Imitation of Life
This post was written by Katrina Hunter.
Romans 9:20 | But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
The 1959 version of the movie Imitation of Life is one of my favorites. I love it because it is a story of the desire for unconditional love from all angles told against the backdrop of fashion with beautiful stars, like Lana Turner and Juanita Moore. Here you have two mothers of different races, each raising a daughter while trying to move forward and grow in their own right. I loved what both actresses illustrated to me. Turner’s character, Lora, showed me how striving for a career and romance can be fulfilling, but it can also leave your child longing for so much more from you. Moore’s character, Annie, strived to be loved in return by a daughter who despised her simply because of the color of her skin, and that showed me how unconditional a parent’s love can actually be.
Annie’s daughter, Sarah Jane, was very light-skinned and often tried to portray herself as white, while Annie was dark-skinned. Sarah Jane was very vocal about her denial of being black and didn’t mind showing disrespect to her mother because of her own self-hatred. Sarah Jane wanted to be someone else. She wanted to identify with whatever race she thought would benefit her the most, or somehow satisfy this disdain she had for her life. It was easier for Sarah Jane to pretend to be white than to accept the fact that she wasn’t.
There are two scenes in this movie that undeniably bring me to tears, no matter how many times I watch them. One scene is some years after Sarah Jane grows up and runs away, when Annie goes and finds hers. When she shows up, Sarah Jane all but spits in her mother’s face. Nevertheless, Annie shares with Sarah Jane how much she loves her, asking to just hold her baby one last time, as she has literally become sick with grief over her child and knows that death is near. Tears run down her face as she says to Sarah Jane, “I’ll always love you and nothing you do can ever change that.” The second scene that drives me to tears is the infamous funeral scene when Annie has died and the late great Mahalia Jackson is singing the hymn, “Trouble of the World.” Sarah Jane shows up, throws herself on the casket of her mother, crying hysterically, “Momma! I didn’t mean it! I’m sorry! I did love you, Momma!” But by then, it is too late.
As I reflect on this movie and the many tear jerking moments, I cannot help but reflect on how accurate this story is for us in every aspect of our lives. Whether we care to admit it or not, many of us are Sarah Janes, and we hardly take the time to stop and see it. We may not hate our skin or our parents who look so different from us, but maybe we hate our hair, financial situation, or our body size. The thing that makes us different and unique actually makes us feel like an outsider. Have you stopped long enough to notice that there is always a reason to despise our circumstances or blame others for where we are? If the hurt we have towards ourselves dwell deep and long enough, it can create a wall around us that will not only keep us from valuable human relationships, but also the love of Christ.
If you look at the story of Sarah Jane, she didn’t see her skin as beautiful and something she be confident in. She didn’t embrace how she was made. She instead did everything to get away from it. The question I have for you is this: unlike Sarah Jane, how can you learn to appreciate what makes you different and still feel capable of living a life with purpose? Sarah Jane allowed her affliction to push her away from her mother and others who cared deeply about her. What about your life are you covering up out of shame because you refuse to deal with the affliction?
Here’s a thought: We can’t conquer a situation if we haven’t had to face it, and we can’t win a battle unless we go to war.
Are you able to identify what makes you different and use it for God’s glory? What about your affliction is keeping you from embracing friends, family, opportunities, and freedom to be yourself? Too often in our quest to fit in, we reject God’s love for how he has positioned us. We get too distracted by what doesn’t fit right and forget how to stay in place long enough for purpose to manifest.
Scripture tells us that we are the clay and God is the potter. So who are we to say back to him, “I hate what you made. Send me back and start over!” We say that in so many ways with our attitudes of ungratefulness or when we put ourselves down. God sees no flaw in us, yet we see hundreds. God is that parent running after us saying, “I’ll always love you and nothing you do can ever change that,” yet we often try to test this or prove that he really doesn’t love us as much as his word says he does.
Even though Imitation of Life was just a movie, it is one that impacts me to this day. It reminds me that I never want to get to the end of my life and figuratively speaking, be the person screaming at Jesus, “I’m sorry, Jesus! I did love you! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it!” as it relates to regrets. I don’t want to spend the last few moments like Sarah Jane did, apologizing for all I didn’t say and for all I did. By then, it will be too late.
Beloved, we should never underestimate the power of the potter’s purpose for our lives. Although we may look just like a lump of clay today, with work and time, we will be fashioned into a masterpiece suitable for the master’s use. If we allow God to mold us, we will be pleasantly surprised at how purposed-filled our life can be. Trust him. He knows what he is doing.
Katrina Hunter (also known as Trina) is the founder of Call Me Set Free, a ministry site dedicated to seeing people from all walks of life set free like Hannah was in 1 Samuel. She is a native of Montgomery, Alabama and has known the Lord since 1999. In 2009 she rededicated her life to Christ while attending Fresh Anointing House of Worship, where she is currently a very active member. God has graciously given Katrina the opportunity to serve the body of Christ in many different ways.
Katrina is passionate about writing and enjoys teaching to women of all ages, youth, and young adults when given the opportunity. In her spare time, she enjoys walking, spending time with her family and friends, and any type of creative activity.