So I found myself desperately holding back tears at a children’s party while the movie Moana was playing. I hadn’t seen it before and I was deeply moved at three key points. When her grandmother takes her to the cave and she discovers the destiny of her people, when her mother hands her food and silently supports her quest, and when the glowing manta ray passes Moana as she heads out to find her destiny.
I remember the first time I shed tears for a theme like this, it was during a particularly happy moment in another cartoon movie many years ago and I was confused about my emotional reaction. Praying about it, I began to recognize something deep within myself that was only just beginning to awaken- the pain of unrealized dreams, the loss of self, and powerlessness that comes from allowing people and circumstances to define you.
The theme that impacted me years ago was freedom, breaking off the shackles that others had placed in an effort to become the hero of the story. In Moana, the theme is about discovering who you were meant to be, in the face of opposition and doubt.
My story spans decades of pain. Feeling a pull toward something and consistently hitting a wall. It was like knowing I needed to travel but having no clue of the direction. It was having my dreams dismissed and feeling that my value and potential was unacknowledged and unappreciated. The shackles in my life culminated as I spent many years in a controlling and legalistic church that bound me to their vision of who I should be. This is a much longer tale than this blog will allow, but as I watch Moana’s grandmother affirm who she is and encourage her to follow her destiny and then see her mother silently support her, I’m moved to tears because I know the power of those acts and the devastating pain of dismissing our heart’s cry.
Expanding Your World
It is my unwavering belief that it is the very complex and difficult role of the church and every Christian to empower and encourage others to discover who they are, who they were created to be. I think we fail miserably, but I also believe my vision to be easier said than done.
Mother: He’s hard on you because…
Moana: Because he doesn’t get me.
Mother: Because he was you.
Mother: Sometimes who we wish we were, what we wish we could do—it’s just not meant to be.
Often out of fear or wounding people will try and discourage us from continuing to discover ourselves and follow after our dreams- often well intentioned.
Grandmother: The question you keep asking yourself—who are you meant to be?
Grandmother: To protect our people voyaging was forbidden, and we have forgotten who we are.
We have forgotten who we are! What a powerful line. Have fears and failures caused you to bury your passions? There is an interesting omission in Jesus’ parable of the talents. He is critical of the person who buries his money in the ground. The other two who received different amounts of money were praised for using that money to make more. A client of mine, who is a computer programmer, pointed out that when programming you think about each possible scenario and he was always fascinated that a scenario was missing from this parable. There was no individual who used the money and lost it. It is as if that was never a possibility! We either bury our “talents” or we watch them multiply.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anais Nin
Courage in a Wine Vat
I am reminded of the story of Gideon in the Old Testament (Judges chpt6). The scene opens with him pounding wheat in a wine vat because he is scared that his people’s oppressors will see him. It is at this moment that an angel from God appears and says:
“Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”
How comical this must appear, this scared man huddling in fear in the wine vat being called a mighty hero. But let me be clear on this point- you are God’s hero. He sees in you what you could never possibly see in yourself. He believes in you, in a way that no one else could. As with many heroes in stories, you may not see yourself that way and may not understand the importance of your life, but I reiterate you are God’s hero.
Now what I love about this exchange is how real it sounds. Does Gideon get all excited about being a hero? Is he thankful for the compliment? His response is the normal human one:
“if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about?”
What happens next is a powerful truth that can get easily missed.
Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”
At first glance it looks like the angel of the Lord just ignores his question. But if we pause, He answers it in a deeply profound way that echoes into our lives today- you are the miracle. I have already given you what you need, now go and do it.
Gideon’s response is again the response most of us would have. It is filled with excuses, self-doubt, and doubt in God himself. But God doesn’t get angry, He doesn’t berate him. Rather, He is consistently patient and encouraging. These are the voices we need in our lives as we strive to discover who we were created to be.
I am reminded of Kierkegaard’s statement that the will to be ourselves is our highest calling. In fact, he boldly presented the case that there really is only one sin in life- the failure to be who God created us to be. Every fault, mistake or sin that came after was a result of the first.
Be encouraged, you are still the hero of your story, on a journey to discover who you were created to be. Dust off your dreams, find new ones, let your heart speak to you and let your world grow.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I was claiming that God spoke to my heart through a Disney movie. There is some renewed controversy over Disney among some Christian groups. I would urge you to be careful how you limit God’s voice in your life. He speaks in many ways.
Paul quoted from a Greek poet named Aratus, which is included in the New Testament (Book of Acts 17:28).
“For ‘in him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ’For we too are his offspring.’”
In order for him to quote it, he had to have memorized it. It is unlikely that this was the only “secular” poem that he read. It is an indication that he was well read and educated in Greek culture and believed that God could speak through it.
The section of the poem is as follows:
From Zeus let us begin; him do we mortals never leave unnamed; full of Zeus are all the streets and all the market-places of men; full is the sea and the havens thereof; always we all have need of Zeus. For we are also his offspring; and he in his kindness unto men giveth favourable signs and wakeneth the people to work, reminding them of livelihood. He tells what time the soil is best for the labour of the ox and for the mattock, and what time the seasons are favourable both for the planting of trees and for casting all manner of seeds. For himself it was who set the signs in heaven, and marked out the constellations, and for the year devised what stars chiefly should give to men right signs of the seasons, to the end that all things might grow unfailingly. Wherefore him do men ever worship first and last. Hail, O Father, mighty marvel, mighty blessing unto men. Hail to thee and to the Elder Race! Hail, ye Muses, right kindly, every one! But for me, too, in answer to my prayer direct all my lay, even as is meet, to tell the stars. (Phaenomena, translated by G.R. Mair)
It was a prayer to Zeus and Paul was still able to read it, memorize it, and be touched by it. I would caution individuals who shy away from cultural influences that are not Christian and make strong distinctions regarding secular and sin. God is big enough! If you listen to some of the books, movies, commercials, and TV shows carefully, often there are powerful themes that speak about the human heart and echo God’s heart and voice.