I’m currently into animated movies, not by choice. The tiny human at home loves them.
A favorite is Despicable Me. Even the title tells you this guy’s a loser. Gru is grumpy and mean and pops balloons of little kids and laughs. He’s selfish and doesn’t care about anyone’s feelings. What a jerk! Except not really. Because secretly I’m sitting there thinking, “I sure wish I could act like that on days I feel like it.”
So guess what? I kind of really love him. I also can be grumpy and mean and want to pop a little kid’s balloon. Especially when it’s floating 2 inches from my face.
Other memorable main characters are actually likable…at first. Like Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader in Star Wars. Anakin had the potential to become one of the most powerful Jedi ever, and was believed by some to be the prophesied Chosen One who would bring balance to the Force. But then, darn it, he falls in love and gets married. Out of fear of losing his wife, he turns to the Dark Side. Our flawless hero is actually flawed.
What about the main characters in the Greatest Story Ever Told, the Bible? Even David, the man after God’s own heart, had a few serious issues: murder & adultery to name the top 2. Peter? Kind of an irrational over-reactor with a big mouth. He cut off a soldier’s ear for crying out loud and denied he ever knew Christ.
Then there’s Paul. Oi. Lord have mercy. Here’s a guy who killed Christians and wreaked havoc on the church. And then he wrote most of the New Testament.
The Bible’s filled with some sketchy main characters. We’re not talking hang nails or being a bit overweight or accidentally saying the s- word in front of their kids. We’re talking jail time activities. And guess what? I kind of really love them, too.
Because the best characters are the worst.
What about us? When was the last time we thought to ourselves, “What I love best about me are my flaws! Specifically, how I can’t balance my checkbook or get my weight under control. I LOVE that I struggle with depression and anxiety…”
We’re pretty great at displaying our strengths and disguising our weaknesses. In fact, so much so that we believe everyone else has it together, and we don’t. Their stories look great, and ours are a mess, says Facebook.
As a new bride, I was part of a prayer group where all the women seemed to have great marriages. I was discouraged that no one struggled like me. Years later, some of the couples divorced, and I thought, “No way! Not them!”
So why do we love a main character in a movie that’s a bit of a mess?
Because we can relate.
If we were the perfect protagonist in our stories, we wouldn't need each another, and we wouldn’t need God.
Paul says it best in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
7So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The body of Christ functions with a mutual dependence on one another and on God. We need each other. We need God.
What if the thing that drew people to Christ was NOT our perfect posts on Facebook but how we leaned into God and His community for strength? What if our most attractive quality wasn’t our flawless skin and perfectly toned triceps, but the faults we openly displayed, wrestled with, and let God use to make us strong?
By the end of the movie, Despicable Me, Gru no longer pops kids’ balloons and laughs at their demise; he now enjoys taking them to amusements parks to play games and ride roller coasters. Because 3 little girls won his heart, and he was transformed.
The best characters are the worst characters, and thank God. Because most days, I feel like the worst. And it's in my worst places God does His best work.