“…and they brought to him a woman caught in adultery and made her stand before everyone…” (John 8:3)
Did I mention that I believe adultery is wrong whether the one committing adultery is the husband or the wife? Did I mention that adultery destroys lives? That it leaves families in ruins. That I think that — except in instances of extreme physical abuse — staying for the sake of the children is not such a bad idea. That adultery makes a mockery of love, vows, witnesses, and notions of commitment ? Can I remind you that adultery is a sin?
Then how can I possibly sit here and confess that “The Bridges of Madison County” is my all time favorite movie? Hands down. Hi Five. Pass the Kleenex and popcorn. Why do I catch myself cheering and screaming at Francesca the lonely farmers wife who finally finds that once in a lifetime love to go ahead and turn the handle and hop out the truck her husband is driving and dash in the pouring rain for Robert’s truck there at the red light before he pulls off and out of her life forever?
Pass the Kleenex and popcorn.
Every time I see that scene of Meryl Streep (Francesca, I mean) in wrenching mental turmoil and emotional anguish over whether to stay or leave, toying with the door handle in her husband’s pick up truck, my heart breaks all over again. I’m a minister, but a side of me – the side that believes that you only get one chance at a certain kind of absolute right love—is screaming for Francesca a lonely farmer’s wife to run away from her bore of a husband and grab the life waiting for her with the man of her dreams Robert Kincaid the wandering photographer (played superbly by Clint Eastwood).
The movie opens with scenes of Francesca , immigrant bride, faithful farmer’s wife, dutiful mother of two self-absorbed teens, on a farm in Iowa aching for something she can not name. On an occasion when her husband and children are off for four days at a county fair, in walks a charming photographer on assignment with National Geographic to photograph bridges in her county. His love brings her back to life. They have four days to cram in a life. And they do. Tenderly. Passionately. Achingly.
“Turn the handle. Jump out the truck. Leave that farmer of a husband you’re married to. Run off with the man you love.” I’m beating the arm of the chair and screaming at the top of my lungs each time I watch the scene of Francesca in that truck. (My heart is racing even now as I type the words and recall the scene.)
And then I come to myself. Dear God, forgive me. I’m a minister.
Neither Francesca nor Robert is young, but they show you that love can turn you into a 16 year old again–love just costs so much more when you’re older.
Francesca must choose between her love for Robert and duty to her family. Duty and Responsibility or Love and Fulfillment?
‘In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once’ says Robert says to Francesca the last night they are together. He’s come to convince her to leave for love.
Fast Forward: Francesa’s husband and children have come back home. Francesca is in town on errands sitting in her husband’s pick up truck waiting for him. It’s raining. She sees Robert standing off in the distance drenched and staring in her direction. She knows instinctively that he’s leaving. He’s off to God knows where ever it is that men who can’t stay in one place go. The expressions on the faces of the two lovers as they stare at each other says it all. It’s now or never.
Pass the Kleenex and popcorn.
Is Francesca’s decision a tragedy or moral victory? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m wrong for encouraging a married woman in her adultery. But, God help me, I can’t help myself. There’s never a time when I watch “The Bridges of Madison County” that I don’t yell at Francesca and don’t feel the casket lid closing in on her as Robert’s truck turns left and drives off.
Lord have mercy on me.
I know better. After all, I am one of the children Francesca left behind to run off for her lover. Decades later, my sister, brothers and I continue to live with the wounds of being the children a bored, aching, unloved mother left behind for the promise of fulfillment.
It was wrong (says the minister). It hurt (says the wounded daughter). But I understand now (says the woman).