From Always to Okay | A Reflection on “The Fault in Our Stars” and Relationship with Jesus
What do “The Fault in Our Stars” and a relationship with Jesus have in common? Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot. However, I was moved to think through several things as I watched the movie and then reflected in the following days. First, let me share a disclaimer: I am a firm believer that the fingerprints of God are everywhere in His creation, including the people He has created. The stories we tell are never, ever, ever divorced from the reality of who He is. We may realize it or we may not, but our ability to recognize truth is in no way consequential to whether something is truth or not. However, when we realize and see that everything in life is dripping with the glory of God, we are able to interact with life in redemptive and loving and life giving ways.
So, “The Fault in Our Stars” is a great story and an honest one, but what gripped me most was the juxtaposition of two kinds of love. There was the sappy, immature relationship between Isaac and Monica punctuated with the sharing of the word “always” back and forth between the lovers. It was their mantra to mean that things would always be “this way” and they would “always” be there for each other. Of course, in a touch of dramatic irony, we could see that this word would come back to haunt them. The relationship didn’t last. Because tragedy was about to strike Isaac, Monica preemptively breaks things off. “Always” as a way of thinking about love was no more! As an immature love often goes, no room was made for suffering.
On the other hand, Augustus and Hazel have a relationship built on a brutal commitment to truth and honesty forged by the shared reality of cancer. Neither have a desire for a shallow, typical relationship, but one resting in truth. The word which becomes their mantra? “Okay.” The word represented a shared acceptance that reality is enough. They didn’t desire to lie or pretend or make something more of life than what they had been given. And, it was in this very acceptance that life took on a depth and richness that circumstance could not steal.
It was indeed interesting that Jesus made a bit of a cameo appearance in the film. The young man who led the cancer support group sang “sappy” songs about Jesus always being there. He wove a carpet depicting Jesus and invited people to come to the “literal” heart of Jesus. The immaturity and misunderstanding of relationship evident in this leader seemed to mirror the immature love of Isaac and Monica.
However, as the film seemed to challenge us to move on from immature love (and, perhaps, by inference, Jesus), I saw the development of “okay” as a similar invitation that Jesus extends to us again and again.
As I sat in a worship service recently, I was struck (having just seen “The Fault in Our Stars”) with the usage of the word “always” in a worship song. Jesus will always come through. He will always be there. Certainly, there is a beautiful truth in the “always-ness” of God, but there are also times when it doesn’t feel like He is there … when cancer strikes, when a child dies, when we are suffering. In addition, there are times when Jesus doesn’t relate to us in the ways He used to. He often seems absent and it has nothing to do with circumstances.
There is a need to mature to a place of being able to say “okay.” Certainly, there is a deep appropriateness to singing songs about the “always-ness” of God and for young love (even love with God), there is a need for emotions that might not stand the test of time. However, there is more to a relationship with Jesus than suggested by the support group leader in “The Fault of Our Stars.”
Richard Rohr, in his book “Everything Belongs”, comments that “Everything belongs and everything can be received. We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore. Whatever is, is okay. What is, is the great teacher. I have always seen this as the deep significance of Jesus’ refusal of the drugged wine on the cross.”
Please note that I am in no way critiquing the fact that a “Christian” leader was portrayed as a bit of a dork and clueless. It helped tell the story and was honest. Many Christians stay in the place of immaturity. By God’s grace, He loves us and meets us where we are. However, He always desires for us to move into maturity and the ability to say “okay.”
Indeed, whatever is, is okay because He is present and He is at work. How does He desire to move you from “always” to “okay”?