I’m living the final season of Downton Abbey with people I now feel I know personally. For almost six seasons—both the Crawley family and those who serve them—have ridden the storms and triumphs of war, heartbreak, marriage, birth, tragedy, death, imprisonment, and an ever-changing world. Some characters have become bitter, fearful of what might happen if they open up to love, or matured in their relationships and understanding of others.
I cheer and groan through each episode, hoping the ones who struggle will not give up. The conquerors are those who realize they need the warmth of love and relationship to survive. In the drama of it all, I find myself aching most for the bad guy who can’t seem to find a place to belong.
Barrow, the under-butler, has been the dark character of the series. Deceitful and conniving—he pitted himself against the rest of the staff early on for his own advantage. Now he’s reaping what he’s sown.
Occasionally, he surprises with heroic, even selfless behavior; we get glimpses of his loneliness, and I want to give him another chance to turn around. He tries; it looks like he may have a friend after all, then he gets knocked down, and retreats once again to dark pride.
Still, I root for Barrow. I want him to make it. In a turnaround episode, he is ill to the point of collapse, after subjecting himself to shock treatments and saline injections. Cora’s maid, Baxter, gets him to the doctor, even though she knows he’s the one who purposefully caused her such pain. In a rare moment of weakness, he berates himself for thinking he could actually alter his course. He expects her to join in; instead, Baxter offers kindness.
One sincere word of praise opens Barrow’s heart. Maybe he can be a different kind of man—one who cares for others and not just himself. This is exactly how God loves us. He knows we’re wretched and deceitful, conniving and selfish. Even when we try to change, our own efforts and believing the lies of the enemy, make us sicker than before. In shame, we admit our stupidity. What made us think we could ever change? Then Jesus comes and gives us hope.
Scripture says of Jesus, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isa. 42:3). We’ve been hurt by others, by ourselves, by our own stupid attempts to get better. We’re bruised and broken. We smolder, we sputter, but never can seem to burn strong. Jesus roots for bad guys who can’t quite get it together. That describes us all—all have sinned and fall short…
That’s why I want Barrow to make it. I’m rooting for him to find friendship and a place of belonging. I want others to see his heart. I know he’s just a character in a television series, but I ache for him to grow into the man God created him to be, because he represents all of us in our fight against the flesh.
We’re bad guys in a world of bad guys—overshadowed by past hurts, evil habits, and current hang ups, and the voice that tells us we’re not “good enough.” Yet we hunger for love. I found that kind of hope in Christ; I’m a bad guy reborn. So I root for other bad guys to find Him too.
What tender words do you long to hear?
What hope have you found in Christ that you can share with someone else today?