I started watching Gilmore Girls, for the first time, just a couple months ago. It was during the heat of the election season, and I needed a break from everything I was reading online. So I turned to Netflix. I heard there was a new season coming out from a few of my friends who are loyal fans - so I thought, "What better time than now to start watching it from the beginning?"
That was, until I realized there were 168 episodes in the entire series! And I had 60 days to finish them all in time for the new special season premiere. I'm happy to report that I finished the very last episode of the very last season, two hours before schedule! ;)
It was quite the binge. And I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone or do it ever again - but for this one time, it was worth it. And I even took away some spiritual insight from it all. Most notably, that Stars Hollow - the adorable community where, Gilmore Girls, Lorelai and Rory live - represents a lot of what I believe the body of believers, followers of Jesus, i.e. "The Church" should look like today.
While I don't condone or agree with everything in the show - and I make sure to give that clarification so as not to imply that it is practically perfect in every way (Mary Poppins) - I do think there are underlying themes that can be relatable to the church when it comes to community. And while this may be flaunted as a bit light-hearted, given the title, this subject matter has been heavy on my heart for awhile. I needed the example of Stars Hollow to remind me of what a loving community looked like. And though it is fictional and isn't without its own flaws, I still think there are a few things the Church could learn from Stars Hollow.
1. It was a safe haven.
Stars Hollow was the place Lorelai Gilmore ran away to live when she found out she was pregnant at 16. Her parents were notably wealthy and, in her shame of disappointing them, she found acceptance and open arms from the small town, Stars Hollow, community. Friends stood in as family during her daughter's childhood, and she was never once lacking in support.
The Lord is described in Isaiah as a "defense for the helpless." Yet, often times people run from the church out of fear and shame. The Scripture says that the "breath of the ruthless is like a rain storm against a wall." And so should our churches be a safe haven for the outcast, neglected and condemned. Jesus said in Luke 5:31, "It is not the healthy people who need a doctor - but the sick." Imagine if every 16 year old girl who became pregnant ran to the church for support, instead of an abortion clinic. It is my prayer that the church would be known more for how well it rescues than rejects.
2. They sacrificed for others.
There are so many instances when I can recall the community of Stars Hollow coming together to help someone in need. If anyone was without power or running water in their homes, you can bet there was an open room at a neighbor's house. When the local inn burned down, several families in Stars Hollow took strangers into their homes. If there was a food need, Luke or Sookie were on it. This kind of sacrificial attitude was a part of the DNA of the Stars Hollow community.
The first century church, as written about in the book of Acts, sounded a lot like the Stars Hollow community when it came to sacrificing for others. Sharing "everything they had" and having "no needy persons among them." What an example! I am humbled by this reminder as I think about Christmas approaching in just a few weeks. It is easy to become obsessed with what we don't yet have, instead of being grateful for the necessities that we do. I have to remind myself often that "poor" is more of a mindset in our country, than an actual reality. Not to deny that there are definitely people struggling to make ends meat - but if we have the basic needs cared for (food, clothing, shelter) then we are so abundantly rich compared to many parts of the world. Being married to a pastor, I've seen first-hand how giving the church is. Yet, I've noticed that many times people are "passed off" to the church staff and dealt with as sort of a business thing - when, hey, if someone needs gas, just fill up their tank! The Scripture is so true that says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)
3. People were accepted, quirks and all.
One of my favorite things about Stars Hollow, and Gilmore Girls in general, are the quirky and lovable characters! What a trip some of them can be. Ha! And yet, despite all of the annoying quirks that they each may have - they are still loved and accepted by the community for who they are. And not just accepted, but appreciated. The show doesn't shy away from showing the character's flaws, and yet, by the end of it - you can't help but love them.
This verse has been quoted all over social media, tattooed on body parts and preached from the pulpit - and yet, it is not as simple as it may seem to appear on the surface. To "love each other," especially as Christ has loved us, takes a lot of work. This means we are to love with the unconditional love of Christ. We are given the best definition of this type of love in 1 Corinthians 13. If you replace the word "love" with the action verbs of what love means in this chapter, you get something like this:
"Just as I have loved you, you should 'be patient, kind, not jealous, or boastful or proud, not dishonoring or self-seeking, not easily angered, or keeping record of wrongs, not delighting in what is evil, but rejoicing in the truth. Always protecting, trusting, hoping, persevering and never failing' |LOVE| each other."
This is what it means to truly love each other. It doesn't mean approving of everything someone does, but it does mean accepting them for who they are. This kind of love is what makes the church stand apart from the rest of the world - maybe, with the exception of, Stars Hollow. ;)
4. They forgave easily.
As beautiful a community as Stars Hollow is, they are not without their bickering and arguments. In fact, it wouldn't be considered Stars Hollow without Luke and the town mayor, Taylor, getting into some sort of spat. Or Luke and Kirk. Or Luke and Lorelai, for that matter. (Luke sure is my favorite character, but definitely has a grumpy side!) But the beauty of the show, is that there is always a resolution at some point in the relationships. Even when they go without speaking for weeks - eventually, someone cracks and they move on.
The humbling thing about forgiveness - is that we love being the one to receive it, but rarely enjoy being the one to give it. I'm aware that I have messed up a lot in relationships with others - I've said and done things I shouldn't and have had to ask forgiveness often. And while I regret this about myself, it has also allowed me to become a pretty forgiving person towards others. It's like I tell my husband: I get upset when he honks at a driver on the road - because I have been honked at one or two times in my lifetime and know the feeling! When we have experienced what it means to be forgiven and set free in Christ, how can we any longer hold bitterness or unforgiveness against someone else? It seems absurd to me when I hear of churches splitting or relationships ending between Christians who no longer speak to each other because of a disagreement. If there is one thing I believe the church should be known for - it's that we forgive easily. And remember Luke 7:47, "I tell you, her sins - and they are many - have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love."
One final thing I want to note about Stars Hollow, and specifically Lorelai and Rory who lived there, is that there was an obvious lack of Christian community. The only two "churches" we were introduced to were Lane's mom's strict, Korean house church, and the Catholic church where funerals and weddings were held (and loud bells that kept the community awake at night!) The church was never presented in a positive way and was often made light of in a joking manner. This didn't offend me, because I know that the Church that Jesus instituted in Scripture was never meant to be as they described.
But, it reminded me that there are many who choose not to go to church and it's not because they don't need it (because I believe at the heart of it everyone is seeking this type of unconditional and loving community), but that their experience has been a negative one or that they've already found what the church has to offer somewhere else.
For Lorelai and Rory, it was Stars Hollow.