Recently I read The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and I have to admit that I read the book because of the success of the movie, (although I hadn’t seen the movie at the time). But after finishing the book I hummed and hawed over whether or not I should watch the movie. I mean, we all know that books are superior, but after a while I decided what the hey, and I let my curiosity win.
The book was better. Shocker.
The movie was good, and was able to put flesh on the complicated roles of the story. And I will admit that Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence did a fantastic job of catching the essence of two deeply abstruse characters. But the story-line deviation’s from the book were so strong that it actually felt like a pretty different version (especially the end).
Much like Holden Caulfield in the Catcher In The Rye, we see the world through Pat Peoples perspective. But because he is mentally unstable the reader is constantly wondering what parts of Pat’s viewpoint is reality and what parts are his own hopefulness or delusion. He is likable and from the beginning you are rooting for him to get better.
Here is a brief overview of the book without spoiling too much.
Pat gets out of a mental health institution and moves in with his parents. He had a substantial out-burst that put him in the institute and slowly throughout the book he remembers what had happened. His whole goal after leaving the institute is to get in shape by running and exercising endlessly, become intelligent by reading famous novels and to try to be a better person by doing nice things for other people. But his only real reason for doing any of this is to win his estranged wife back. And this becomes his obsession.
In fact obsession seems to be a prevailing theme in the book. At least that’s what I saw. Although the author was shedding light on the complexities of mental illness in the characters of Pat and Tiffany, it seems all the characters have a form of mental instability. Tiffany has her own issue’s – one being a history of random sex after a life-altering tragedy. But after meeting Pat, he becomes her new obsession. Pat’s dad is an Eagles fan in the most OCD laden way possible. The football team is his entire life and no doubt an idol like no other. Pat’s mom seems to have her life wrapped up in the happiness of her family and wants nothing more than to have everything be perfect. Pats best friend Ronnie is slowly and silently dying inside as his domesticated life and controlling wife suck his soul.
This is a just a few examples in which the book describes many forms of deluded fixations and mental illness.
But it is how Pat views God that makes his story so intriguing for me. He is constantly having conversations with God about his desire to win his wife back (a noble goal) and think more positive and see the silver-lining in every situation. Silver-linings are what keep Pat going. He looks for them everywhere. He pleads with God to get his wife back constantly throughout the book and he wants his old life back desperately.
But he is tirelessly trying to earn it. He wants God’s favor, however he really believes he must make God proud before God will ever give him the desires of his heart.
I believe this is a common cultural idea of God. Even among Christians. If we just work a little harder, do nice things and think more positive we will somehow make ourselves clean enough to win God’s ear. But it isn’t really God we want.
See Pat’s character believes that what would ultimately make him happy and whole would be to have his wife back. His wife is his idol. God is just a means to a desirable end. And I think that is generally how we treat Him. Oh Lord, I want this, please make it so that I can get it. I will try to do better to make you happy.
But God wants us to want Him. Full stop.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart”. ~ Psalm 37:4
We love this verse, because we think it gets us what we want. But in order to get it, we must delight ourselves in the giver first. See God was never Lord over Pat (and I know he is fictional, but its an example – relax). In the same way that He is probably not often Lord over us. He is a butler that has the power to get us things, but just as long as we pay him enough with our do-goodery. And that’s the way we’d like to keep Him because it is convenient.
However all He asks is that we want Him and Him alone. Put aside the idols that fill our hearts affection and put them in the Creator of all good things. Because the work is done in the person of Christ and our measly actions will not earn us anything.
Christ has already made the payment. That part is done. And it is for that reason we should delight in the Father in whom all things were made and all redemption is found.
Pat is the perfect example of a self-help generation trying to get better all in his own might. And it is an exhausting and fruitless game.
May we not delight in gifts more than the giver.
May we desire the things of God above material blessings.
May we give glory to God, and enjoy HIM forever.