Can you relate to me? Or Earl? Or perhaps even the dying girl?
Maybe there is a part of us that can relate to all three characters in this summer indie release.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a film that will probably give the mainstream “blockbusters” a run for their money—and that is already something we can marvel at—right? But beyond that, there is a depth and a texture to this coming of age story that is sure to touch your heart and definitely draw out some tears!
Many have compared Me and Earl to The Fault in Our Stars, but there are some significant differences that I think make this a better story—or at least bring out a deeper level of meaning—which is why I asked if you thought you might relate to any/all of the main characters.
To sum up without spoiling, the “me” is Greg (Thomas Mann), who plays an awkward Senior in high school navigating his way through cliques without investing in any relationships. He is like a ship sailing through different harbors, but never dropping anchor.
Earl is the closest thing Greg has to a friend, although the majority of their relationship is defined by a common love for making film parodies.
And the “dying girl”? Her name is Rachel, and you just might have guessed that she is terminally ill.
The three of them come together in a trifecta of relationships that exists in an unlikely context. Greg is “forced” by his mom to spend time with Rachel, and what begins on his part as an act of pity, evolves into a friendship that expands to include Earl. And as a result, everyone’s life is changed forever.
So back to my original question: Can any of you relate to me, Earl, or the dying girl? Those of us who sometimes have a hard time putting down an anchor in relationships can sure connect with Greg—no matter what age we are! Or maybe like Earl, you are the person that is considered just below average—not really excelling at anything in particular, but not failing miserably either.
And all of us—I mean ALL of us—are terminally ill in a spiritual sense. We are slowly wasting away and our days are numbered. So while we may not be suffering through the challenges and discouragements of a physical illness, we understand what it is like to be dying on the inside from our sin and separation from God.
But the great news—and this is brought out in the movie—is that there is a kind of redemption and healing that comes from self-sacrifice and thinking of others first.
Here’s the way God’s Word expresses this idea:
Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand (Philippians 2:3-4, The Message),
In the beginning of his friendship with Rachel, I believe Greg was not interested in being “deep-spirited friends,” but when he started forgetting himself and truly lent her a “helping hand,” he discovered an avenue into true meaning and contentment. Rachel helped Greg gain the life-changing insight that when we seek to truly help others they often end up being the ones who end up helping us!
But don’t miss this important truth: it is only through Jesus Christ that we can find, not only ultimate healing from the terminal sickness of sin, but also the example for how to break the cycle of selfishness:
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion (Philippians 2:5-8).
This summer, look for people you can reach out to and befriend for yourself and for the sake of THE Cause. Remember also that we have been given the great gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, and now we can share that gift with others!
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
Think through all the people you know who are possibly in need of a friend—especially during these long summer days. Look for opportunity to “lend a hand” to them, and especially for the chance to do the most giving thing of all—which is share the good news of Jesus Christ!
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Jesus, You gave us the ultimate example of self-sacrifice so we could be cured of our spiritual illness. Help us to share this amazing gift with others and have Your eyes to see the needs around us.
Read: John 15:13. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (NLT).
Get: Lifted. Perhaps you or your friends have seen pain and suffering up close and personal. For anyone who’s ever struggled with the tough stuff of life—have friends they are trying to help, Katie Payne’s story of overcoming a painful past will encourage you.
As a child, Katie experienced the trauma of abuse. For years she carried the shame and pain in isolated silence—self-injuring and sliding deeper and deeper into a pit of despair. Then one eventful night, she discovered God’s deep, unconditional love for her. Lifted is a remarkable story of hope overcoming pain and despair.
Discussion Guide for Leaders
Want to use this Soul Fuel as a bible study with your students this week? Copy and text them the following: “Your challenge this summer: Make a new friend! Check out this week’s devo: http://hubs.ly/y0WhhZ0“
Big Idea: As followers of Jesus, we need to follow in His example of laying our lives down for others.
Key Scripture: Philippians 2:3-8
- Can you relate to any of the characters in the movie? Which ones?
- How have the friendships you’ve made changed you?
- Do you treasure each day of life that you’ve been given? Why or why not?
- How can you apply this Soul Fuel to THE Cause?