Places in the Heart is the movie that won Sally Field her second Oscar. It’s the story of the Spalding family: Edna, her husband, Royce, son Frank, and daughter, Possum (seriously, she’s never referred to in any other way in the movie). They live in a small town in Texas during the Depression years of the 1930’s.
The movie begins on a tragic note as Royce, the town’s sheriff, is accidentally shot by a black teenager on a drinking spree. He dies and the boy is lynched and his body is dragged behind a truck out to the Spalding house. Both communities are shown mourning their losses separately as they seek comfort from the same Creator.
Edna Spalding’s problems go from bad to worse when a bank official shows up at her home the day after the funeral and wants to know how she is going to pay the note on her house that is due in a few months. She has no idea until a black drifter named Moses convinces her that she can grow cotton on her thirty acres and he can help. So the four of them, Edna, her two children and Moses, plant, cultivate and harvest thirty acres of cotton and she is able to pay the note off on her house. Things are far from perfect though, the Ku Klux Klan pays a visit to Moses, beats him badly, and he is forced to leave the community.
The climactic scene of the movie takes place in the town’s tiny church building. The congregants are taking communion while the choir sings I Come to the Garden Alone. As they pass the bread and then the juice, they say peace of God to each other. When it comes to the Spalding family, there sits Moses! Watching the movie, you’re thrown into a state of confusion because even if Moses decided to stay in the community and risk lynching, there’s no way in the thirties you’d find a black person in a white church (This is still sadly true in too many communities today). While you’re trying to figure this out, Edna takes communion and hands it to the person next to her and it’s her husband Royce! He takes communion and hands it to the person next to him saying, “peace of God” and it’s the black teenager who accidentally shot him and was then lynched. He takes the communion, looks back at Royce and says, peace of God.
It’s the film’s way of saying, This is the way the world should be. To say that it is powerful or that Hollywood got this one right would all be true and worth saying. But there’s something more that needs to be said. What needs to be said it that this is not just the way it should be but the way it will one day be through Jesus Christ. The day is coming when every wrong will be set right (2 Thessalonians 1). I can’t make it this way by myself and neither can you. We can’t even make it this way together (though we can and should try). But He can and one day He will. That’s the hope we have, it’s the hope we live by, and the hope we will realize one day.
To look at life like this puts it on an altogether different level, doesn’t it? This is why the apostle John would write, The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God, (1 John 5:5 – The Message).
Good days are here; but better days are coming through Jesus Christ!