Looking for shadows of Jesus in the culture around us
Sunday was an amazing celebration for me. Seeing the children sing and perform so enthusiastically was a joy. And I’m so grateful for all of the workers who served our children so faithfully to make it such a success. On Saturday I stopped in on the practice and shared a message with the children from the Disney movie Frozen. I know a lot of adults are suffering from Frozen-overload (!) but I want to share some of my thoughts anyway as an example of how I feel we need to relate to our culture and our children.
For me, Frozen is an almost perfect parable of the Gospel. The story begins with two sisters, Elsa and Anna, playing happily in a beautiful castle. It’s like paradise, until Elsa hurts her sister with her ice power. Until then they had played innocently but this one incident changes everything. Elsa is afraid of what’s inside her, she’s ashamed of what she’s done, and she’s afraid of hurting people again. We can relate to Elsa, not because we have ice power but because we each have a cold side to our heart and can hurt people with our words and our actions. Frozen, like the Bible, talks about how to deal with a frozen heart.
Solution 1: Hide it?
The first solution the story gives is familiar to all of us. Elsa’s parents know that it’s difficult to change the heart so they try to hide it instead. The family doesn’t let others get close. Elsa closes the door to her sister so as not to hurt her again. She won’t come out to build a snowman anymore. And she gives us a profound image of this mindset in her song:
Don't let them in. Don't let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be.
Conceal. Don't feel. Put on a show. Make one wrong move and everyone will know.
Many Christians try to deal with their sin like this. Parents try to deal with their children’s sins like this. Adam and Eve hid after they sinned in the garden and people have followed their lead ever since. But hidden sin grows and problems we pretend don’t exist just get bigger. Hiding a frozen heart doesn’t fix it.
Solution 2: Let it go?
A lot of children raised in Christian homes, who have been taught to hide their sin rather than deal with it, reach a point that Elsa did in the movie. Tired of hiding and pretending, a lot of teens and adults choose to act out on their sin and be free. Elsa’s song “Let it go” becomes her life slogan and many children innocently sing along. But the lyrics are chilling:
Couldn't keep it in, Heaven knows I tried. Don't let them in, don't let them see.
Be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know.
Well, now they know! Let it go, let it go!
Can't hold it back any more. I don't care what they're going to say.
It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I'm free! That perfect girl is gone.
Elsa appears happy and free while she sings this song. But meanwhile Arendelle enters into an “eternal winter” and is covered with snow and ice. And when Anna comes to help Elsa and her people, Elsa ends up hurting her again. We learn what the Prodigal Son experienced: when we “let it go” it feels free at first, but it leads to more pain both for ourselves and for others. “Let it go” is a great song, but a terrible way to deal with a frozen heart.
Solution 3: True Love’s Kiss?
The movie really gets tense when Anna is dying from a frozen heart. She goes to the troll for advice and he tells her the problem is that there is ice in her heart. “If not removed the solid ice will freeze you forever.” She learns that only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart, but, like us, she doesn’t know what true love is. She ends up running to the prince, Hans, hoping that his kiss will melt her frozen heart. Only she learns that his heart is even colder than her own. I love the fact that in this movie Disney finally dispels the myth that all of the problems will go away and we’ll live happily ever after as long as we marry the prince. If our children don’t find help with the big questions of life, they’re likely to rush too eagerly into relationships that will ultimately hurt them deeply the way Hans did to Anna.
Solution 4: True Love
The snowman Olaf is an unlikely hero. But he’s the only one in the movie who knows what true love is. Comforting Anna in front of the fire he says, “Love is putting someone’s needs before yours.” And when she expresses concern that he’s melting he replies, “Some people are worth melting for.” He teaches her and shows her that true love sacrifices for the sake of others. With this new realization Anna rushes off to Kristoff believing he has shown her true love. But still seeing him in the distance, and believing that his kiss will heal her, she notices Hans about to kill her sister Elsa, and instead of choosing to save her own life, she gives her life to save her (undeserving) sister. Watching as a Christian you can’t help but see in Anna’s act, a picture of the cross complete with a climactic resurrection. So Frozen ends with an incredible picture of how to melt our frozen heart. We need true love.
Where can we find this love?
But we’re left at the end of the story with a problem. Who will ever love us like Anna? And how can we live a life of love like her? Who do you know who keeps on knocking when we lock the door the way Elsa did? Who do you know who would climb a mountain in a blizzard to seek you out when you ran away to your ice castle as happens in the movie? And having shut you out of their life for so many years, who do you know who would sacrifice their life for you even though you didn’t deserve it? If you’re looking for an Anna in this world you won’t find her. And if you’re hoping that you’ve got this kind of love in your own heart you’ll be disappointed. But the Bible declares and history affirms that Jesus is the one who keeps on knocking, who seeks us out and tracks us down, and who died in our place though we were so unworthy it. It’s his act of true love that can save us and thaw our frozen hearts.
The movie Frozen may not be your thing. But I think we need to have Gospel antennae as we look at our culture and interact with the people around us. Can you hear yearnings for salvation in the iTunes top ten lists? Can you see Gospel needs that the bestseller list points to? When you watch a movie with your children or discuss one with a co-worker, do you just criticize the parts that you don’t like, or do you see it as a spring-board for talking about the Gospel and deeper issues of life? May God help us to meet people where they are and show how, deep down, Jesus is the One they truly are yearning for.
In awe of Him,