A few weeks ago, I watched the 1953 movie “Roman Holiday.” It’s a true classic, starring none other than Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
One Foot In
In the beginning of the movie, Princess Anne (played by Hepburn) acts like a child. She is frustrated with all of the duties her royal position requires of her, and she chafes against the life she has not chosen for herself. She does what is expected of her – attends parties, meets with dignitaries, etc. – but her heart isn’t in it. Instead, she dreams of being free to live a normal life. It’s like she has one foot in the life she belongs to and one foot in a life she can only imagine.
Princess Anne decides to rebel. She runs away from the embassy for the evening to attend a party as a commoner. In a funny turn of events, she spends the next couple days touring Rome with an American, Joe Bradley (played by Peck). However, Princess Anne doesn’t realize that Bradley is a journalist using her to get a news scoop. By the time she discovers the truth, though, they’ve fallen in love.
The Royal Decision
Princess Anne has a difficult decision to make: does she leave her royal position to be with Bradley? After weighing what she wants against what is required of her, she makes the painful decision to return to her post and her responsibilities.
Most people who love this movie speak of Princess Anne’s sweet innocence and how she takes such pleasure in the little things, like enjoying a gelato on a sunny afternoon. They also speak of the wonderful on-air chemistry of Hepburn and Peck, including their tearful good-bye when she leaves him to return to the embassy. In fact, if you look online for movie clips, those are the ones you’ll find.
However, there’s one scene that really stands out to me, and I can’t find a clip of it anywhere. You see, it’s not romantic, sweet, or funny. It’s after Princess Anne has said her sweet good-bye to Bradley and has returned to the embassy.
It’s only been a couple days since her disappearance, but Princess Anne’s whole demeanor has changed. Where she was child-like before, she now holds herself like the princess she is. Her servants and caretakers don’t notice the change at first and begin to scold her for skipping out on her “duty” to her country. Princess Anne, now looking truly regal, replies, “Your Excellency, I trust you will not find it necessary to use that word again. Were I not completely aware of my duty to my family and to my country, I would not have come back tonight or indeed ever again!”
Both Feet In
So, why do I love this scene? It’s because it’s the first time in the movie that Princess Anne speaks with authority and people treat her with the respect her position requires. She’s technically the princess through the whole movie – from throwing tantrums to driving around on a scooter – but she never acts like a princess until she finally accepts the position as her own.
In other words, it’s only after she puts “both feet in” that she finally becomes the princess she’s supposed to be.
Do you see how this a wonderful allegory of our Christian faith? Many of us are born into Christian homes, or we become believers at an early age, so it’s all we’ve ever known. However, instead of being grateful, we often treat our faith like it’s something thrust upon us, something we never chose or asked for.
This attitude leads us to rebel against our own faith. Like children, we test God. Do we really have to go to church? Do we really have to wait until we’re married? Everyone else is out drinking and having a good time; why can’t we? Do we really have to obey God?
We have one foot in Christianity and one in the world. It’s like we’re on our own Christian Holiday.
Jesus Warned Us
There are many Scriptures in the Bible that talk about this issue. In fact, Jesus Himself explained that we have to be “all in” if we are to follow Him.
Luke 9:59-62 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
I don’t believe Jesus is trying to be harsh or to undermine the importance of family here. He is simply trying to explain that people can’t go in two different directions at the same time and can’t be in two places at once. We have to choose.
Jesus says it another way in Matthew:
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Put simply, when you believe in God and you walk His path, both feet have to be going in the same direction.
Princess Anne needed to experience a different way of life before she could appreciate the responsibility and cost of her position. However, as believers, we know the cost of our faith: Jesus died for us so we could have a relationship with God in this life and in the next.
Princess Anne had to give up on love to accept her duty as princess. But we’re not losing anything by accepting our duty as Christians. No, we actually gain everything – peace, love, comfort, joy, life everlasting…. There is no comparison between living a life that honors God and one that runs from him.
Have you ever really prayed to God and invited Him into your heart? Have you accepted that you need to live a life that honors God so He can work through you to reach others? Have you begun to walk in the authority of a child of God?
Or are you still acting like a child, rebelling against a faith that you have not fully accepted as your own?
It is time, my friend, for you to decide. Are you going to put both feet in?