God’s Out of My League
Yes, the title makes it look like this post is going to be one of those really bad dating Jesus posts, but please bear with me.
In a first and quite possibly a last, I’m going to review a romantic comedy for its theological themes. A lot of elements of She’s Out of My League are fairly cliche: boy (Kirk) meets beautiful girl (Molly), they date and fall for each other, boy says or does something stupid causing breakup, and both boy and girl realize that they can’t live without each other and have an epic airport reunion. I want to narrow in on the “boy says or does something stupid” part, though, because that is something we can all really relate to. Both saying stupid things in general and this particular tendency, I mean. On this point, the movie has a great concept applied to romance which I think really applies to all of our interactions and most importantly with our interactions (or lack thereof) with God.
The Lie of Not Being Good Enough
Unlike Molly, Kirk – at least on the surface – isn’t all that special. He never went to college and works for the TSA. He drives a beat-up car. He isn’t particularly ugly but not particularly handsome either. His family are pretty much all terrible people who tear everybody else down and he has a very odd relationship with his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. Most of his friends aren’t particularly mature. He doesn’t have any discernible skills or hobbies.
This gap between the near perfection of Molly (makes lots of money, educated, and of course very attractive) and the nothing-special Kirk is the central theme of the movie. His friend Stainer, with some help from others, convinces him that since she is a “hard 10” and he’s more like a 5 or 6, it will never work out since nobody can jump more than 2 spots. He even cites his own previous relationship as an example.
From this we can see a familiar pattern: shame tells us that we are not good enough for another. Shame has invented that gap which we can’t bridge. Maybe we just abandon the relationship entirely, but if we stay we do so as an inferior, continuing to feel like we are not good enough. Maybe we hope for some big defect in the other so that we’re back on the same level, as Kirk eventually does of Molly.
Of course, this does also often work the other way around, where we consider ourselves better than others and so don’t need them, leading us to miss out on many beautiful human interactions. We call that pride, and it is important to discuss this openly as well, but this post (and this movie) is about shame.
Shame, though, is firmly stuck in a legalistic paradigm. If you are good enough, you get good things and to be in relationship with good people. If you aren’t, well too bad. When it comes to God, we usually make those rankings on big ethical questions or maybe ritual or group involvement (collectively, “religion”), but it is the same judgemental tendency as the comparing based on physical attractiveness, money, and personality.
Eventually this leads to the breakup of Kirk and Molly when Kirk expresses that he was looking for some defect to justify why he could be with her, and she explains that she didn’t see anything wrong with him until just then. He doesn’t seem to know how to handle this and they both go their separate ways. As Kirk is leaving, reunited with his ex-girlfriend, Stainer asks his dream girl – who was supposedly out of his league – why it didn’t work out, certain that it was because he wasn’t good enough for her. Instead, she replied that the problem was that he was always comparing.
In other words, grace entered the picture and judgement – of self and each other – fell apart. It took a radical revelation from the “perfect” for the “lesser” beings to even consider that their assumptions of judgement leading to their own shame might not be true. The supposed gap between them turned out to be created by Kirk, and to some degree society in general, but definitely not by Molly.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. Many think that since God is perfect, she cannot handle our imperfection, that there is some inherent gap which she has instituted to keep her distance from our lower sinful selves. Even though the idea goes formally all the way back to Plato (and instinctively even farther to the Garden of Eden), I believe that’s just as big of a lie as the whole ratings system for who you can and cannot date. What if, like Kirk to Molly, we have judged ourselves as not being good enough for God – which if God was into that would be completely correct – and we have set up that gap, distancing ourselves in shame.
Like Stainer’s ex had to reveal to him and Molly had to reveal to Kirk, it took God chasing after us across the gap that we created. In Jesus, God is so determined to show us that he loves us – despite our imperfections and even outright sins – that he physically bridged the gap and became flesh. He taught us about this radical love. He modelled this radical love to the worst of the worst, the people that society said were most distanced from that love, even to the point of dying for us all. Not just those who were good enough, those who could get at least an 8 out of 10. All.
God has shown you that she doesn’t care about that gap we’ve created. So are you willing to repent – change your heart and mind – from the world of law to the world of grace? Are you willing to let love in?
Love and the New Creation
The movie ends with Kirk taking Molly up on a flight, earlier established in the movie as his dream that he had mostly given up on. This does demonstrate something beautiful about grace: while becoming a better person is not a requirement to be loved, being loved will ultimately result in you becoming a better person. It is important that this is a change that happens out of a deep meaningful relationship, not out of a list of rules to get good enough. We are no longer people of the Law – laws of who can date who or laws of deep and challenging moral questions – but because of God’s love overflowing through us, we are people of something far better: love. That is the basis of Christian ethics.
For the majority of my blog readers – committed Christians – how are you letting God remake you into a new creation? And how have you settled for love instead of Law and religion trying to bridge the gap?