Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret


Margaret, your average 1970’s twelve year old, arrives home from camp to find that she and her parents are moving from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey...

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. (2023)

Rated PG-13

Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig, Lionsgate Pictures

Starring: Abby Ryder Fortson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates

A young girl newly moved from the city undergoes a physical and spiritual coming-of-age.

Opening Thoughts

Hey my Forgers! I watched this movie on the plane to Realm Makers, and at first wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book-turned-movie, but I was very pleasantly surprised by a sincere, heartfelt movie about a girl’s search, not just for her path to womanhood, but for a relationship with a God she’s not even sure really exists.

I definitely read this book as a pre-teen, I’m pretty sure almost every young woman born in the last fifty years has. Judy Blume’s novels were sort of a staple for girls growing up, although I think I leaned more towards her more child-centric novels, like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Starring Sally J Freedman As Herself.

But I found this movie to be, like Margaret herself, inviting, charming, and just trying to figure stuff out as it came along. Read on for what God showed me in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret!

SPOILERS for "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" HERE!

Margaret, your average 1970’s twelve year old, arrives home from camp to find that she and her parents are moving from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey. Margaret doesn’t want to move away from the city and her grandmother, Sylvia, is at first very unhappy. When they arrive in New Jersey, Margaret is befriended by a girl named Nancy, who invites her to join her secret club (including two other girls, Gretchen and Janie), where they discuss boys, puberty, and life in general.

In school, Margaret is assigned a year-long project on the topic of her choosing, and encouraged by her teacher, decides to study different religions. Throughout the movie Margaret has ongoing conversations with God, alternating between requests to be “normal” like the other girls (who wear bras and get their period), and sharing her thoughts and feelings on boys, her friends, her family, and how she views life in general. Even though she feels comfortable talking with God, Margaret was brought up not practicing any particular religion. Her father Herb was Jewish and her mother Barbara was Christian, and their relationship received such opposition from their families they decided to elope. While Sylvia, Margaret’s Jewish grandmother, has a strong relationship with her, Margaret has never met Barbara’s Christian parents, as they disowned Barbara when she decided to marry Herb.

Margaret experiments with going to temple with Sylvia (who is thrilled at Margaret’s interest in Judaism), and several different churches with her friends. Things erupt when Barbara’s parents decide to come and visit, where they urge Margaret to go to Sunday School and get baptized. This antagonizes Sylvia, who retaliates by revealing that she took Margaret to temple and that she therefore desires to be Jewish. Margaret, under pressure from both sets of grandparents, declares in an angry outburst that she doesn’t even believe in God and doesn’t want to practice any kind of religion at all.

The movie ends with Margaret turning in her project, a simple letter, in which she states that she looked for God in several places, but ultimately couldn’t find anything that “felt right” and decides she doesn’t need or want religion in her life. As Margaret prepares to leave for camp for the summer, she finally gets her period, and decides that maybe God is there after all, and begins a new conversation with Him.

So What Did God Show Me?

-I really love that Margaret, who has grown up outside of religion or any kind of introduction into who God is at all, was still able to reach out to Him when she is feeling scared and unsure of her life situation. She is able to thank Him when things go well, share her excitement and frustrations and even anger with Him. I just found this precious, because this is relationship with God at its purest and most basic. God wants us to share all of it, everything about our lives with Him! He’s not turned off or angry or irritated when we get angry or upset with Him. He wants us to be honest with Him, so He can meet us where we are.

It also made me so curious! Having no education on who God is as a person, I wonder how Margaret decided He was real, and even more, a friend she could talk to? Did she see it on TV, or a movie? In a book? Did she hear someone else describing their relationship with God and desired what they had? How old was she when she started talking to God? The movie suggests it was recently (did she talk to friends at camp about God?) but the book makes it seem like she’s been doing it awhile. Of course, the movie does take place in 1970, when the Jesus Revolution was amping up across the country, so it’s entirely possible that Margaret was exposed to that in some way, shape, or form. (The movie even utilizes Norman Greenbaum’s 70s classic, “Spirit in the Sky”, which I loved!)

I personally believe that God desires, first and foremost, to have relationship with us, and that the Holy Spirit can stir those longings within us to have relationship with Him in return. Even if we don’t have any experience or knowledge of God, that longing to find deep satisfaction in such a relationship can be found and met in God. I know, because I searched for many years before finally coming to rest with God. I sought affirmation and fulfillment from so many places and people, because I didn’t believe God could satisfy me and be what I needed. So eventually I asked Him to prove it to me, to prove that He could satisfy me…and did He ever, in such a wild and wonderful way! (If you’d like to know more, you’re welcome to shoot me an email over on the contact page!) And when I say “satisfy”, what I mean is that I lost all interest in seeking to be fulfilled as a person by other people. Only God can affirm your true identity as His son or daughter, and this is something that once you understand and accept, you realize the world cannot take it away, ever, because the world didn’t give it to you.

Anyways, Margaret seems to be developing her own friendship with God in her own way, which I loved.

-I was watching the movie again for this blog post and I just noticed some interesting things about Margaret’s “friend” Nancy. Nancy seems to come from a bit of an upper class family, and at first comes across as a bratty, bossy, snotty girl. But as I looked closer, I realized that underneath, Nancy is really feeling just as unsure as Margaret about life. Nancy is desperate to feel normal, but has instead chosen the path of belittling others and gathering a group around herself that she can feel superior over, while constantly measuring herself (physically even) against her “friends” to make sure she’s still on top. Reminds me of Snow White’s stepmother, who every single day would ask her mirror, “Who’s the fairest of them all?” It’s obviously all a cover for a terrified girl, which is confirmed when Nancy finally does get her period and breaks down hysterically crying. I wish that Nancy had been able to seek her identity in God, as His daughter, instead of trying to build one herself among her peers, because how long will that last? And it’s only ultimately going to be unfulfilling.

-When Barbara is telling Margaret about her parents, and how they have disowned her because she married a Jewish man, my heart was breaking for her. What must that have been like for Barbara, to have parents who believed that it was okay and “right” to tell their daughter she was going to hell for marrying a Jewish man, and then not talk to her for fourteen years? At least Sylvia, while she may not have agreed with their choices, stayed involved in their lives.

It’s so sad to me how religion can drive people apart when the very function of (Christianity, at least) is meant to bring people together. (Also, I should explain that when I say “religion”, I’m not talking specifically about Jewish vs Christian vs Hindu vs Buddist. I’m more talking about the type of “religion” when people are so obsessed with following the letter of the law, that there is no room for true, real relationship with Christ. That kind of religion was practiced by the Pharisees in the Bible with their “holier than thou” attitudes, and it is nothing like the actual love of Christ.)

Yes, as a Christian I do believe it’s important to follow Christ and obey His teachings. But I want to do these things because I love God, and I trust Him, and I believe that He put those teachings in place for my own good, to give me a life more abundant. I don’t believe that being a Christian makes me better than anyone else, or that everyone else has to believe the same thing that I do. I mean, following Christ is the best thing that ever happened to me, so I like to think that people would want it, because it’s amazing and I love being a Christian, but I won’t tell you in some whacked out Handmaid’s Tale way that you have to be a Christian and live a certain way. Being a Christian has given me an epic life full of adventure, healing, surprises, and joy. God’s released me from burdens, guilt, shame, and sin that I thought I would never be rid of, and I’ve been able to walk in a freedom I’ve never known before Christ. I can’t imagine a life without Jesus in it, and He’s assured me I’ll never be alone or apart from Him, ever. But I would never force Christianity on someone…that defeats its entire purpose. Jesus didn’t force Himself on people, that’s not what he was about. But He invited people to something better…and still does today! I won’t lie, at times being a Christian is not an easy life. There are times (a LOT of times) when I don’t understand God’s reasons for things, why He lets certain things happen, or why He doesn’t make other things happen, so I understand why it may not appeal to some people at first glance.

All of that to say, it makes me sad that Barbara’s parents were so bound up in the letter of the law that they got to a point where they refused to acknowledge they had a daughter, or a granddaughter.

-I love God’s sense of humor. There’s a scene when Margaret is on the bus going to visit Sylvia and is nervous about being alone, so she talks to God and asks for Him to help her feel better. She looks around and spots two nuns sitting nearby, and smiles. This is a great example of how personal God is…His way of making Margaret feel better was to show her two women who love Him devotedly, because He knew that would comfort her, like a physical sign He was there. God has done this for me many, many times in my life…so many times I’ve lost count. He can do it for you, too. Ask Him, and see what He does 😉

-I thought it was hilarious how Sylvia’s estimation of her rabbi being the “best in New York” because “two hours, in out, bing-bang-boom”. Apparently Sylvia likes to keep her temple visits short. 😂 I did like how she took time to explain the people and the events of the service to Margaret.

-I thought Margaret’s different reactions to the different houses of worship she visited were interesting. When she attends temple, she thought the people were nice and the music was pretty, but she thought she’d have more of a “feeling”. When she attends Janie’s church, which appears to be more of a Pentecostal church, she says, “I don’t know if I’ve got the ‘feeling’, God, but I’m sure in a good mood!” (That “good mood” is God, Margaret, it’s the Holy Spirit! And He loves to party, haha 🙂)

When Margaret goes to a Christmas Eve service at Nancy’s church, you can see her trying to understand Jesus and who He is, with the baby in the manger and everything. This scene made me think of The Chosen and love it even more. That show is all about helping people know Jesus better as God by introducing people to Him as a man. A man who loves us and is just frickin’ delighted when we want to get to know Him better. If you haven’t seen The Chosen, I highly recommend it. It has a bit of a slow start, but if you hang in there it really picks up after a couple of episodes. You can watch them for free at the Angel Studios website or app!

Ultimately, Margaret questions about how even though she looked for God in churches and temples, she only really feels Him when she is alone. This is because God isn’t held by mere buildings; like it says in Ephesians 3:17, He wants to make His home in our hearts. This is why God tells us to come away and find rest in Him, after all, even Jesus sought time alone to pray to God.

-I noticed a lot of similarities between Barbara and Margaret while re-watching this movie. Both of them are trying to please others by trying to be what others think they should be. Margaret starts wearing a bra and paying attention to a handsome boy in their class because Nancy tells her she should, that she’s not normal unless she does. Barbara’s is a bit more subtle, she tries to please Nancy’s mom by volunteering for multiple committees, and buys an entire living room set to impress her visiting parents. But in the end they agree how exhausting it is to have to try and please others all the time.

Makes me wonder if Barbara talks to God like her daughter does. After all, she was brought up Christian, and just because she doesn’t practice a faith anymore doesn’t mean she stopped talking to Him. Maybe that’s where Margaret got the idea, maybe she caught her mom talking to God at one point. I just can’t imagine not having God to talk to, especially when you’re going through something like your parents disowning you.

-I really felt for Barbara in the scene where the family is fighting about religion. She really feels responsible for Margaret’s angry outburst about not wanting a religion or believing in God, and feels it was her fault, because she reached out to her parents after so long. I felt like Barbara was dismayed, because doesn’t want Margaret to hate God, and she really does care whether or not her daughter has a relationship with Him. Logically, if Barbara was an atheist, and if she didn’t believe God existed, then she probably wouldn’t feel upset when her daughter says she doesn’t believe in God. This makes me really think that Barbara still has some kind of personal relationship with God, although she is adamant about not pushing it on her daughter and allowing Margaret to choose. I do believe as Christians it’s not only our responsibility but our privilege to teach our children about God and provide a safe foundation for them to build a healthy relationship with Him. However, due to the Simons’ unique family situation and Barbara’s own wounds from religion, I do respect Barbara’s wanting to let Margaret find her own way to God, and not just telling Margaret that God flat out doesn’t exist. I wonder what it would have been like to see some conversations where Margaret asks Barbara what she believes, and what God means to her.

-Like most everyone, Margaret doubts God’s existence when things get hard, but she doesn’t stop talking to Him. The thought that God doesn’t exist and she is truly alone makes her feel sad. She doesn’t want to be alone, and knowing God is always there to talk to has been a comfort to her, one that she decides to continue to embrace as the movie ends. I loved it. God is the one constant in this world, He is always available, and always looks forward to spending time listening to His children.

Hang on, Margaret. You’ll get there.

Closing Thoughts

Like I said above, I liked this movie WAY more than I thought I would, and it really made me think about my beliefs, God’s role in my life, and how others see it. I truly hope my relationship with God never gives people anything but a positive impression about God. I want people to look at my life and think, “Huh. There’s something about that girl and the way she talks about Jesus. I wanna know this Jesus guy better if Sarah enjoys Him so much.” I don’t ever, ever want to give people a negative impression about what it’s like having Jesus in their life. God forgive me if I do! But I also realize that people have their own perspectives on God and religion, and that I have no control over that. I can only share my own experience and hope that it encourages them. There are so many people seeking and searching for love, happiness, to feel like they belong. God met me in all of that, and I pray that He can for you, too. Why not start by just talking to God, like Margaret did? He’s always there, and He’s a great listener.

And to all the guys reading this blog post about a movie where a girl’s obsessing about getting her period…thanks for hanging in with me if you got this far 😉

Links I Like

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret movie trailer

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret original book

The Chosen at Angel Studios

The Jesus Revolution movie (takes place around the same time as this book, and as of this writing is available to watch on Netflix or rent on Amazon or Apple)

Drop your favorite part of the movie or thoughts in the comments!


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