Last weekend we watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas with the kids. Not the classic animated version, but the chaotic remake with Jim Carrey hamming it up as Dr. Seuss’ most famous wretch.
We watched—or subjected ourselves to—all its loud colours and even louder noises. We watched the Grinch wreak havoc over peaceful Whoville. We watched Whoville’s rotten mayor with his vengeful hatred for the Grinch, betraying the sweetness of Seuss’ original town. We watched the screechy fat ladies, the merciless children, and the competing adults who try to outdo one another with their gaudy Christmas light displays.
And we watched, in the middle of the chaos, sweet little Cindy Lou Who, who finds her way through the noise and kindly invites the Grinch to join the town for its holiday feast. She minds neither the cynicism of her elders nor the vindictive self-loathing of the Grinch. Cindy Lou simply thinks the Grinch needs someone to remember him at Christmas time. “Santa, don’t forget the Grinch. I know he’s mean and hairy and smelly. His hands might be cold and clammy. But I think he’s actually kind of sweet.”
As the Grinch says: “Nice kid. Bad judge of character.”
Of course, those who know the story remember that it’s Cindy Lou’s love that refuses to leave the Grinch alone on Christmas, and which finally breaks through the walls his painful past has constructed around his shrunken heart. That heart grows three sizes that day, and the Grinch, like a bizarro-world Ebenezer Scrooge, is reformed.
Cindy Lou’s love, with nothing in the Grinch asking for it let alone deserving it, might remind more than a few of us of God’s own love.
C.S. Lewis once outlined a simple division of loves:
…say there are two kinds of love; we love wise and kind and beautiful people because we need them, but we love (or try to love) stupid and disagreeable people because they need us. This second kind is the more divine because that is how God loves us; not because we are loveable but because He is love, not because he needs to receive but because He delights to give. (Letters of C.S. Lewis, 231)
The message of the New Testament about God’s love strikes the same note again and again, but perhaps the apostle Paul summed it up best in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Romans: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
While the Grinch was still mighty grinchy, Cindy Lou Who loved him because he needed it. And while we were still sinners, Christ died for us because we needed it too.
Cindy Lou’s love broke through the Grinch’s shell, and God’s love – maybe especially noticeably at the Christmas season – is powerful to break through ours as well.
It’s a hard love to practice (though we must), but it’s an essential love to receive.