One of my favourite movies is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a 2004 comedy-drama about a man who decides to have the memory of a painful relationship erased from his mind. (Fair warning: the movie is intense at times and for many might be offensive. For me the good outweighs the bad; this may not be the case for you.)
Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) has been hurt one time too many by Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet). The final straw had been the moment he discovered that she had recently had him erased from her memory. (The movie is also referred to as a “romantic science fiction” movie, so you’ll have to go with me on this memory-erasing business.)
The movie is about many things, one of which is their mysterious rediscovery of one another. They are drawn together one morning when they meet on a train. Neither one of them realizes that they’ve had a long history together. Neither one of them knows what a rotten time they’ve been given by the other one. In time, they discover their own horrible past. Ultimately, though, they decide to be together. This time, though, they enter their relationship with full awareness that this will be painful, that they will get hurt. They decide to love each other, knowing these things full well.
Not long ago at youth group we discussed the question about why God would have made us if he knew we were going to sin. If God knew all things, including our fall, why would he get himself involved with us? Wouldn’t he realize we weren’t worth the trouble?
In Ephesians we read that God “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” God’s gracious to love us came before he made the world. God the Father, Son, and Spirit, who always love one another in perfect community, chose to reach out in love to a world (and people) yet to be made. He knew what he made us to be (the image of his Son), but He also knew exactly what he was getting into. God knew that there would be pain involved: he was going to set his love on us, even though we were going to reject him, walk away from him, live in ways far inferior to his purpose for us… and yet he decided we were worth it.
Clementine and Joel’s decision in Eternal Sunshine to love one another a second time came with full awareness of the pain it would bring them. That awareness didn’t make it an inferior love; it made it a more genuine love. In a much greater way, God (who would never hurt us) chose to love us with full awareness of the pain it would bring him to open himself up to us. But that makes his love that much more glorious and more wonderful.
Belle and Sebastian’s song “Like Dylan in the Movies” has a section that also seems to me to reflect the attitude of God toward his broken and redeemed creatures:
Yeah, you’re worth the trouble and you’re worth the pain
You’re worth the worry, I would do the same
If we all went back to another time,
I would love you over… (starts at about 2:20 in the song)