I’ll be honest, as a child God scared the mess out of me. At times I pictured God with electricity in his fingertips, waiting to zap me the moment I did something wrong. He was the police officer and I was the driver speeding past him in a red sports car. What if I sinned and then died immediately afterwards? Would it take long to travel to the bowels of hell? I was constantly asking God for forgiveness.
“God forgive me for lighting my sister’s barbie on fire.”
“God forgive me for eating all the cookies and blaming it on my two-month old brother.”
“God forgive me for thinking about eating all the cookies and blaming it on my two-month old brother.”
For me, salvation was a constant act. I had to keep up my walk or I would lose it like I tend to lose my car keys each morning. The idea of free forgiveness with no strings attached was unthinkable.
Why is it so hard for humans to accept the idea that Jesus’ grace is completely sufficient, while at the same time being completely independent of what we might do to earn it? Paul Rudd’s character in the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower unknowingly describes this idea best when he says:
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
At the beginning of Wallflower, the audience is introduced to Charlie (played by Logan Lerman), a troubled Freshman starting his first day of high school. Charlie is suffering from depression among a slew of other things. His life at school is not much better. Charlie finds himself dodging bullies and sitting alone in the lunch room. Just when it looks like this will be the worst four years of his life, the situation suddenly takes a dramatic turn. Charlie is taken under the wings of two seniors, Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Harry Potter’s Emma Watson). Together they navigate the challenges of adolescence with a group they’ve infamously dubbed “The Misfits.”
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is based on the book by author Stephen Chbosky and has developed quite a cult following over the years. If you expect Wallflower to be another gross-out teen comedy, you’ll be in for a surprise. The film provides a delicate balance between humor and serious reflection, while at the same time delving deep into what it means to be a troubled teenager. Issues like suicide, abuse, acceptance, and childhood innocence are traversed though the perspective of our young characters.
At the heart of the film a single theme emerges through the fog of adolescent development. “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
Wallflower highlights in each character the negative effects their past or present has on their ability to find and accept love. The girl who has been used by others. The depressed suicidal teenager. The abused girlfriend. Each of these individuals have allowed themselves to look for acceptance and love in others who only attempt to take advantage of them. Their past experiences tell them that is all they are worth. Instead of accepting true love, they pay the price for their sins by accepting what is not really love at all.
We treat God’s grace like that don’t we?
Our past tells us that there is no such thing as a pure, unearned love that erases all former wrongs. And so we sell ourselves short. We only accept the love we deserve and stoop to earn the love that could be ours for free. Love is a tricky thing. It’s hard to earn love. When we try to earn someone’s love we get burnt out, especially if we try to earn love from a perfect God.
When we try to earn God’s love, we really start serving another master. A cruel and abusive master. A master that will use us until there is absolutely nothing left. Then he will use us up again. We ultimately live in fear, like I did as a child. In the end, earning love will cause us to give up on God altogether. That is precisely why we have to differentiate between the cruel master of works and the compassionate master who is our heavenly father.
Accepting a love that we do not deserve is as scandalous as much as it is risky, but it is the only deal that is too good and yet still true. The drawback to being a wallflower is the idea that no one could ever love us past what we think we are worth. It is only when we understand that God’s grace is indeed free and freely given, that we realize we are not a misfit anymore.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is brand new to DVD and BluRay. It is rated Rated PG-13 on appeal for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight – all involving teens.