How ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and ‘Boy Meets World’ help lay the foundation of my faith

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“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Boy Meets World” were two shows I watched growing up in the 1990s and those two shows were the epitome of great quality television for somebody my age.

Last night as I was driving back home, I started to think about my childhood and the shows I watched back then. A lot of the shows that I watched were shows every kid watched. I had my Power Rangers, Simpsons, Family Matters and all other shows in between. Man, the 1990s had great television.

As I was thinking about it, there were two shows that really stood out to me. And the reason why they stood out was because that even though they were sitcoms and their intent was to be funny, they knew that at times, they had to be serious. They understood that life isn’t all fun and games and there are real issues.

I first got home last night and started to re-watch two particular episodes that stood in my mind. I remembered watching those episodes as a kid. I remember crying watching it. I don’t think the message fully hit me the first time I watched it, but as I look back at it now, I know that my life would have been different if I had not seen those episodes.

I want to share these two shows and the episode that changed me, my way of living and my faith.

(Forgive my writing if it seems like a ramble or jumbled, I tend to do that sometimes writing so much with little sleep. Sorry if this doesn’t make sense. It makes sense in my head at the moment.)

I don’t want to have to give a synopsis of the shows and what they’re about. I assume that you know about these two shows.

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THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR

In this episode, Will’s father Lou shows up out of nowhere and tries to rekindle a lost relationship with Will. Lou abandoned Will when he was three and had been gone for 14 years. After being hesitant about mending the relationship, Will decides to give Lou a second chance despite Uncle Phil believing that Lou would bail again. Eventually, Will believes that his father has finally turned around that he and Uncle Phil have a falling out after Phil tries to warn Will about the dangers of Lou. Lou, fearing commitment once again, tries to abandon Will one more time. 

I’ll give you a minute to wipe your tears.

This scene always sticks out to me and I am sure it sticks out to a lot of people. Not only was this Will Smith in one of his finest acting performances, but it also was a strong message that I could never relate to, but in a way, I feel that everyone has had some kind of abandonment in their life. Some may have had it just like Will, but some might have had something that isn’t as deep. Regardless, it’s that fear or being alone once again where your trust is broken.

There have been times where I have felt alone too, felt like nobody cared. Not to the extent of abandonment, but there are times where I needed someone to hug me, someone to be there for me. I needed someone to tell me “good job.” I’m lucky enough to have a father that didn’t abandon me but whenever I start to think about God the Father, this scene pops right into my head.

How important is having a father in your life? Without a father, someone to teach us and take care of us, it takes a toll on a child. For some children, it scars them for life. For others, they end up like will and they are emotionally drained and damaged by it. That’s the feeling I see when I don’t have God.

God has always been there for me. He never abandons us. God will continue to be with us through every step of the way, building us up and giving us what we need to be the absolute best we can be. I can’t imagine my life without God. If that was the case, I might just be like Will in this scene. I might just end up wondering why my life would feel so empty. I would start doubting myself like Will, wondering why I am not loved. Was there something wrong with me?

It’s hard to explain but in a way, this scene reminded me of everything that God is not. God would never abandon me, make excuses and lead me to false hope. In a way, Uncle Phil is what God is supposed to be. In the episode (I really wish I could find a full episode video), Uncle Phil claimed that he was more of a father-figure to Will than Lou could ever be. But like a loving father, he allowed Will to learn and fall on his own with Lou. Despite his displeasure, Phil remained and reminded Will that he would always be there for him through the good and the bad. Isn’t that what a great father is supposed to be? Isn’t that what we want out of our father?

That’s what Uncle Phil was. That’s what God is. Those are the characteristics of what a father is all about. The show made me understand it better. It made it real. It helped me understand what a father is about. That’s what I see in God. God wants us.

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BOY MEETS WORLD

This is the entire episode and I would recommend you watch the entire thing to get my references. But here’s a quick synopsis. Shawn is challenged by his teacher Mr. Turner about his aspirations and futures after high school. (Mr. Turner and Shawn have a strong relationship and a lot of it was built as Turner took Shawn in after Shawn became homeless.) When Shawn feels that Turner is judging him, he turns to a cult that offered him empty promises and false hope. All of Shawn’s friends are worried and they try to help him and get him away from the cult. It wasn’t until Turner gets into a motorcycle accident that Shawn is faced to grip with reality and not the false teachings of the cult.

This ties into that feeling of being alone. I get being alone. I am an only child and for those who have siblings, it’s hard to understand. But for those who are the only one, being alone is scary. In fact, it’s my number one fear. Being alone scares the shit out of me real bad. Spiders don’t scare me. Death doesn’t scare me. Failure doesn’t scare me. Loneliness does.

Being alone forces people to seek acceptance, a place to belong. Being along changes the mind into ways that is unimaginable. Sometimes the mind tries to rationalize and reason with things. There’s no structure or comforting words many times when people are alone, so they resort to methods in searching for that. Unfortunately for some, they turn to a cult for the easy answer.

This episode touched on a lot of things but it taught me a lot about my fear of being alone. It’s still scary but I don’t dwell on it. As you can see by the final scene, nobody is ever alone. We have people who truly, deeply care about us. It’s just sometimes hard to see it when we’re seeking quick fix answers that aren’t really there.

This is what God has for us. He doesn’t want us to feel alone. God is always there for us. But more importantly, God puts people in our lives who genuinely care about us. That’s what Shawn failed to see. It took a painful situation for him to realize that — even call out to God for help. For a show meant for children, this was a big episode and a daring one. But a lot of people consider this one of the series’ finest episodes.

The hug that Cory gave Shawn was genuine. It was real. You can feel that he loved him. It’s welcoming, warm and comforting. Unlike being lonely, this is what secures people and their biggest fear. It’s so hard to live life living in fear. It makes you think and do things with no rationale.

But this episode, and I remembered it very well even after seeing it over 10 years ago, stuck to me. I don’t want to live in a world where I am constantly seeking for things that aren’t there. I don’t want to live life through empty promises and false hopes. I want to live where I am never alone, always loved and filled with a belief in myself. God’s provided me that and has provided me with people in my life to show me that. I am not wandering aimlessly. I have a direction.

And do you know why I am a hugger? This episode.

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Television shows these days don’t touch on these things as much, at least I don’t see them. But maybe they do and I just don’t watch the shows. But for these two episodes, they really dared to be real. They dared tell me a story that was so powerful, that it stuck with me all these years.

I can relate to it and somehow, I can tie my faith into it. At a very young age, these were the things that stay with me forever. You think television is bad for people? I don’t think so. For me, it helped me see things clearly in a way I never thought I would have.

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3 Comments

Filed under Faith, Television

3 responses to “How ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and ‘Boy Meets World’ help lay the foundation of my faith

  1. As soon as Uncle Phil says, “What are you doing here?” I start crying, but every time Hilary opens her mouth, I stop and laugh… and then I start crying again. People always praise Will Smith for his performance in this episode, which is great, but James Avery’s offering in this episode is just as phenomenal!

    I have been a fan of James Avery ever since “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (he voiced the Shredder). Also, his one line as King Herod in “The Bible Experience” is spectacular. I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance to listen to it.

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