Love the Hard People

I recently watched Edward Scissorhands for the first time and was shocked to find out that it is not actually a slice-and-dice horror flick where everyone dies, painfully mutilated, at the end.

So, basically, it exceeded my expectations.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead. (And not the fate of the butterfly. I'm really not sure what happened to it.)

WARNING: Spoilers ahead. (And not the fate of the butterfly. I’m really not sure what happened to the butterfly.)

The actual plot of the movie is more like this: an ultra-nice suburban housewife name Peg discovers an abandoned young man­…who was created by an eccentric inventor with scissors for hands. Understandably frightened, she backs away, saying, “I’ll just be going now…”

And Edward (the most adorable knife-adorned teenager you’ll ever meet) says, “Don’t go.”

And she doesn’t—for a while. The whole community “welcomes” Edward, according to the IMDB plot summary, which is true only if your idea of a rousing welcome involves gushing over a person’s freakishness, using him for your personal gain, trying to fix him, and loving him only as long as it’s convenient. (Spoiler: it gets inconvenient really quickly—Peg ends up deciding it’s best for Edward to return to his home in the abandoned mansion.)

At the end of the film, a little girl says to Peg’s daughter Kim, who has narrated the whole story, “You could have gone up there. You still could go.” But the now-elderly Kim says something cute about how she knows Edward is happy because of the snow he makes from slicing up ice sculptures in this castle, and sometimes she dances in it…end credits. Like that’s supposed to make me happy or something.

It didn’t. (I still liked the movie, for the record, I was just mad at the characters.)

A few of my fellow movie-watchers made a case that the abrupt isolation was for Edward’s own good, that he wasn’t really human and probably didn’t experience loneliness in the same way we do.

Nope. I did not buy it, but I couldn’t explain why. The closest I got was repeating, “You don’t just…leave people.” I hated Kim, irrationally, more than any other movie character in recent history, even though she was supposed to be the angelic example of selfless love.

I didn’t remember until later that I have this weird habit of hating fictional characters who are similar to me, who expose my weaknesses and flaws.

The Edward Scissorhands philosophy is neatly summarized when Peg says: “When I brought Edward down here to live with us, I really didn’t think things through. And I didn’t think about what could happen to him, or to us, or to the neighborhood. You know, I think that maybe it might be best if he goes back up there. Because at least there he’s safe, and we’d just go back to normal.”

Do you hear some familiar justifications there? Because I sure do.

Christians think things through too much. When the God brings someone difficult into our lives, we play through all the scenarios and what-ifs and possible misunderstandings and discomfort and decide it just isn’t worth it. We, with Peg, think it might just be better to leave things alone, because at least everyone will be safe and things will go back to normal.

Guys, the church already knows how to do safe and normal. We are really, really good at that. There’s a comfort in knowing the routines and traditions of our services, in having friends to talk to afterward about subjects that are comfortable, in being vaguely challenged after the sermon to fix something small in our lives.

But what happens when an Edward Scissorhands walks in? How do we welcome him?

Or, better, what would happen if we went out and found a Lars Lindstrom and brought him into our community?

I’m totally switching movies to Lars and the Real Girl, the story of a delusional young man from an unnamed northern Midwest town who believes that a lifesized doll is actually his girlfriend. At one point, completely frustrated, Lars’s brother says to his wife, Karin, “Maybe he wants to be left alone.”

And Karin responds, “That’s not how people are.” She never gives up on Lars, inviting him over for meals, getting him to a counselor, taking care of the doll, Bianca, like she was a real person, and refusing to take the easy way out by leaving Lars alone.

Over and over again, the movie shows people in the community reaching out to Lars even when it’s hard, including the church members who ask “What would Jesus do?” and decide it includes welcoming both Lars and Bianca. Some are better at it than others, but they’re all trying.

In the real world, too, love is hard. And if Christians loved more difficult people, our routines, our lives, wouldn’t be safe anymore. They wouldn’t be normal.

But Jesus doesn’t call us to safe and normal. That is not the gospel.

You probably know one or two Edwards or Lars, the people who are just a little different, who don’t fit in and most days don’t seem to want to. No matter how we justify ignoring them, they are there, and they need us.

Sometimes, if we let them get close to us, they will hurt us. They will embarrass us. They may not suddenly be fixed or cured of whatever it is that sets them apart, whether that’s mental illness, sexual brokenness, social awkwardness, or just a culture or background different from most others you know.

But we have to be willing to stay.

Early in the movie, Karin invites Lars in for dinner, and when he makes excuses and tries to retreat into his house, she literally hug-tackles him to the snowy gravel of the driveway. “Would you please let me go?” Lars asks in quiet desperation.

To which Karin says, “No.” And Lars comes in for dinner.

I always cry at that part, because I have had Karins in my life who would not let me go, even when I wanted them to, even when I asked them politely to stay out of that area of my life or said I was doing just fine. They stayed.

That’s the gospel. When we wanted God to let us go, to leave us alone, he didn’t. He sent Jesus instead, and we need to remember that it’s the hard people who need to see that love the most

And they see it when we love them like Jesus.

9 comments

    1. Love this, all of this! It’s hard to remember, I think, and I want to put the blame on our culture or fast-paced society, but it’s really just plain old selfishness, which has been around forever. Thanks, Steph!

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