Lessons from Elwood and Harvey

Let me tell you a story. This is modern day fairy tale. Literally. It's got a fairy in it. Many of you are familiar with the tale of Elwood Dowd and his best friend, Harvey. Elwood was a very smart man. His mother had told him that to get along in this world, you have two choices. You can be very smart or very pleasant. For many years, Elwood was a very successful businessman, but he was miserable. Always anxious, always crabby, always fighting headaches and ulcers. Then he met Harvey. Harvey was a pooka- a fairy who appeared as a six foot tall white rabbit whom only Elwood could see and hear. Associating with Harvey rapidly changed Elwood. He became calm, mellow, carefree, sociable and friendly. Soon, Elwood and Harvey were spending their days relaxing in their favorite social spot, Charlie's bar. Folks would come up to Elwood to share a drink. They would tell him all their cares and woes. He'd listen to it all, and then He'd introduce them to Harvey. Harvey was bigger and grander than anything they could dump on him. They would forget their problems, and leave impressed. Naturally, Elwood's family thought he was crazy, as did most of the folks who met him. His sister tried to have him committed, and even got him to agree to an injection which, if it worked, would take away his ability to see Harvey. When she learned that the injection would also turn Elwood back into the smart but crabby man he used to be, she changed her mind and begged him not to go through with it. If it meant keeping her brother as the happy, pleasant man he was, Harvey would be welcome in her home.

It sure seems like a bizarre situation, doesn't it? But it's also very familiar.

Have you ever tried to talk to an "atheist" about having a relationship with Jesus? They can't see Him and refuse to acknowledge any evidence of Him, whether direct or indirect. They compare Jesus to an invisible pink unicorn or a flying spaghetti monster, calling Him a product of our imaginations because He can't be seen. Yet have you noticed something? We can't see each other. We are one another's invisible friends. I can't see you, I can't hear you, I can't smell you or feel you, and I wouldn't taste you if I could. Yet I know you're real. I have your names as witness to your presence and I have your words which tell me the kind of people you are. That's how it works with God. Maybe we can't see or hear Him yet, but we have fellowship with Him all the same.

Meeting harvey changed Elwood. It transformed his entire personality. It made him into a better man, a happier man, a man at peace. Nobody knows quite how this happened. Everyone just assumed that Elwod was mad, and that the same madness which made him see Harvey also altered his personality. They just assumed that no one who was that well-adjusted could be sane.

That's what the world thinks about us, you know. They look at us and they see crazy people. They cannot grasp how normal, sane people could possibly go four hours without swearing, return money they don't own when they wouldn't get caught, or live in the same house without screaming at each other. There was even a case where a judge would not let a Christian couple adopt a child because they never fought. To him, that was totally weird, too weird to qualify as a normal home.

But for all that was done to him, Elwood was at peace, as long as his friend was around. He didn't have any problems with people. People had problems with him. But as he said, Harvey was bigger and grander than any problem they could give him. If a pooka is bigger than any problem Elwood could have, how much bigger is God? One popular children's song confidently declares "God is bigger than the boogie man! He's bigger than Godzilla of the monsters of TV!"

Elwood spent His time listening to people's problems, and then he would introduce them to his friend. Whether the person he was speaking with believed in Harvey or not, they always left impressed. A few left with the knowledge that the world was bigger and more fantastic than they'd ever imagined. Some left believing that Elwood's life made theirs appear rational. A handful became friends of Harvey. All of them left changed in some way. Elwood considered this his full time job, and he took it very seriously.

So we, too, have a job. Our job is to introduce people to our Lord. Now some will reject Him, some will accept Him. Some will call you a nutjob, some will see that God is bigger than all of their problems. None of them will walk away unaffected.

Elwood's sister, Veta, claimed not to believe in Harvey, but in reality, actively loathed the pooka. Little hints in the movie suggest that Veta can, in fact, see Harvey. It is only when she comes to realize that Harvey and Elwood's personality are inextricably linked that she has a change of heart, and welcomes Harvey into her home. Almost immediately, we see a change in Veta. She goes from being controlling, conniving and anxious to being bright, sunny and accomodating. She even forgives the worker who mistook her for an inmate and threw her into the bath the previous day.

So it is when we allow God to work on our personalities. His character shines through us and those close to us begin to realize that there's something different about us. As we live out kind and gentle lives, they might decide that they like that something different and accept the Lord themselves. Our life of love and meekness becomes a beacon to those around us that God is here, that He lives within us and changes our hearts. Just as blowing leaves are evidence of the wind, so love is the evidence of God.

So for my Christian brothers and sisters, I encourage you to be like Elwood Dowd. Be pleasant and meek, keep a measure of joy in your heart, even when others put you down, and don't hesitate to tell others about your friend whom they can't see, because He's bigger than any of their problems. My nonchristian friends, let me introduce you to a friend of mine...

Today's reading: John 4 12-21
12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
19 We love him, because he first loved us.
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.