This week brought the sad news that Michael Clarke Duncan, the Oscar-nominated actor who starred in The Green Mile, passed away at the age of 54. In that movie, he played a man named John Coffey who was convicted and sentenced to death for a horrific crime. Even though Duncan was *only* 6’4″ tall, the clever camera work made him tower over everyone else, including the not-so-short Tom Hanks. John Coffey was daunting from the moment he appeared on screen.
But then he spoke. His voice was deeply quiet. He addressed the guards as “Boss.” He told them his name: “like the drink but not spelled the same.” After he was secured in the cell, he took everyone by surprise by saying, “I’m afraid of the dark.”
Could such gentleness that fears the darkness have committed such a dark crime? That is the question that The Green Mile spends nearly three hours answering. And what we discover is that John Coffey possesses not a propensity to hurt but rather a gift to heal. We meet him as a man with accusations and judgments already attached to him. Then, in the close confinement of a jail cell, we acquaint ourselves with a heart that wants to share light, not darkness.
The good news of Jesus Christ often pierces us in the moments we least expect it, through the people we least anticipate. It’s not always what the preacher says on Sunday morning (although I hope it sometimes is!) that ministers to our hearts. We might experience God’s grace in a stranger we encounter on a morning walk or the TV show we come upon while channel surfing. God may speak to us through a person whose company we don’t even enjoy more than through the words of a best friend. Let us remember that God became incarnate in the son of a carpenter from Nazareth, an unlikely Savior in an unlikely place. Even Jesus’ early disciples, when they first heard of him, declared, “What? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).
Let us open our eyes to the John Coffeys around us. Then let us open our ears to hear how God might speak to us through them. After all, his name sounds “like the drink, but it’s not spelled the same.”
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.