“I believe in America.” These words begin a 175-minute saga that is considered one of the greatest movies ever produced. Amerigo Bonasera was a Sicilian-American and the proprietor of a funeral home in Little Italy besides being an acquaintance of Vito Corleone, whose wife Carmela was the godmother of Amerigo’s only child, Maria. Despite this bond, the mortician decided to keep some distance from the Godfather for fear that a Mafia connection would be detrimental to his business. Things suddenly changed when Maria was brutally assaulted and nearly raped by two young men. They were subsequently released on a suspended sentence due to their family connections, which enraged the grieving father, thereby leading to the famous quote, “for justice, we must go to Don Corleone.” Marlon Brandon’s character took a dim view of the request to murder the two young men in retaliation, given that Maria was alive, and in his value system, this was not considered justice. Yet the Godfather’s real “beef” was highlighted in the comments that followed. “Bonasera, Bonasera, what have I done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you’d come to me in friendship, this scum who ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day. And, if by some chance, an honest man like yourself made enemies, they would become my enemies. And then, they will fear you.” He acquiesced, kissed the benefactor’s hand, got “justice” and thus became indebted to the Mafia for life.
Ted Griffith, Jr. was quite the character. A talented movie horse trainer and trick rider, he became well-known for simultaneously riding his two mares, Black and Blue, straddling them while planting each foot on the rump of the animals. This dangerous practice dates back to the days of the Roman empire, when races were held at the coliseum in this unique fashion. “Roman riding,” as it was aptly called, became the gold standard of the symbiotic relationship between man and animal. In the case of Mr. Griffith, his mares were a matched set who were together all their lives, which led to them becoming Ted’s caretakers since they “understood” that their job was to keep the rider safe. This sporting event became popular in Rome for the opposite reason; part of the excitement of being present at the arena was to witness the horses fight for position, create contact, have the rider dislodged and watch as he was trampled to death.
Unlike Ted, I was a “one-trick pony” most of my life. As a young man, I took off on a wild ride of debauchery, deceit and dishonesty that continued into middle age, as my mount took me through valleys and hills of danger and deception. I rode him hard, day and night, for a very long time until we both ended up totally spent, then settled into a funk and rode off into the sunset. But God had other plans, and after accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, He bestowed upon me a brand new stallion named Spirit who became my helper and traveling companion. But again, old habits die hard, and instead of giving my original horse a proper burial, I decided to take up “Roman riding” and straddle Spirit along with the horse of the flesh. However, unlike the mares Black and Blue who worked in sync with their rider, these two are complete opposites who will not be tamed and always gallop in separate directions; one cannot ride both the flesh and the Spirit simultaneously. Nowadays, Spirit has taken precedence and my life has real purpose and meaning……..yet, the other mount remains in the barn always ready for one last ride. The Apostle Paul succinctly tackled my dilemma when he stated, “for I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Hopefully, with the help of Spirit, I will be able to keep the other one in the barn until He takes me Home.
Indebted to the Father
Let’s not forget our friend Bonasera. It seems like Amerigo looked for justice in all the wrong places. As a Sicilian immigrant, he was well acquainted with the “the law of the land” back home, but now as an American he trusted the justice system here, naively believing that things would be different in this country. And then he sadly discovered how influence can bend the fragile backbone of the system, regardless of geography. Betrayed by the law, he sought justice from the Godfather, and unlike the cumbersome government bureaucracy, he got “prompt results” from the bad guys. He felt vindicated when the guilty were finally punished, albeit at the expense of his free will. Like the Italian character, the system betrayed me; I did not seek it, but rather it sought me, as I spent 32 years working within the U.S. Justice Department realizing that for the most part it failed to live up to its name. Then I decided to follow the one who never fails to keep his promises…..Father God. And yes, I have become indebted to Him through holy obedience, and thus have been able to experience that unique peace that knows no bounds. Peace, or for that matter justice, will not be found in a godfather…….it is only found in Father God.
Tom T. Hall wrote a famous song which lyrics included the following, “ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime, but old dogs and children and watermelon wine.” For me, it’s all about keeping the old horse in the barn, doing what He wants me to do, and for peace, “I must see Father God.”
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