The Perks of Being a Child of God

My teenage daughter was very excited to see the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower after having read the book, so when we found it showing at a nearby theater, we went to see it last weekend.  I expected a teenage comedy, maybe something along the lines of  Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but what I saw instead was a film about teenagers struggling with a variety of issues and hurts, but holding fast to the importance of belonging.

The movie revolves around the story of Charlie, a quiet, shy writer-type boy who is just starting high school.  He struggles with finding friends until two senior students, Patrick and his stepsister Sam, take him in.  Their exuberant unwillingness to conform allows Charlie the freedom to be who he is, and it shows him that everyone suffers hurts in this life, sometimes through one’s personal choices and sometimes as a result of others’ choices.

Eventually, Charlie falls in love with Sam but he remains quiet about his feelings, allowing her to date others who cheat on her and mistreat her.   When she finally recognizes her tendency to choose those who treat her badly, Charlie offers this wisdom, given to him by his favorite English teacher:

                We accept the love we think we deserve.

Because Sam saw herself as being unworthy of true and faithful devotion, she deliberately chose to accept less than what she really wanted.  To me, this parallels our tendency to see ourselves as unworthy of the true and faithful love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Just like Sam, we choose to accept less than what we truly want.

This can mean we busy ourselves with work or excessive pleasures.  We don’t acknowledge the gift of God’s love and acceptance because we know how flawed and messed up we are.  If we have a hard time loving ourselves because of our vulnerabilities and mistakes, how could a perfect God love us?

The trouble is that we are basing our view of God’s ability to love imperfect creatures on how we respond to weakness in ourselves.  We project our shame about our weaknesses and our faults on to the face of God, assuming that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit hold the same view as we do.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Instead, we distract ourselves, as Sam did, by choosing those lesser joys.  Author C.S. Lewis says in The Weight of Glory that

                We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea.  We are far too easily pleased. (26)

Although I won’t spoil the movie for you, I will share that as Sam accepted Charlie’s love, expressed in various ways, she became more of herself, the person she was meant to be.  As we accept the love that we deserve, we will become all that we are meant to be.  We will finally BELONG, flaws and all.  It’s one of the perks of being a child of God.

                ~ by Nan Kuhlman

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