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Friday, May 7, 2010

Mr. Holland’s Opus

Read: Luke 12:16-21

One of my favorite movies is Mr. Holland’s Opus, starring Richard Dreyfuss. It tells the story of a talented young musician who dreams of creating a masterpiece, his magnum opus, his legacy of genius for history.

Unfortunately, his family needs food and a place to live while the masterwork is in progress, so Mr. Holland takes a job as a public school band director. He is good at the job, but often frustrated as he finds that its demands, and the needs of the young people in his classes, take so much time and energy that he has little left over for composing.

The movie follows Mr. Holland throughout the ups and downs of his adult life, until, at the end [spoiler alert], his dreams of composing fame never realized, he comes to understand that these people were his real opus. The students and family into whom he poured himself over the years were the lasting treasure, the mark of a successful life.

The story rings true for lawyers and, I’m sorry to say, law professors. Many of us dream of making partner, winning the record-breaking verdict, arguing the landmark case in the Supreme Court, being elected to high political office, or appointed as an appellate judge. We tend to assume that our legacy, our mark on history, is found in our achievements within the legal profession.

There’s nothing wrong with those things, but in terms of priority, Luke 12 tells a different story. Not only money, but all the achievements of this world are temporary. They will soon be forgotten by everyone. There is only one thing of permanent, eternal value into which we can invest ourselves: relationships, with God and with other people. Long after our office achievements have been forgotten, the people whom we impacted will be impacting others, who will impact others, and so on.

So the next time you are tempted to think that the “important work” of your day is being interrupted by the annoying client who calls for no real reason, or the secretary who requires way too much hand-holding, or the spouse whose needs are never met, or the children who just can’t understand that you’re too busy, or the waitress at your favorite diner who won’t shut up – take a moment to realize that those people are your important work for the day. God is much more interested in how you impact their lives than He is in one more rewrite of the brief or contract.

~ Prof. Brad Jacob, Regent University School of Law

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