When I walked into the theater to see the one-time showing of Russ Taff: I Still Believe on October 30, 2018, I had no idea it would captivate my mind like it did! I knew it would tell the life story of one of my favorite singers, but I didn’t expect four great truths to leap off the screen and settle so deeply in my soul.
I’ve already written about two of these four themes I saw within the film. First is the critical effect of family, marriage, and generational influences upon a person. Second is about the dark side of fame. Both of these are strong warnings we all need to think seriously about as we live our lives and dream our dreams.
But now it’s time to start on the last two, which are much more positive and encouraging! Get ready to learn what true love is and how it behaves!
The Power of Love and the Beauty of Christianity at Its Best
Without a doubt, the steadfast love of Tori Taff for her husband Russ is a key factor in his victory over alcohol. If she had given up and walked away, there wouldn’t have been a movie-worthy story, I’m sure.
I like the fact that Tori’s love is a mix of both feelings and commitment. (No, the movie didn’t pay special attention to this, but it was obvious to me just by hearing the way she talked as well as what she said.) Even at his worse, she still had feelings for him, evident in the anguished question she would ask herself (“How long can I stay with this man I love without becoming sick myself?”). Yet, you know there had to be days where her love was more about commitment than feeling “twitterpated.”
Too many people today think love is just an emotion. Consequently, they think they’ve fallen out of love when less-than-positive feelings are felt. So, a lot of people are walking away from otherwise good relationships just because they don’t feel as positive about the other person or the situation they find themselves in as a couple.
But love is an action–a choice of the will–that just happens to have an emotional element. The emotional rush we call “love” is actually a hormonal response designed to last a year or two to first help us identify who we are attracted to and then to help carry us through as we get to know the other person until commitment is made and established. Feelings of love felt after that are simply the rewards/benefits of being committed to love that person through good and bad.
So, Tori’s love—both passion and commitment—has been vital to Russ’s healing and victory, but it wasn’t the exclusive factor. To say that it was her love alone that pulled him through is to saddle her with a responsibility and a burden too great for any one person to bear.
Waging a war of love against strongholds like alcoholism is a long-term battle measured in years—that is, in multiple sets of 365-day periods. Even the strongest of warriors will get battle weary. Who supports such a soldier?
Tori was blessed with a neighborhood best friend she could trust with the secret. There was also Russ’s unofficial adoptive mom who knew how to gently, lovingly challenge him. Tori also turned to her own brother, a mental-health professional, who spoke the truth with love.
But the most powerful example of loving, supportive help I saw in the film was the way a large group of Christian singers and entertainers responded to what must have been Russ’s lowest point. Instead of “shooting their own wounded,” as Christians have sometimes been infamous for doing, they exemplified the true meaning of “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8b NIV “quoting” Prov. 10:12b).
When you’re famous, you have to live with the fact that cameras—both still-shots and video—could always be aimed in your direction. You never know what they will capture. But no one can always look and act perfectly so that nothing embarrassing is ever caught on film. This is another dark side to fame.
And the cameras were rolling when Russ showed up drunk (a new low for him) to a live-audience, video-recorded performance involving numerous Christian performers on stage all at once. Being one of many was a good thing as it meant he wasn’t always in the spotlight, where his inebriated state would have been far more noticeable.
But it was still noticeable. At least one person in the live audience recognized drunken behavior, and, being closely connected to the event’s producer, sent a text only to the producer to make him aware.
Quietly, the producer came up behind the group of famous folks on stage, tapped Russ on the shoulder and discreetly led him off stage. And even though those standing near Russ could smell the liquor on him, they never reacted in any way that drew attention to Russ’s condition, thus sparing his reputation among viewers and fans.
The love that covers didn’t stop there. In a post-event debrief, they all determined that Russ did NOT need to be gossiped about. There would be no social media posts or hints dropped in any conversations. Instead, they would pray for him—not judge and condemn him.
And that led some to be involved in another act of love—an intervention. How beautiful to see followers of Jesus imitating God (Who is love; see 1 John 4:8)! And how does God love us? Yes, He loves us as we are—flaws and all, but He also loves us too much to leave us as we are (cf. John 8:11 [2-11]).
“Follow God’s example, … and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us….”–Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV (4:29-5:2)
God’s love is a redemptive love. Redeem has several definitions, but the one I like has to do with changing something so that it has value (again). … Hmmm, that sounds like a great way to start the final post of this review of Russ Taff: I Still Believe.
Thanks for reading!
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. http://www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™