So, it seems that I am going to lean far in one of two directions, this week. I am vacillating between the extremes of :
1. Personal reflection born from exhaustion and frustration (in my defense, the daily office is going to keep us in Job 38 for what seems like eternity).
2. What would Disney say?
Today, you get “Disney enthusiast L”…
Although “The Lion King” has never been in my top 10 when it comes to animated features (please don’t tell my seven year old, because this revelation would be on par with heresy to her); it does contain one brilliantly theologically loaded scene that blows me away every time I watch it.
“Grown up Simba” (as aforementioned kid calls him, because it is apparently incredibly important to distinguish which era of Simba’s life we’re referencing, at all times), has reached a point at which he is running from everything—past, present, and future, really—in large part because he feels abandoned by his father, Mufasa, and responsible for his death (it’s not Disney if there are no dead parents…). At any rate, Simba is definitely at a crossroad, and the choice he makes, moving forward, has the potential to affect not only himself but also everyone he has ever known and loved.
Simba is running, precisely because he believes that he is incapable of bringing healing and restoration to his home. In fact, he thinks he is culpable for all of the pain and disaster that has already befallen his people (OK… his animals, his pride, etc.), so they must surely be better off without him. Although there are moments when “Kid Simba” acted purely out of self-interest; this decision has a different feel to it. Simba is prepared to choose a lonely life, on the run, to protect others.
It sounds kind of noble, except… he’s wrong… about so many things… Principle among these is that he has forgotten who he is!
Well, through a strange series of events (and a crazy, prophetic baboon), Simba does, indeed, remember that his father lives in and through him, both by his spirit and reflection. We can all take a page from that book!
There are parallels that I love from the Scripture taken from the Gospel of John. My favorite parts include the realization that Jesus also lives in and through us, by the Holy Spirit, and that this is a permanent arrangement—The Spirit of Truth, an advocate, “to help you and be with you forever…”
But I also have some immediate concerns about this passage, because I think we (as the Church) have often forgotten who we are, just as deeply as Simba.
“If you love me, keep my commands…”
It’s not a list of rules, Church. I’m not saying rules don’t matter (although, I am, admittedly, a crummy rule follower), but when asked directly about what matters most,
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV).
This is straightforward teaching, although certainly not uncomplicated. Love God, love people, love yourself, and everything else will fall into place. Yet it seems that we struggle with what love looks like.
Returning to John, we read:
“The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.”
Look carefully, again, at this jump we make, because I don’t think I’m the only one who does it:
“If you love me, keep my commands…The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.”
This will never work if we continue to delete the Spirit of Truth, if we refuse to dig deep enough to understand the greatest commandments. I see self-proclaimed Christians raging against the world, but sometimes I think we’re the very ones who neither see nor know… Ouch!
We have forgotten who we are.
But there’s hope. May Rafiki hit us all on the head with his stick, there’s still hope… Because somewhere back there in our past (however near or distant), Jesus promised to send the Spirit. And if we could just take a good long look in the mirror… or the lake… or wherever our reflection is most clear; maybe we could see Imago Dei again. And maybe we could get on board with the difficult, loving choices that take us further into the world around us as opposed to running toward some elusive and exclusive safety zone that is merely a figment of our imaginations.
It’s overused quote time again. This is one of my favorites:
“She knows who she is. She just forgot for a little while.”
I’ve been there, friends. If I hadn’t, this quote wouldn’t be one of my favorites!
May we wake up and remember who we are. And just in case it’s still unclear, if our desire is to reflect God, who we are is love.