Moses into the wilderness. It was more than acquiring skills; more importantly, his character was being shaped, seen by his humble response to God’s call at the burning bush.
I heard humility in Kiefer Sutherland’s voice in that interview. Perhaps his 48 days created something far more profound than a ripped body. I am encouraged by this verse from Romans chapter five, verse four, “and endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”
Phil Collins is Pastor at Willow Park Church Kelowna.