What I learned about sin from Veruca Salt

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When you grow up watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), you get to know the characters intimately.  While I read the original Roald Dahl book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it never brought Veruca Salt to life quite like the big screen.  There was always something simultaneously engrossing and revolting about Julie Dawn Cole’s portrayal of the self-absorbed girl who had everything and still wasn’t happy.  Veruca is known for her catch phrase: “I want it now!” which she yells in her trill girl’s voice whenever something she desires comes into view.  She’s whiny and demanding.  She’s unreasonable and selfish.  Above all, she’s impatient.


“Veruca Salt” by Sarah Soe

Veruca wants everything she sees and she is not willing to wait for it.  She wants it now, and she’s serious.  Yes, she struggles with materialism, greed, vanity, and pride, but her own downfall, a trip down the garbage chute, results from her impatience.  She didn’t care how, she wanted that golden goose right then and there.  When Willy Wonka informs her that she can’t have one, she breaks into song and dance about all the things she wants and that, above all, she wants them immediately.  Having been in a lifelong battle of my own with impatience, I understand the struggle.

There are various forms of impatience.  Sometimes I am impatient with what I refer to, in my sinful moments, as the “crap of others.”  The things they do and the problems they cause for other people, namely me.  You know, the people who can’t be bothered to wait in line like everyone else.  The ones who don’t think traffic laws apply to them because they have important things to do.  Those that who don’t do things right or effectively, and you spend countless hours fixing things and doing them yourself.  My list could go on and on.  Then there is the impatience you experience with yourself.  You mess up.  You procrastinate.  You have ideas and things you want to do, maybe even need to do, but you can’t seem to make them happen soon enough or at all.  My struggles with impatience do not usually revolve around wanting something material.  That might be easier.  I could simply argue that I don’t have the money, the space, the real need for whatever it was, but my impatience is really human-centric. 

So, when I think of Veruca, I have a certain empathy and sense of foreboding.  I am just a few steps away from that garbage chute myself.  I could easily throw away what is most important in this life: relationships.  I could push those I care for away because I don’t have the patience for their idiosyncrasies.  I could destroy relationships that God calls me to nurture.  I could be ruining my witness for Jesus Christ in my own sinful inclination to get angry and resentful from impatience.  I could be staining my reputation and my ministry if I give in to the temptation to tell others what I’m thinking when I get impatient.  I know that if I am damaging relationships with others that I am simultaneously damaging my relationship with God.  I replay her dropping like a stone and envision that as me, and it makes me pause.  As much as part of me, in a twisted way, likes Veruca, I do not want to be her.  I do not want others to see in me all the horribly sinful things that stare back at you when you look at her pouting and screaming for things.  Perhaps the worst thing of all is that I don’t know that Veruca is ever changed.  I can’t say that I believe she is by the end of the movie or the book, mostly because I don’t believe she wants to be redeemed.  I do not want to be like that.  Not only do I want to be redeemed, I want to be renewed when I slip back into my old sinful patterns of impatience.  I want to be freed from the bonds of that sinful state.  Slowly, but surely, by the Grace of God, I am.  How sweet it is; sweeter than all the chocolate in the world!

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