Faith in the Theater: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

By Guest Blogger Joe Fessenden

November 24, 2012

For several months, I have been asked to write a blog entry about the intersection between faith and media—movies, music, etc.—and I have been rolling it around in my head. Well, my dear reader(s), the day has finally come. I just returned from watching the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I do recommend if you can watch it. It just reiterated a thought that has been growing in me for even longer. That is, if we look for it, there is no activity, movie, music, or encounter that cannot and will not, if we let it and look for it, deepen and strengthen our faith and give us fodder for reflection on God. There used to be a ad campaign for some bank or other that questioned things like, “What can riding a motorcycle teach us about investing?” If we can learn about investing from random parts of life, how much more we can learn of Truth!

If you haven’t seen the movie, worry not! There will be no spoilers in my reflections, here.

One of the lines from the movie that was key was the claim that, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Truer words were never spoken. Many of us go through life in one of two ways: we reject or avoid love because we think we don’t deserve it, or we settle for cheap facsimiles of love that we truly deserve. Sadly, even at our best times, the most we often think we deserve is that finite love that we can receive from other created beings. Here, another line from the film seems apropos: “at that moment, I swear we were infinite.” Put together, these two thoughts touch on something of Truth, and that is simple:

The love we truly deserve is infinite. And that love is waiting solely for us to accept it.

Herein lies the problem, though. We deserve infinite love. I deserve infinite love. You deserve infinite love. When’s the last time you looked yourself in the mirror and reminded yourself of that simple and absolute truth? If it’s been a while, go ahead and do it. I’ll wait.

Did you go? Seriously, go! Look yourself in the eyes and remind yourself of the love for which you were created and that you deserve. I’ll wait again.

Okay, good.

God is Love

Now, I don’t want to go into any deep theology because, let’s face it, I’m not qualified, and you probably don’t want to read it. (If you do, read someone better than I–say Aquinas, John Paul II, etc.) I do want to point this out, though from the little I do know. God is Love—Infinite Love. We were created for God. Therefore, it is not a stretch to say that we were created for infinite love. So why do we so often settle? Well, I already gave that answer. We don’t believe that we are truly created for and deserve infinite love.

I can speak for myself only of what comes from that, but I think it’s safe to bet that I’m not too far off from the struggle inside most people. For most of my life, I have sought love. I have sought it in possessions and money and success. I have sought it from other people. There is little surprise that in things (possessions, money, success), love was never to be found. From people, a reflection of that infinite love can be found, but so can that cheap facsimile that I mentioned earlier. I’ve honestly experienced both in my life. When I see the cheap facsimile, I’ve charged into it because it gave an emotional high that made me think that it must be love! The funny thing is, on those occasions where I see the true reflection from other people of that infinite love, my only reaction is disbelief. How could I possibly be loved? So, when that has been there, I have poked and prodded until it went away or outright rejected it as impossible and refused to believe it.

So, God’s infinite love? Are you kidding? Nothing could be further from what I generally believe I deserve.

Even a Seminarian

Joe Fessenden

Now, my reader(s) know that I’m a seminarian. Am I really saying that even today, as a seminarian, someone supposedly close to God, I have trouble receiving God’s love? Yep, that is precisely what I am saying. Add to that the constant desire of the enemy to keep us as estranged from God as possible and God’s love that is there “without question or pause” remains often invisible to my heart. The advantage, as I have been working in seminary and growing in my prayer life and relationship with God is that, more and more, I can see this challenge for the lie it is. No one ever won a war against an unknown adversary. Now I know the adversary. Now the battle begins.

Like I said, I can only speak for myself for a lot of this. If you are lucky enough to be immune from these struggles, I applaud you. But, I have a hunch I’m not alone in this. Many people I talk to struggle with this same sort of thing. If that’s you, then it’s important to see the tendency to accept only the love you think you deserve. Perhaps, whoever said that “the hardest thing in this world is to live in it” wasn’t quite right. I think that, in fact, the hardest thing in this world is to see that we, broken and bruised and perhaps even defective as we may be, are still truly deserving of infinite love—and then to willingly accept that love. This is actually a message that I have tried to instill in all the young people with whom I’ve worked in my years of youth ministry; sadly, I still fight my own emotions in thinking that I am the only exception. If you are with me here, trust me, dear reader(s) that you are deserving of infinite love and, in fact, infinitely loved. Let’s agree to both of us keep reminding ourselves of that fact.

Epilogue

You may have noticed the “clever” Buffy reference in my closing, there. Can I point out that this just lends to my original claim that music, TV, and movies all have gold if we are willing to look for it. For those that know me, I want to assure you that I was well aware of the origin of “the hardest thing in this world is to live in it” right down to the episodes and circumstances surrounding it.

Check out Joe’s excellent Blog at www.joefessenden.com

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3 Responses to Faith in the Theater: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

  1. Ombre says:

    The one thing I have learned many years ago. You can never have true love for self or others until there exist love between the Father and yourself.

    • Thanks for the comment. There’s truth in that. It’s also important to remember, though, that we can’t truly love the Father if we don’t first see ourselves as worthy of the love he already gives us, which means loving ourselves. In a certain way, love of self precedes truly loving the Father because it is the natural outcome of seeing ourselves for what we truly are: God’s beloved children. So, first, God loves us, then, we love ourselves as God loves us, then, we can return love to God. From there, all other love is possible.
      Peace,
      Joe

  2. Miss. D says:

    It’s interesting how divine providence works. I’m a youth minister. I was looking for some reviews on this movie because I was thinking about showing it to a group of high school students that I minister too. Well over the last little while I have REALLY been struggling personally in my faith, specifically in the ability to accept love. So imagine my surprise while reading this post and having my thoughts sort of reorganized. It was like a small moment of clarity, for which I am very grateful. I just wanted to say thanks for posting this. Blessings to you in your vocation. Miss D.

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