Back when we were in the last days of waiting on our boy to arrive, my sleep schedule was not in a good place. Between a huge belly, the time change, and equal parts excitement and anxiety over when labor would start, I wasn't getting much rest. One sure fire way to occupy my mind while also resting was to watch TV. We did LOTS of this. One day, when Matthew was still snoozing, I quietly made my way to the living room and browsed Netflix for something to have on in the background as I went about my morning. I settled on a light hearted comedy called The Good Place. I wanted something funny and quirky that wouldn't toy with my already sensitive emotions, but it really stretched my mind and heart in ways I couldn't have predicted.
The premise of the show is that the main character, Eleanor, has died and gone to "The Good Place". However, it's a total mistake because she was really a rotten person while on earth. Not a murderer or anything, but completely self absorbed, rude, and lazy. Obviously, she does not want to be found out and sent to "The Bad Place", so she enlists her appointed soulmate, previously a professor of morals and ethics, to teach her how to be a "good person" so she can earn her keep. There are some funny bits and the colorful set drew me in, however, what really stuck with me was how absolutely exhausting it was for every single character, not just Eleanor, to work at being "good".
One man gets told that the book he wrote while living, the accomplishment of which he was proudest, is complete crap. Another woman's story is shown through flashbacks and we see that she spent her earthly life trying to earn love and acceptance from her parents who much preferred her sister. This character brings those issues with her to "The Good Place" where she continually tries to "out-good" all the other residents so that she can finally be valued. There is even a master list that ranks everyone in The Good Place based off their earthly works! It's an entertaining plot for sure, but it really wore me out.
Watching the characters try and fail over and over again to be good enough, to earn love and respect, to earn the right to be in "heaven" was exhausting for my soul, but it was also very eye opening. The characters in The Good Place were all great people while on earth. They took care of orphans, healed the sick and dying, cured diseases, etc. etc., but in the afterlife they find out they were still not good enough. The creators of this show don't know how right they are. None of us are good enough. Our good works, no matter how good they are, are not enough to save us. I kept thinking of what a terrific stage they had set for Jesus to come in and save them all! What a cool show this would be if that were the case.
The Good Place is more than a TV show. It's a mirror held up to humankind reflecting our true plight. We need Jesus because all those good works will never be enough. Too often we get caught up in calling out people's sins or we ourselves work extra hard to tame the sins in our own life. We make Christianity and following Christ all about following the "rules", being good, or killing the bad stuff in our lives that needs to die (and it does need to die), but that's really missing the mark. Sin is not a list of bad qualities or broken rules, it is an incurable disease that we have been born into. No matter how "good" or "bad" we are, we are all still sinners in the eyes of God. Jesus Christ is not. He is God's Son, the Messiah, the Savior of the World. He was sent by God to save us because God loves us and knows we cannot save ourselves. Jesus left heaven, was born on earth as a human, lived a perfect life, then sacrificed that life because our sin was going to keep us separated from God forever otherwise. Jesus wore our sin to the cross, died a criminals death, descended into Hell, and rose again because we could never be good enough without Him.
While watching The Good Place, I was almost holding my breath waiting on Jesus to come onto the scene and rescue Eleanor from her dilemma. She spent every day in fear of being found out for what she really was: not good enough to belong. That doesn't sound like anyway to spend eternity to me, or even a good way to spend life on earth. Always striving, always working, always earning, something that is unattainable. How truly sad. (Sounds more like hell to me than heaven and SPOILER ALERT, we find out at the end of the season that they're all really in "The Bad Place" all along which makes total sense, doesn't it?) What a sweet relief it is to know Christ! How freeing to be able to confidently say, "I ain't got it! I am not enough! I am messed up and broken. I am fearful and selfish. I am weak and poor. I can try and try and try, but I always let myself down. I always let others down. I am never going to be good enough" and then cling desperately to Him.
Think of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. She knew that healing could only happen through Jesus. She had come to a place where she knew that by touching His robes alone, not even his body, that she could find peace and healing. It wasn't going to come any other way. She had tried everything: taken every medicine, seen every doctor, tried every old wives tale, and she was tired of trying to fix herself. Healing never came until she reached out for Christ. (Luke 8:43-48)
Eleanor's quest to fix herself and not be found out for who she really was, a sinner incapable of change, was all too familiar to me. For those of us who grew up in the church, sometimes we can be led to feel as if salvation really is up to us. It isn't. We could never earn His love. Jesus stepped up and in for us. It's overwhelming and even hard to believe isn't it? It's difficult to wrap our minds around such a selfless act of love. It can even sound too good to be true, but it is true, and it's a gift that is ours for the taking.
Are you weary of working so hard to be good enough? Are you burdened by waking up every day and hiding the person that you really are? Are you tired of trying and failing to earn approval and love? Look to Christ who said, "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) Folks, it cannot be found in any other way. Come to Jesus, He isn't just a good place, He is the only place to be.
The real "Good Place" or Heaven, is only good because Christ is there. Gaining entry into an eternity spent there is not the end goal of the Christian. Ask yourself, would heaven be heaven if Christ was not there? If your heaven is a place where Christ could or could not exist, I challenge you to seek Him in scripture. But, that's really a whole other topic for a whole other post...