Thursday, June 23, 2022

It's Not Really Depression, Right?

 I feel like I am standing on the edge of the cliff.  Up here, I can look around and down below, and I can see a vast landscape.  It isn't luscious and green.  It isn't filled with flowers and color.  It is dark and deep, and it is an abyss that calls me by name.  It KNOWS me.  It recognizes the shape of me, the energy I put off, all the things that are in me that do not belong.  It calls to me.  It shows me beautiful things, things that look good. And yet, if I look at them from a different angle, or light shines down on them, they crumble to dust.

When I get to this point, I think I fool myself into thinking I am not depressed.  I am clinging so desperately to my own sanity, and I already feel like I am drowning.  The depression beckons me to just lay down and stop fighting.  Just stay in bed.  Just today.  Just lay down and succumb.

It is so alluring, this call to lay down and just stop. To let it all wash over me, and just spend months locked away from the world, while I suffer under the weight of it.  I look at where I am right now, and I look at what is on the horizon, and neither option is desirable.

I honestly don't want to be in either place--either in the middle of depression, or on the edge of it.  And yet, it is the place I find myself.  Yet again.  It's a ride I can't get off of. I don't have the luxury of just setting depression down and simply hoping it goes away.  My entire adult life (and likely much of my teen years) has been a balance between sanity and mental torment.  

Most days, I win.  Not the me who I am trying desperately to put to death, but the me who is fearfully and wonderfully made.  The me who loves Jesus and wants to serve him...the one who relies on HIS strength because I know I have none left...that's the me who usually gets through yet another day.

Then there are other days where I'm exhausted from fighting.  I am weak.  I give into the feelings and the chaos.  I let my mind wander around through a minefield.  It is as if during these dark times, I have convinced myself that this minefield I am trudging through is not filled with traps and pain and death! And so I spend some time there, being filled up with all things empty.  

Even while I am there, I am disgusted.  I know it isn't right.  I know it isn't true.  I know it isn't what my mind needs to be fixating on. This obsession, this compulsion to consider the what ifs - I want it to die.  I don't want to be this scared, nervous, obsessive person who is easily swayed by whatever looks good. Even if I can see it dripping with death and decay, there is still this small part of me that craves that. How? Why? I know it's empty and dead. And yet, because it's pretty on the outside, it calls to me.

This is depression.

It dresses itself up and it tries to play itself off as good.  It tries to trick me.  It tries to whisper that it is what I need.  And when you are exhausted and raw and unsettled, giving in to it sure does sound like the easiest thing to do. In fact, it IS the easy thing to do. To just lay down. To just close my eyes, stop fighting for just a few minutes, and let what happens, happen. Because I can fool myself into thinking that it'll only grip me for a few minutes or hours. But those hours turn into days, which turn into months. Dark, awful, scary months, where I can't trust my own mind or thoughts because they want to convince me that life is not worth living anymore.

I'm a little angry, if I am honest, calling this place I am in depression.

Yesterday, I felt like I was just on the edge, like I hadn't given in.

And this morning, I wonder if I have been fooling myself.

The panic, the anxiety, the things that lead into depression, that's where I am at, right?  Just there?  Not any further?  I haven't really tipped my toes into this again, have I? And what if I have?  Why does this always come with shame? Why can't I just BE unsettled and BE not okay without it also ushering in guilt and shame for feeling like this to begin with?  I want to beat myself up for finding myself here. It is a vicious cycle and it would be so easy to just let is all crash down on top of me.

I know that's a lie. Because the truth is something God showed me before I even started writing this: yes, I am here again, trying desperately not to get sucked in and pulled under. And yes it is hard. And yes, I am currently fighting a fight for literal life. 

This time around, I can see it coming - maybe not a mile off, but I'll tell you this.  The last depression in 2020?  It snuck up on me and I was completely surprised to find myself in the midst of day after day after day of struggling to get out of bed, take a shower, brush my teeth, go to work, be around people, trying NOT contemplate ways to make it all just stop.  

I just typed that I wasn't going to be surprised by it this time around and then quickly deleted it, because as I sit here writing this, I guess it has surprised me once again.  I thought I was "safer" from the depression this time around, because I could feel it creeping in. And yet, maybe I am already in the midst of it.

The difference is that right now, in this very moment, I am STILL in the fight. I do not want to let it wash over me.  Well, I WANT it to.  But I also know that I can't. No matter how exhausted I am from the constant struggle to keep my head above water, I have to keep swimming. And even though it's hard and I'm very, very tired, I choose to put one foot in front of the other.  Today, I choose to fight another day. The alternative, trying to dig myself out of that abyss, it's not something I want to do again.

I don't know how to get through it. I want to avoid it altogether. And yet, that's not usually how it works with anything in life. Sometimes we have to walk through the really hard things before there is relief. It would be too easy and I would learn nothing if it were not incredibly difficult.  I wouldn't complain if it were a little LESS difficult, but I know that the freedom and growth will be worth the struggle.

So today, while I still can, I choose to fight. 


 ...

Monday, June 20, 2022

A Psalm of Sorrow

 Go a little deeper.

That's what you are saying.

It's the calling you have placed on my heart.

You gave me ten years to rest and heal.

You gave me time to learn and grow.

And now, you want me to go deeper.

Can I be honest?

I'm not sure I want to.

Not because I don't want to be in the deep.

Not because I don't want to grow more.

Not because I don't desire MORE.

It's just, if I'm honest, I'm scared.

I don't know what to expect.

We both know the unknown has always terrified me.

How do I move forward in faith, instead of fear.

I can hear you beckon me

I feel your Spirit moving in me, drawing me deeper.

I'm not sure I'm scared about drowning.

I'm not ever certain what I am actually afraid of.

I have been in the deeps with you.

When I thought it would hurt, when I thought you would wound, instead I found healing.

I found peace.

I found freedom.

I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good.

Time and time again, you have lavished love and grace in my life.

So why is it so easy to get distracted?

Why does the slightest wind shift my focus?

Why can't I  just stay in the deep with you?

Why am I always swimming to shore?

Why can't I just stay put and let the waves shift and move me?

I don't want to give you control.

I guess when it comes down to it, I don't want to let it all go.

Surrender, you say.

But what about all the other things?

All the stuff that tells me it is more important?

Who will worry about those?

I know the truth.

Why can't I activate the faith I cling to?

Why does this feel so hard?

It feels too big, like I will never learn.

How long will I fight against this?

I want to change.

I want to die to myself.

And yet, at the heart of it, I realize just how much of myself I still love.

I want it to look the way I want it to look.

I want to give you my heart and also hold onto the parts of it that aren't yet yours.

That's the truth, isn't it?

Admitting that I want it to be all about me.

I want the accolades.

I want to be seen.

I want what you have called me to give.

That's at the heart of what I don't want to admit.

Humility is this intangible thing that feels too big to grasp.

And yet, I know it's required.

I have to die.

I have to be willing to let you excise the parts of my heart that no longer belong.

I am alive.

I am free.

I don't have to be consumed by this.

You remind me constantly of your love and grace.

Why do I long for it to be enough, yet walk through life as if it isn't?

I hate this about myself.

I don't want to be self-centered and vain.

I don't want to feel this way.

But I do.

So what now, God?

It feels like we are at an impasse, because I don't want to let it go.

I don't want to give up this last piece of myself, the piece that makes me me.

Even though me isn't worth much.

The me who wants to live is not healthy or safe or filled with your spirit.

Why is the battle against my own will so hard?

It's MY will.  

I should be able to control this, shouldn't I?

I'm angry and I'm frustrated.

All of my insecurities rise to the surface and I don't know how to make them bow.

I don't know how to move past this.

And yet, you give me clarity.

You show up, on quiet drives to work.

You orchestrate worship that drives me to the foot of the Cross.

You remind me that you are bigger than all of my fears.

You love me, even this part of me I am trying so desperately to cling to.

You love even that girl.

The one who feels small and defeated.

The one who loves herself more than she should.

The one who knows the good she ought to do and doesn't do it.

Your grace.

Your mercy.

Your love.

Those are singing over me today as I wrestle with feelings of shame and anger and insecurity.

None of it matters.

In the grand scheme of things, I'm irrelevant.

Remind me when I forget.

Keep showing up.

Keep giving me your grace.

Keep showering your mercy upon me.

Keep lavishing this love I can't understand.

Bring me to my knees.

Give me courage to stay there, as long as it takes for you to make me clean.

Wash away anything that points to me.

Forgive me for making it about me and what I want.

Soothe my heart when it feels empty.

I know that you see me.

I know that you are the only one that matters.

Bring me back to that place where my heart was wholly about you.

To live, I must die.

I want to live.

Teach me to live.

Friday, June 17, 2022

A Psalm Of Chaos

 I am unsettled.

A bomb has gone off inside of my body.

Every moment is a battle.

Each second is a fight for control.

I choose FAITH over FEAR.

But I am still afraid.

Thoughts come unbidden.

I don’t want this.

I don’t want to think about these things.

They are not true.

They are not noble.

They are not right.

They are not pure.

They are not lovely.

They are not admirable.

I WANT to think about excellent or praiseworthy things.

So why are the *other* thoughts so loud?

I hear them, like constant screaming in my brain.

I force the negative thoughts to bow down.

They have no place in a heart that has been set free.

But the thoughts, they stand up again.

I force them to bow. Again.

Again, they rise.

Again, I make them bow.

The thoughts boomerang throughout my mind, draining my energy.

I want the roiling in my stomach to stop.

I want the constant feeling of suffocating to go away.

I want to feel stable again, even if just for a moment.

I want to not be tired from the fight.

I want the struggle to end.

But God, I don’t want to rush you.

I know that you are taking me somewhere new.

I know that you want to put this fear to death once and for all.

You want to walk me through the path to freedom from the anxiety that cripples me.

You are asking me to wait.

You are asking me to sit in this; all the while, you call me deeper.

You never promised it would be easy.

You actually promised it would be very difficult.

Because Jesus doesn’t make any sense.

The Cross is confusing.

It’s hard to understand how death can bring life.

And yet, it does.

Knowing that doesn’t make me less tired.

It doesn’t take away the shaking, the trembling, the heavy breaths that never feel quite complete.

How long am I called to sit in this?

Until it no longer has a hold on me?

How long will it take?

I’ve never been quick to learn the lesson.

So I want to rush through the pain and the stretching.

I want to be on the other side.

But I know it doesn’t work like that.

I have to walk through this, no matter how hard.

I have to sit in the panic that never quite leaves, until it no longer has a hold over me.

How do I get from here to there?

I know the end goal.

I can see it, just on the horizon.

I know that I can reach out and grab it.

Why can’t I connect my brain and my heart?

Why is it always so hard to surrender?

I can feel the resistance.

It just builds and builds, the more I desire to lay it down.

I hate this feeling.

I hate the internal struggle to let go.

To say, OK. It’s time to stop fighting.

And what about now?

When I am trying so hard to lay it down and let it go?

Why is it still so hard?

Why does relief not come?

How long do you want me to endure this?

I will.

But is there an end?

Will I ever be free of this anxiety in this earthly body?

Or is this another thorn in my side, like the pain?

Does this keep me from becoming prideful in all you have called me to do?

Does it point to you?

Or is there a deficiency in me that you want to fill?

I think there’s freedom for me.

I want there to be.

But the struggle is nearly unbearable.

The constant bringing my mind back under control has left me feeling weak and exposed.

This is spiritual warfare.

I expected it.

I knew that the enemy would ramp up efforts to divide and destroy.

I watched him do it before.

NO LONGER.

I refuse to let him have a hold in my life any longer.

If I need to put this to death once and for all, then I will buckle up and hold on for the fight of my life.

But can I rest a little along the way?

Can I have time to breathe and cry and recover?

Can I pause, when it all spills over, and just be held for a few minutes?

I close my eyes, and I call on the name of Jesus.

I sit at my desk at work, trying to hold it all together.

Tears fall down my cheeks as I try to focus.

I’m not sure I’ll make it through, and yet again, I do.

I put one foot in front of the other.

I take shallow breaths, because deep ones elude me.

I put my head in my hands and I cry out to Jesus.

Give me strength.

Give me relief.

Give me peace.

Teach me to put to death all that still remains of me.

I’ve been asking this for a while, and you are answering.

That’s why I am here, in this chaotic place.

Because I asked you to take me to the next level.

I told you that I was ready.

So I am not surprised by this.

I don’t even want you to take it away really.

It’s just that on days like today, I just want to rest.

Just for a bit.

And when I cry out for that, you remind me.

I am called to NOT be weary in doing good.

I am called to NOT give up in the kingdom work.

It’s all about you.

It has nothing to do with me.

So once again, I cry out for more of you and less of me.

Renew my mind.

Refresh my heart.

Give me strength to keep fighting.

Remind me when I am weak that it’s okay.

In my weakness, you show up best.

If weakness is what it takes for me to know you, continue to bring me to my knees.

Calm my anxious heart.

Still my shaking bones.

Ease the trembling I feel in my spirit.

My hope is in you, therefore you WILL renew my strength.

I will mount on wings like eagles.

I will run and not be weary.

I will walk and not be faint.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Final Thoughts

I wasn't sure if I would round this series about Moana out with a final, tenth post. I left it open for some final thoughts, partly because I wasn't sure if I would have too much to say, and partly because I wanted to leave room to talk about Tamatoa and not at all because it would somehow soothe my OCD brain.  I didn't want to give Tamatoa his own separate post mixed in with all the rest, because his character didn't quite fit with the others, in terms of what I felt like God was teaching me. But I kept it open, just in case, and it turns out it was necessary because we can't really finish this without looking at the risk that comes with Tamatoa.


I am going to make a confession here: there is a part of me that is incredibly attracted to shiny things. There is a draw to something that looks expensive and more beautiful than everything else around it, especially if I don't already have one. As humans, we are constantly chasing after the next best shiny thing, aren't we?

Because of that truth alone, it would be foolish to skip over Tamatoa. Tamatoa tells us in song that he used to just be a drab little crab. I am not sure what happened to that once-humble crab, but through the course of his life, he began collecting all the shiny things. He believes that all of his stuff somehow makes him tougher. Over time, he has learned how to manipulate the world around him. He understands intuitively that his shininess attracts fish, because fish are dumb and drawn to things that glitter (his words, not mine). So he can keep covering himself in all things that shine, and prey will then come to him! He has perfected his system to the point that he doesn't have to do any work at all. 

He has this down to a smoothly-polished science. His entire life is about looking more attractive to others so that in the end, he can feast on anyone who approaches him. He doesn't care about actually bringing people into his realm except that it benefits him. If it is shiny, he can collect it. If it is prey, he can consume it. What a dangerous place to be! Jesus warns of this in Matthew 23:27-28:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

After the movie ends and the end credits roll, we see Tamatoa lying flat on his back, in the exact place Maui and Moana left him in the the Realm of Monsters. Perhaps they have been gone only minutes or maybe it has been yearss, but Tamatoa has obviously had some time to ponder, as he sings:

Shiny

I'm so shiny

Didn't help me though, did it?

Still upside down here.

Just need a little push.

In the end, Tamatoa came to the realization that all of his shiny collectibles could do him no good if he ever found himself upside down and stuck. I don't know what happened in Tamatoa's life that led him down the path of using shiny things as protection from the world. But there is no doubt that somewhere along the way, he began to collect things that he felt would protect him from whatever trauma he had endured. He stayed in his pit deep in the ocean letting all the shiny things come to him, too scared to venture out and find the healing he so desperately needed. 

And when he got himself into a situation beyond his control, because he had sheltered himself away from everyone, he suddenly realized that there was NO ONE to help him. He did this to himself, and he has to stay there until someone skilled at stripping away all the shiny things can come and put him back on the right path. It reminds me of the scene from Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Aslan has to help remove the dragon scales from Eustace, because he is the only one who knows how:


Hear me: what's on the other side of your broken, walled off heart is far better than what you are floundering with now. Maybe it's time to stop holding onto everything that makes you feel safe. That probably isn't working anyway. If you surrender the fighting and stop clinging so tightly to all the lies your life has thrust upon you, and you go towards that unknown, terrifying light, you will find the freedom you've been striving after. 

You will learn that what you were so afraid of was actually the LOVE and GRACE and PEACE that Jesus says you are worthy of. 

Yes, even you. 

Even if you're sitting in a pig pen of your own making, surrounded by all things shiny.

Come to him and find rest.

After Moana restores the heart of Te Fiti, we see growth happen instantaneously. The hard outer exterior of molten lava begins to crumble away, and in its place new life begins. It starts with Te Fiti and once she is healed and full of lucious plantlife again, she reaches her hand down and touches the blackened land around her. And we see new life spring up under her tender touch.

If God has rescued you and cleaned you up and given you a time of rest, you will experience this kind of growth and beauty in your life. Isaiah 61:3 says, "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."

Don't be afraid of this process. It might stretch and strain you, but it will not kill you. 

It will make you stronger, transforming you will from stony, blackened land into be a beautiful tree, nourished by God, rooted deeply in Jesus--and that tree will be unable to stop from bursting forth and giving birth to an entire forest of beautiful trees, made so by the Master Gardener.

Keep trying it on your own for a time, if you really must.

Convince yourself that faith and God don't matter, and try to do it your own way. 

You do you. 

Do what makes you happy. 

Chase after the high, the job, the status, the money, the praise of others, all the shiny things. 

But when you learn how empty this striving is, when you accept that life is hard and you cannot always be happy, please remember that Jesus isn't going to look at you and say, "Why did you keep running? Why weren't you better or stronger?" Instead, he is going to look at you with eyes filled with love and a heart bursting with compassion. Maybe you are fighting a fight you have no business being in, through your own making, or perhaps it is one that someone unfairly left at your feet, after they stole away your heart. 

Just know that when you look into those eyes brimming with tears that mirror your own pain, you will not see judgment or hate. You will look into his eyes, and you will be invited into the warm embrace of a Father who has only ever wanted to make your heart whole. And Jesus will simply say to you, "It's OKAY. I will carry you for a while."

The world tells us to be happy and to look out for number one. Don't look inward and become obsessed with your own pile of worthless treasure. Sure it brought Tamatoa joy and nourishment, for a time. 

But listen! 

In the end, Tamatoa was just living in a deep pit of his own making, prancing about in treasures that didn't do anything but age along with him. And even worse, when he did find himself in need of rescue, his treasures had absolutely nothing to offer. They could not save him. 

If you are ready to move forward, I pray this over you: that you find healing for your own trauma. I pray that you learn that there is purpose in the pain, and that recovery from trauma IS possible. Heal so that you can be whole. So that you can teach your children or those around you what living freely IN SPITE of trauma looks like.

And once you have done that, I pray that you dive deep, back into the very ocean you were rescued from, and that you strive with all your might to restore the other hearts that have been stolen.

If you have been in the ocean seeking out hearts in need of rescue and you have become weary, don't give up. Remember what you were called to do. If you have slowed down or stopped the fight altogether, wake up! Be like Maui and get back in the fight. 

If you can't remember, I will remind you who and WHOSE you are. I will be Gramma Tala to you.

And maybe right now, you are in need of rescue.  And maybe I can't do anything more than bring a raft and float with you in your pain. But I hope you hear me: that is exactly what I am willing to do. I will be Moana to you.  

I SEE you and I will stay in the water with you as long as it takes to get you to safety so that you can heal, dive back in, and then help me get the others.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Part 9 - Te Ka & Te Fiti

I saved this one for last, probably because it was the most powerful of all of the revelations God gave to me through this movie.  Before I started writing this series on Moana, I obsessively watched the movie for three weeks. I just couldn't shake it or get it out of my head. I needed to watch it. There was something intense within me that just had to figure some things out. I felt like this movie unraveled me and the only way I could make sense of it was to write about it.

For weeks, I couldn't understand why I needed to keep watching this movie. At the same time, God was orchestrating some things behind the scenes. I felt led to reconnect with an old friend, and did so, all the while feeling nervous and second-guessing myself, because this old friend surely had enough friends who could come alongside her, didn't she? 

As I kept watching this movie, I began to see this old friend in a new light. One day I was watching Moana and reached the end. All of a sudden, clarity came crashing down on me and I understood that God had been leading me to reach out to this old friend because her heart had been stolen. 

And it had been missing for a very, very long time. 

And worst of all, NO ONE NOTICED.

That is the part that utterly crushed me. And it set in motions a series of events that only God could have orchestrated and ordained, renewing that old friendship and somehow shaping it into something even more beautiful.

When Te Fiti's heart is stolen from her, we see a darkness spread over her. It is swift and leaves nothing untouched. There is so much darkness and damage that an evil fire demon named Te Ka rises up and surrounds Te Fiti, becoming an impenetrable barrier so that no one can ever reach Te Fiti again.


In some ways, Te Ka has become a protector of Te Fiti. She doesn't have her heart, and so essentially, Te Ka surrounds Te Fiti and will not let anything or anyone get near her. That is why Maui and Moana find themselves trying to fight Te Ka. Their biggest obstacle in getting the heart back to Te Fiti is this lava monster. 

It is in trying to get through a narrow opening to Te Fiti that Te Ka strikes them down. This is the event that cracks Maui's hook and it is also the event where he walks away, leaving Moana to restore the heart that Maui stole.

Moana is not deterred. With renewed vigor and hope, she is determined to make it past Te Ka, to Te Fiti, so that she can restore the heart. She is almost there, but Te Ka is bigger and stronger.  Just when the battle is fiercest and it is clear that Moana will not make it, Maui returns to the fight once more. 

If running away is Maui's biggest flaw, then running right back into the fight is one of his greatest strengths. 

I'll give Maui this: he ALWAYS came back. No matter how much the world hurt him. No matter how prideful and arrogant he was. No matter how distracted from his true purpose he had become. He knew what was right, and in the end, no matter how long it took, he always dusted himself off and put himself back in the fight.

And he comes to Moana's rescue at just the right time. But he doesn't take on the burden of restoring the heart of Te Fiti. What he does do is give Moana the time she needs to get through the opening. He sacrifices his own desires, he pushes past his fear of being nothing without his hook, and he faces Te Ka one last time, knowing it is very likely the end of Maui, demigod of the wind and sea. 

Maui had come face to face with who he was, what he had done, and then decided who he wanted to be. He knew that he would lose his hook, which to him felt like the only value he had to offer. But he gave it anyway, because he was finally willing to own his culpability in all of it and he understood that it was the LEAST he could do.

Because of Maui's sacrifice, Moana is finally able to make it through to Te Fiti. Maui yells to Moana to get the heart to the spiral, so Moana races up to the top of this desolate island. When she gets there, there is no spiral. 

As she always does, Moana sees past the surface. Past the fury and the raging and the screaming. While Te Ka has her heart set on Te Fiti's, Moana has eyes only for Te Ka's heart. 

Suddenly, this is no longer about Te Fiti. Something has changed within Moana. 

She SEES Te Ka. 

She sees who Te Ka truly is.

And so we come to the most pivotal scene in the movie, and it is a mirror of what God has been teaching me over this last month.

Moana truly SEES Te Ka, probably for the first time ever. 

She understands, intuitively, why Te Ka is raging so hard to get to Te Fiti's heart. 

And suddenly, she isn't afraid. 

She doesn't run or try to hide. 

In a moment of clarity, Moana knows exactly what to do. 

Because Moana knows WHO Te Ka really is.  

If you have never seen the movie, I encourage you to watch it in full, but for the sake of this post, this is the scene, the one that leaves me weeping and filled with purpose:


Te Ka has simply been Te Fiti all along, living without her heart for 1,000 years. 

Te Fiti's heart was stolen from her, and this event was SO traumatic that in a way, Te Fiti became completely disengaged from her heart. Doesn't our unhealed trauma leave us like this? Without the heart inside, protected as it should be, Te Fiti quickly became overcome by darkness. She was burned up, hardened by her pain, and left raging without any way of escape. She stayed this way, continuing to build layer upon layer of protection, year after year, until suddenly, no one even recognized Te Fiti for who she really was. <-- TRAUMA!

Here is where God brought me at the end of all of this.

There are people out there right now, in my very life, who have had their hearts stolen. 

There are GODLY people even, right in our churches, who are crushed under the weight of not being SEEN. They fight and flail about in the water, screaming and raging for someone to SEE them. For someone to see that the fire burning inside of them is trauma and pain, and they wait there wounded and bleeding, just praying for someone to restore their heart. They are surrounded by wind and waves and cannot get to safety on their own. We must be willing to dive into the water and GO GET THEM!

We walk next to people in our daily lives and we hug them as we go by, never really knowing that they have become a shell of who they once were. Someone has stolen their heart. Maybe it was someone who had bad intentions, and maybe the person doing the harm was the very person sent to protect their hearts.  

I can't just sit by any longer and pretend that I am innocent of trampling over hearts and lives. There have been hearts that I have stolen. There have been Godly people within the body of Christ to whom I KNOW I have caused great harm and it is devastating to know that in that person's life, I am Maui--that for selfish reasons, through the lens of my own unhealed trauma and pain, I placed myself above another, and took what did not belong to me. I am guilty of this. And I can't undo the harm I caused. I couldn't even return the heart to these people.

And perhaps that is why I am so spurred on by Moana and this idea of restoring hearts. Because I know the great pain of having stolen someone's heart. I have seen the devastation it leaves in its wake. Even now, ten years later, I still see the craters it has left in peoples' lives. I see the havoc it wreaks even now in my mind, as I have to war daily with unbidden thoughts. I am wrecked that there once used to live within me a wounded animal that lashed out at those who never deserved it. I am crushed that my pain caused even a moment of pain in someone else's life. I have had to come face to face with the very wretched person that was at the center of the old me. I have done horrible things, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to make amends for even the tiniest fraction of it.

Here is what I want you to hear, if you are tossed about by the wind and waves and you are drowning under the weight of it all:

I SEE YOU.

I will be your lifeline.

-----

I have crossed the horizon to find you

I know your name

They have stolen the heart from inside you

But this does not define you

This is not who you are.

I know who you are.


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Part 8 - Moana

When Moana is just a little girl, we see a scene on the beach. Moana is on the shoreline, and the water moves back revealing a shell. Moana bends down to pick it up, and sees another shell, further into the water. The water continues moving back, revealing another shell and Moana tries to fit them all into her tiny hands. As a song plays, the water continues to move up and around Moana.  She is still standing on dry ground, while there is water all around.  It reminds me of when Moses led the Israelites through the sea. 

As Moana watches the water and the sea life swimming all around, a wave rises up and looks down on her.  She makes a face, and it appears to mimic her. She reaches up and the water touches her hand, then plays with her hair, causing her to laugh. But Moana's attention is quickly drawn back to the water, as she sees a shimmering green stone glide towards her. She holds it in her hand, tracing the design on it, until she hears her father calling her. The wave of water lifts her up and ushers gently her back towards the shore. She drops the stone on the beach as her father rushes out to pick her up and get her away from the water's edge.

We don't see much about that stone until Moana is a teenager (maybe young adult?). It is when she is with Gramma Tala, trying to understand who her ancestors were and why they stopped voyaging. It is in this scene that Gramma Tala gives the green stone back to Moana.

Moana's original purpose was confirmed by her grandmother, who had witnessed the ocean calling her that day. Gramma Tala is the one who told Moana that she needed to find Maui and say to him,

"I am Moana of Montunui.  
You will board my boat, sail across the sea, and restore the heart to Te Fiti."

The ocean has been calling Moana since the beginning. She somehow knows intuitively, despite the warnings, that there is safety and freedom in the ocean. Having a heart full of love and compassion for her people, she steps into the ocean, all alone. We obviously learn later that she is not alone - in fact, she has an unlikely companion, Hei Hei. Later, she adds Maui to her tribe and they voyage on, pursuing Moana's purpose, which is to get Maui to Te Fiti. That's what drives her. It is her job to force Maui to CORRECT the mistake he made in stealing Te Fiti's heart.

After rough seas, being shipwrecked, fighting coconut pirates and a covetous crab, Moana has become weary. She is frustrated but unwilling to give up. Maui decides it is just too hard. It is not worth the PERSONAL risk. One more hit on Maui's fish hook and it will be destroyed. He is simply unwilling to risk helping Moana any longer, because his whole identity is wrapped up in that stupid hook. They have fought and fought and fought, and we find Maui ready to give up, once again. He cannot imagine a world where he has any value without his hook. He clings to it so tightly and when it is at risk, he lashes out.

Maui is angry with Moana for trying to force them to push past Te Ka, as they try to get to the island of Te Fiti. They are thrown back and Moana sees Maui sitting with his back to her on the boat. He shows her his hook, which is cracked and flickering. Moana insists they can fix it, but Maui is frustrated and says, "It was made by the gods. You can't fix it."

Moana says, "Next time we'll be more careful. Te Ka was stuck on the barrier islands. It's lava, it can't go in the water. We can find a way around."

She is surprised to hear Maui say, "I'm not going back."

Moana doesn't understand. She says, "We still have to restore the heart."

Maui explains, "My hook is cracked. One more hit, and it's over."

"Maui, you have to restore the heart."

"Without my hook, I am nothing."

"That's not true!" Moana exclaims.

Maui gets in her face this time and yells, "Without my hook, I am nothing!" He takes the stone, the heart of Te Fiti, and drops it on the boat in front of Moana. Moana picks it up as Maui starts to walk away. But before he can leave, she calls him out, "We are only here...because you stole the heart in the first place."

It is here, in the midst of his pain, in the midst of being reminded of what he has done, Maui's trauma response takes over. Moana has triggered his guilt and shame by reminding him that it is his fault they are here to begin with. And it is through his own lens of unhealed trauma that he says some pretty hurtful things to Moana. "No, we're here because the ocean told you you're special...and you believed it." He starts walking away.

Moana, still full of her purpose, says with authority, "I am Moana of Montunui. You will board my boat..."

Maui turns back to Moana and simply says, "Goodbye, Moana."

Not deterred, Moana continues, "...sail across the sea..."

"I'm not killing myself..." Maui interrupts again, "...so you can prove you're something you're not."

Moana comes back at him, holding out the stone, "...and restore the heart of Te Fiti!" She continues with a fierceness and desperation in her voice, "The ocean chose me!"

Maui looks at Moana and says, "It chose wrong." 

He walks to the edge of the boat, turns into an eagle, and flies away, leaving Moana alone outside the home of Te Ka, the demon of earth and fire. Moana stands there looking down in defeat, with the heart of Te Fiti in her hand. This is a pivotal moment in Moana's life.

I would venture to say that we all come to places like this. Where we are exhausted and weary from the fight. Whether it is a battle of our own making, or one that we are called to fight so that others can  have hope, we get tired. We swim and swim in an endless ocean. The wind and the waves come and they push us under. They batter and bruise us. Until one day, we will find ourselves standing at the edge of our boat, too tired to take another step. Too hurt and left alone by the world, it feels like we simply cannot continue in the journey.

It is in this moment that Moana says, "Why did you bring me here?" As she looks up, she sees a wave shimmering with light, hovering over her. She focuses on it and says, "I'm not the right person." 

She holds up the heart of Te Fiti and says, "You have to choose someone else." Frustrated and feeling like she isn't good enough, Moana insists, "Choose someone else. Please." 

And she holds the heart of Te Fiti out to the wave. The wave looks at it in Moana's hand, and then it does what she asks: it simply takes the heart of Te Fiti and it returns it to the ocean deep.

Moana falls to her knees, sobbing in grief.

Moana desperately needs someone to speak truth into her hurting heart. Sensing something, she looks up to see a shimmering light approaching the boat. A great, glowing light in the shape of a string ray swim around the boat. The shimmering light disappears from the water and we hear Gramma Tala's voice before Moana looks up to see her.

"You're a long ways past the reef..." 

When Moana recognizes that it is Gramma Tala, she runs and collapses into her open arms. Rescue came for Moana's heart when she needed it most. She is still in the middle of the ocean, outside a demon's door, and she is still physically alone. But this vision of Gramma Tala gives Moana a much needed emotional rescue.  Sometimes, God will actually rescue us from the dangerous seas. And other times, he will call us to stay in the middle of the ocean, seemingly all alone. 

But he will NEVER leave us alone. The Holy Spirit comes at just the right time, to remind us WHO WE ARE.

Gramma Tala, in this moment, doesn't spur Moana forward. She doesn't tell her that she MUST keep going alone. She simply says, "If you're ready to go home, I will be with you." This is what Moana wanted to hear. Moana needed to know that if she was too weary, she had permission to end the journey. No one would have faulted Moana for returning to Montunui. It is understandable that after everything she went through she would want to turn back. No one would judge Moana. 

It was never her job in the first place to restore the heart of Te Fiti. After all, she didn't steal it. Maui did. And if Maui was going to refuse to put it back, then what did Moana owe to anyone? It was not her job. Gramma Tala gives Moana an out, and you see a relieved Moana turn to take the boat home. 

Moana starts to put the oar in the water, but a look comes over her face and she isn't certain if going home is the right decision. She was told that she CAN go home. She is under no obligation to go forward. She will not be forced to keep going into the ocean. And she can feel good about her decision to go home, because she was only ever trying to help someone else do what they needed to do. 

When she sees Moana with the oar in her hand, in that moment of contemplation, Gramma Tala says, "Why do you hesitate?"

Moana shakes her head and says, "I don't know."

Here is where the magic happens. Here is the beauty and how the Holy Spirit works within us. It is in this moment of indecision, of second guessing ourselves, that the Holy Spirit reminds us of who we are. Gramma Tala does the same thing. She sings a song, made just for Moana:

I know a girl from an island
She stands apart from the crowd
She loves the sea and her people
She makes her whole family proud
Sometimes the world seems against you
The journey may leave a scar
But scars can heal and reveal just where you are
The people you love will change you
The things you have learned will guide you
And nothing on earth can silence
That quiet voice still inside you
And when that voice starts to whisper,
Moana, you've come so far
Moana, listen. 
Do you know who you are?"

This entire scene stirs up deep feelings inside of me. Because I have been at my lowest low, not understanding who I was, or what my purpose was. I have gotten distracted by the world, or frustrated in my journey. I have found myself in this weak place and each time, God showed up. The Holy Spirit came rushing in with new life and and much needed truth. He reminds me that I am worthy. That I am loved. That I have value. That my story can help others. I have experienced the God show up for me just like Gramma Tala did, time and time again. 

And many, many times the Holy Spirit has asked me, "Do you know who you are?"

God knows that I know who I am. But he also knows that I am quick to doubt, quick to hear the lie, and quick to get scared. I fight insecurities and pride all day long. He asks, "Do you know who you are?" because he wants me to remember that I already know. 

Moana was asked if she knew who she was. And she didn't reply with a simple yes or no. That isn't what Gramma Tala was after. Gramma Tala was asking Moana to repeat back to her WHO she was. She wanted Moana to dig deep, think hard, and then speak WHO she was. Moana pauses and says, "Who am I?" And then Moana, knowing what she is really asking, tells Gramma Tala who she is.

I am the girl who loves my island
And the girl who loves the sea
It calls me
I am the daughter of the village chief
We are descended from voyagers
We found our way across the world
They call me
I've delivered us to where we are
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I've learned and more
Still it calls me
And the call isn't out there at all
It's inside me
It's like the tide always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart
You remind me
That come what may
I know the way
I am Moana


And then in what I think is one of the more powerful scenes in the movie, Moana--full of purpose once again--dives into the ocean. She swims deeper and deeper until she finds the heart of Te Fiti on the bottom of the ocean. She takes the heart returns to her boat, and prepares for the next leg of her journey. 

Maybe in the beginning restoring the heart of Te Fiti wasn't her job. Maybe it was never supposed to be her responsibility at all. And yet, Moana knows who she is, and she knows what is important. If Maui won't restore the heart of Te Fiti, even if she has to go alone, Moana will take that role upon herself. She is simply unwilling to stop until the heart of Te Fiti has been restored.

People will drop the ball all the time. No, maybe it wasn't your job to sit next to that person you sensed might be hurting. Maybe you thought they already had someone to rescue them. 

But what if the person who was SUPPOSED to do was too afraid of the fight and ran away? 

WHO will sit with them in their pain if not you? 

Are you willing to risk that NO ONE will be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people in your day to day life?

Listen, don't make the mistake of thinking the people around you have all the love and support they need. If God puts someone on your heart, it is for a reason. He knows what they need and while you may THINK they have all the people they need in their life, you could be the very person that can give them a breath of fresh air. You can help hold a heart that is hurting. Don't let doubts or insecurities or fear keep you from reaching out to someone. Don't even fool yourself into thinking that they have it all together and they don't need any more friends. Because if you do, you just might miss the person drowning right next to you. Maybe you aren't the one, like Maui, who actually stole that person's heart from inside of them. But you ARE intended to be Moana. You are intended to go, to sit next to, and to love on the people around you.

Moana's heart is broken over Te Fiti and what Maui did to her. And after Maui leaves, her purpose and vision become crystal clear: I MUST RESTORE THE HEART OF TE FITI.  Because if she doesn't, no one will. 

And to Moana, that would be a great tragedy. 

Moana, who sees the good in everyone around her, who loves her people and has incredible compassion for her own people, also has a heart for those who have had their hearts stolen by the world or people who were supposed to love them.

Before, Moana tried to convince Maui to restore the heart. But Maui is gone. There is no one else left to do it. If Moana doesn't do it, then she can go home and enjoy the time she has left with her village and family before the darkness covers everything. And no one would blame Moana if she did that. But Moana sees something beyond herself, because the ocean called her all those years ago. So she repairs the sail and she gets ready to voyage again, declaring:

I am Moana of Montunui.
Aboard my boat...
I will sail across the sea...
and restore the heart of Te Fiti.

It wasn't her job, but she went anyway.

Just because it wasn't YOU who caused the hurt, or just because it isn't YOUR job, doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T do it. 

And worse still, maybe it WAS you who caused the hurt. 

Maybe it IS your job. 

Regardless, we are called to dive into the ocean, swim after the heart that has been cast aside, and then make our way to Te Fiti to restore what was stolen.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Part 7 - Maui


Maui. Where do I even begin?  This post will perhaps contain the most spoilers for the movie.  So, if you still haven't seen the movie and you made it to this one, either go and watch the movie, or skip over this one (and probably the rest of the series!).

I think it might be easiest to go in chronological order with Maui, simply because I think it is needed to get the full picture.

Maui was thrown into the sea when he was a baby.  He was just an ordinary human, unwanted by his family.  The gods saved Maui and gave him a magical fish hook that would allow him to turn into whatever animal he wanted.  It also gave him power to create.  So the legend went that he created the sun, the land, the plants, the trees, anything that humans wanted. At the heart of Maui was a little boy longing for love and approval.  He had experienced a great deal of trauma when he was little.  And yet, he was still compassionate towards those around him and wanted to make them happy.  He became so focused on making other people happy, and he became intoxicated with how that made him feel. Somewhere along the way, Maui forgot that his fish hook was a gift from the gods and it was only because of them that he had any power at all.

How many Christians have lost their way like this? Where they spend all of their energy DOING good things for God or the church, and then they revel in how much good they are doing?  Look, I don't think it happens like that overnight, and I don't think it is intentional.  What I really think happens is that good men and women start out with a passion for serving God.

But life comes at them and the enemy comes at them.  They are beaten and blown about by the winds of this world, and they put their focus on themselves.  They forget to watch the one calling them out onto the water, the one who can keep them from sinking. And this happens over and over again.  Until eventually, that person starts to build up walls.  They embrace this false identity that they did everything in their own power. They use arrogance as a mask for the pain in their hearts. They long to be loved by the world around them, and they go to great lengths to prove they are worthy of love.

Do you know someone like that?  Maybe you ARE someone like that.  We have all found ourselves in that place.  Maybe the circumstances look different, but at the end of the day, aren't we all just longing to be loved?

I love Maui for so many reasons. He was so very, very human.

I have been a great source of pain in other people's lives.  I hate that.  I wish that I had not hurt so many people with my own pride and arrogance and selfishness. Have you ever heard it said that you are the villain in someone else's story?  I am aware of so many people in whose story I am the villain, and I am sure there are other hearts I don't even know about that I trampled over.  I have been Maui.  I have stolen another person's heart from inside their chest. I have seen firsthand the devastation that comes when you step all over another person just to suit your own needs.

Maui doesn't succeed in delivering the heart of Te Fiti to his people. He is struck down and the heart (and his fish hook) are cast into the sea. Maui is then marooned on an island, where he has remained for 1000 years. He has spent all of that time plotting, planning, hoping for a way off of this island. An island that he is only on because he stole something that didn't belong to him. He deserved to be there. He had not been using the gift he had been given in a worthy manner. So he was forcefully placed somewhere he couldn't hurt anyone else. 

Moana finally makes it to Maui's island and attempts to introduce herself. Instead of really listening to who she is and why she is there, Maui just starts singing about how amazing he truly is. As the song continues, we begin to see that each thing Maui has done has been marked on his skin.  His tattoos tell his story. For better or worse, those markings are a sign to the world of WHO Maui is. One marking even shows something done TO Maui: his mother throwing him into the ocean. It wasn't just his triumphs that were tattooed upon his skin.  Maui's trauma was also on full display. It is out there, and anyone who sees Maui, who really SEES him, will have to see his trauma. They will have to see it and understand that all of his decisions have been based on his understanding of (or lack thereof) said trauma. 

Maui is scared of Te Fiti's heart. When Moana shows it to him, he cowers back and tells her that nothing good comes from that heart, and that there are others out there who will want to steal it. Right on cue, an angry band of coconut pirates comes to steal the heart. Maui and Moana fight to escape and keep the heart out of their greedy little hands. 

At one point, the pirates take Hei Hei, since this crazy chicken has swallowed the heart. Moana has to fight to convince Maui to go after Hei Hei and the heart. They turn back towards the pirates and when all seems lost, Maui once again wants to turn back. He even tries to convince Moana that the heart she is after isn't that important and she can just find a better one. He is so far detached from what he has done (stealing the heart from the island of Te Fiti) that he doesn't even understand the weight of responsibility he has in restoring the heart. He doesn't even see the pain he has inflicted. At this point all he cares about is saving his own life. 

It's easy to stop here and think how awful Maui is. Be careful. Because that's all too often where each and every one of us find ourselves. Do not become so self-absorbed that you cannot fathom being the villain of someone else's story. The minute you think you could never be, you just might be stomping all over someone else's heart unknowingly.  

What we might miss, if we aren't looking closely at who Maui really is, is that Maui is a hurt and scared little boy. His trauma has shaped his entire life. He was unwanted by his parents.  He was thrown out like garbage. Someone came along and saw him and chose to make him into someone else. He then spent his life trying to prove to everyone around him that he was worthy of love. He went to great lengths to show people how great he was, to the point that he lost sight of his lowly beginnings and envisioned himself a god. Until one day, he did something terrible, and the consequences were even worse. Both for him and the rest of the world around him. Instead of being thought of as a hero, Moana brings with her a very harsh truth: Maui is no one's hero. What he did, in the name of heroism, caused great harm to all. Maui is shocked to learn that the world doesn't see him the way he thought they did. It is here that Moana sees her "in" and tries to convince Maui to return Te Fiti's heart.  She speaks to Maui's desire to be a hero, to be loved by all, and finally entices him to join her on her quest.

Maui spends the rest of the movie doing two things:

#1. Teaching Moana to sail
#2. Running away

Since Moana and Maui are stuck together, Moana begs Maui to teach her to sail. He replies with "It's called wayfinding, princess. And it's not just sails and knots...it's seeing where you're going in your mind...knowing where you are...by knowing where you've been." Maui takes one look at Moana and determines she could never do what he is so skilled at - wayfinding. He speaks to this, emphasizing, "You are not a wayfinder. You will never be wayfinder. You will never be a wayfind..." until the ocean sticks a tranquilizer in him and he has no choice but to start teaching Moana.

Remember, Moana's people were master wayfinders.  That's all they ever used to do. It is something that has been placed deep inside Moana's own heart and she desperately wants to learn how her ancestors did it. This journey across the ocean will be led by a master wayfinder, by someone who knows exactly how to do it. Maui begins teaching Moana reluctantly, and then after a close call together, he finds joy in teaching her how to do what he knows best: wayfinding.

Maui makes a comment to Moana after she wakes up from a nightmare saying, "A real wayfinder never sleeps so they actually get where they need to go." Did you know there is a Bible verse that says something similar? Mark 13:33 says, "Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come." In this case, the author was referring to Jesus' return. For Maui and Moana, it signified their destination. The idea was the same - when we are out on the ocean, it is important that our eyes are always open. It is imperative that we stay awake. It is our job to spot anything or anyone in the water. We need to always be ready to rescue. And we need to remember that this world is not our home-we need to fix our eyes on the horizon, because one day, we will get to take that final journey across the ocean and go home.

Later in the movie, Moana has a heart to heart with Maui. If Maui had any say in the matter, he would have shoved Moana under the water to shut her up. It's one of my favorite scenes in the movie, because it reminds me of one of my closest friends. I have a habit of poking the bear.  There are a few people in my life who do NOT like to talk. Especially when it is something that might make them feel a certain way. Sometimes I get too close, and I know because my friend will tell me to shut up, or stop talking. Or will look away, or smack me. That's my sign that we've crossed the line into too personal and I should back off.  And sometimes, I do back off.  And other times, I gently prod, because I know that she needs to talk. My husband is the same way. It's hard for some people to think about how they feel, let alone talk about it. We let our trauma and hang ups keep us from sharing the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves. But those are the very parts that need to be seen in order for us to truly find peace and healing.

We can't be like the Maui who fought to bring life and joy to the people in the villages and lost sight of what mattered most.  We can't become so caught up in doing things for and in the church or our communities that we make ourselves a god by our good works. This will result in a very self-focused person who is incapable of seeing those drowning closest to them.  It keeps us distracted from our true purpose, which is to SEE the others who are lost and need a lifeline.

We can't be like the Maui who lets our trauma direct our steps. At the first sign of danger, Maui has learned that running is the only safe option. Boy do I know this path well. We have to learn to talk about our trauma, in order to give it its proper place in our lives, so that we can truly get out there and be wayfinders. We can't truly see other people through their lens of trauma unless we first deal with the trauma that has shaped us into the individuals we are today.

We have to be like the Maui who after running away countless times KEEPS COMING BACK.  Stay in the fight.  At the end, Maui came flying back in at just the right moment to help someone else fight the battle of their life. We weren't meant to go through this life alone, and we certainly don't have to do battle alone.  Yes, Maui kept running away.  But Maui was consistent. Maui was relentless.  He got scared and he let his fears draw him away from his purpose.  But each time, he came back.  Each time, he dusted himself off and tried again.  

And that last time he came back, he did so without his hook. He had finally learned that his magic hook is not what made him who he was.  With or without his hook, he was simply Maui: a human who had lost his way, kept moving forward, and taught someone else how to be a wayfinder. All of the scars of his life, the tattoos across his skin, defined him.  All of the good he did didn't matter. He had to learn WHO he was, without his hook, and see that he could still fight, even if he had nothing left to offer.  

When Maui finally does open up to Moana and shares his heart, which included the pain of his past and his fears, Moana does something beautiful.  She does something she does over and over again with so many in this movie.  She truly SEES Maui.  She sees past the facade. She seems the hurt little boy, who was just looking to be loved.  She tells Maui, "Maybe the gods found you for a reason. Maybe the ocean brought you TO them...because it saw someone who was worthy of being saved."

So, if you are still reading this, I want to say to you what Moana said to Maui, and I hope you are listening: Maybe God found you for a reason. Maybe God brought you here to show you that you are someone who is worthy of being saved.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Part 6 - Gramma Tala

Today I want to look at Gramma Tala, Moana's grandmother.  According to Disney Wiki, she is a "keeper of the ancient stories."  She is an elder in Motunui who remembers how their people used to be Master Wayfinders who would sail the oceans, looking for new islands.  She has also watched her son keep the old truths buried deep, due to his own pain and trauma, as we saw in the last post about Chief Tui.  

Not only does Gramma Tala remember the old stories, but she also holds tightly to a hope that one day her people will voyage again, the way they were always meant to.  You know, Gramma Tala reminds me of a really good therapist.  Rather than give you answers to your questions, they will often ask questions, designed in a way that leads you to the answer on your own.  They require you to do the hard work to make the choices for yourself about how you feel or how you will react to a situation, but they do it in a gentle and encouraging way.  They can guide you to the answer that you may already know deep in your heart, but haven't been able to put words to.

After Moana's first failed trip past the reef, Gramma Tala walks onto the beach where Moana is inspecting an injury to her foot.  As Moana tries to hide her foot, Gramma Tala grabs it with her cane. Moana turns to the ocean and says, "He was right. About going out there. It's time to put my stone on the mountain."  This was a significant event every future chief of the village of Montunui had to complete.  It was sacred and deeply rooted in tradition.  

Gramma Tala purses her lips and looks side-eyed at Moana and says, "Okay.  Well, then, head on back." and she continues walking towards the water. "Put that stone up there."  Then she proceeds to walk into the water, where she is surrounded by stingrays.  She's knee deep in the water, dancing around with them, as if nothing in life were more important (perhaps it wasn't).  Moana watches her, confused by her words, and starts to walk away.

But Gramma Tala, like any good therapist, says just enough to make Moana turn back towards her and ask, "Why aren't you trying to talk me out of it?"

Gramma Tala responds with, "You said that's what you wanted."

"It is," Moana says, walking back toward the village again.

As she goes to put her stone on the mountain, Gramma Tala begins talking, again saying just enough to peek Moana's interest.  "When I die...I'm going to come back as one of these. Or I chose the wrong tattoo."  As she turns, you see a large tattoo of a string ray on her upper back.  

Moana is really confused at this point and says, "Why are you acting weird?"  Gramma Tala continues dancing and replies with, "I'm the village crazy lady.  That's my job."

Moana is beginning to get a little frustrated and says, "If there's something you want to tell me, just tell me!" She pauses, and then asks more cautiously, "Is there something you wanna tell me?"

She waits, hoping Gramma Tala will just tell her what to do.  Gramma Tala looks back at her and says, "Is there something you want to hear?"  It is at this point that Gramma Tala leads Moana to a cave that had been long walled off.  She explains that there is one story that Moana has never been told.  And she leads Moana to an opening that is covered in rocks.  Moana moves some rocks and says, "What's in there?"

Gramma Tala replies with, "The answer to the question you keep asking yourself.  Who are you meant to be? Go inside.  Bang the drum.  And find out."

So while she doesn't tell Moana what her purpose is, she does LEAD her to learn the answer for herself. She gives her the tools she needs to do the work and become who she was meant to be.  And I would say that a good therapist does the exact same thing!  They can help us make sense of confusion and scary things that are too big in our heads.

After Moana emerges from the cave, Gramma Tala explains why the ancient chiefs forbade voyaging, and how the darkness in their land was growing.  The plants and fish were dying, actively.  Forbidding voyaging did not stop the darkness and even into Moana's day, the darkness continues to overtake the land.  Gramma Tala explains to Moana that she was there the day that the ocean chose Moana and she tries to urge Moana to fulfill what she believes is Moana's purpose: to find Maui, deliver him across the great ocean, and make him restore the heart of Te Fiti.  

As Moana finds herself in a place of loss and grief, Gramma Tala urges her to go, saying, "You must!  The ocean chose you...there is nowhere you could go that I won't be with you...Go!"  And as Moana takes off in her canoe, a shimmering light shaped like a stingray swims underneath and in front of her, as if Gramma Tala is blessing this voyage and spurring Moana on.

If you are suffering under the weight of burdens that are just too heavy, maybe it's time to do something different.  Maybe the way you have done it all your life isn't working.  Are you ready to start something new?  To venture out into the ocean and learn who you were truly meant to be?  Not who your parents or your community or this world tells you to be.  

You are meant for so much more than feeling lost and alone in this broken world.  You can heal.  You can be whole again.  You can find purpose for your life, no matter how much of it was spent nursing the wounds the world inflicted upon you.  I know a guy.  His name is Jesus.  And he wants you to be whole.  He wants to take your broken heart and make something beautiful grow from within.  He is the only one who can come into those secret and painful places and light them up, exposing the lies and false hopes we rest in.  And only Jesus can replace them with truth and grace and a hope for the future.

10 This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”  - Jeremiah 29:10-14 (NLT)

We all need a Gramma Tala in our lives.  We need someone who remembers how our people used to do things (Act 2).  Because maybe we have spent too long trying to do it our own way.  Maybe it's time we stop fighting against our purpose and accept what we are meant to be.  Perhaps you don't have a Gramma Tala in your life to help you make sense of this chaos out there.  What then?  

Go to therapy.

Please don't be afraid of counseling.  Everyone needs someone who is outside of their situation to listen and offer good counsel.  I know it feels so big and so scary and you are afraid of what it will reveal or say about you or the people you love.  But listen, you can't start feeling better and truly heal if you are only ever trying to do it on your own.  There is an entire profession devoted to helping humans understand their brain and the choices they have made in their lives.  It exists because it is an absolute necessity.  

Don't prevent getting help because you are scared of how you will feel.  You have to reveal the injury to someone before they can even begin to heal it.  Stop hiding.  Stop letting your wounds just fester because you don't know any Gramma Talas.  Sometimes the hardest thing is to take that first step and admit we have a wound that won't stop growing.  To show it to someone else, so that they can help you heal.  I promise you, one of most daunting parts is exposing the wound.  Once you do that, the rest is all just part of the process.  It isn't an easy road to walk, but it is the only one that leaves you with lasting peace.

We can learn a lot about life from Gramma Tala.  Aside from her Godly counsel throughout the movie, her attitude towards life would have seemed just a little "off" to most looking at her.  She was different.  She didn't keep the same pace as the other villagers. And she was ALWAYS near the water. She couldn't resist dipping her toes in, every chance she got.  She longed for a life spent IN the water.  She didn't stay on the beach and watch as others tested the waters.  She stepped in.  She took the risk.  And she stayed in the water, even when no one else wanted to.  When others thought it foolish, she kept her feet in the water.  She was waiting in hopeful anticipation for what was to come next.  And in the end, she was allowed reprieve from her earthly journey and given her rightful home on the distant horizon.  Don't be afraid to get in the water.  Dance, just like Gramma Tala did.   



Friday, May 13, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Part 5 - Chief Tui


 I have a love/hate relationship with Chief Tui, Moana's father.  His voice is perhaps the loudest one she hears growing up.  It is the voice that is always telling her to stay in the village.  The voice that says there is too much danger to go anywhere else.  There is too much to be afraid of.  Here is where I start to see different types of people within the village church.  Actually, Cheif Tui represents where I think a lot of "church people" find themselves.  Sometimes the focus of the church stays inward, and there will be those who will say that it is the RIGHT way.  We bring people INTO the church.  We have our members go and invite their friends and neighbors to the building on Sundays.  Where is the urgent exhortation to brave the winds and waves of the mighty ocean out there to rescue all of those who are drowning?  Sometimes we try to put a pretty little bow on it.  Oh, invite you neighbor to church this Sunday.  That's how we disciple.  You invite and then if they come they come.  Just keep inviting.

There is good within that mindset.  The act of inviting and the act of continuing to invite, regardless of whether your neighbor ever comes or not.  I'm not saying DON'T do that.  What I am hoping to do here though is help just one other person feel the urgency to get into a boat, sail the unknown ocean, and get as many lives into your boat as you can.  You are the lifeline.  You aren't some cruise ship or mega yacht sailing along, asking those you come up beside if they want to come and look at your nice shiny boat.  What you have to offer, from the outside, won't look too inviting. Some people will take one look at your banged up, falling apart little canoe and determine that it doesn't look good enough.  They will wait for a bigger, safer boat.

But those who are drowning, who are really in need of a lifeline, they won't need to think about what your boat looks like or who is saving them.  In the moment of rescue, that's all they can think about.  They will latch on to whatever comes alongside them and says, "I'm here to help."  And we see this in the world all the time.  When pain comes in and rips apart the heart, and we are drowning, we will cling to whatever comes close to us that may offer safety or an answer.  

For me, it was a man with flattering words who came along and offered me a place of safety.  I leapt into his lifeboat, because at the time, if felt like he was the ONLY boat around and would be the only boat around, after years of dying on a desert island.  I found myself in the middle of a rocky island that offered no fresh plant life or water, except what surrounded it. And then one day, a boat came along.  But it didn't offer me rescue.  It just spent over seven years sailing around my little rocky island with me, providing no true way home.  

I say all of that to help explain that there are others like me who were offered a place of safety in something that was not Jesus.  Maybe it was alcohol, maybe it was drugs, maybe it was sex, maybe it was food,  maybe it was money.  There is an endless list of things that masquerade as places of safety in our lives.  Maybe you are, right now, in one of those deceptive places of safety--you know the kind I mean.  The kind that promises with just one more look, one more taste, one more whatever, we will finally feel safe.  We will finally find the healing we so desperately need.  But when we put our trust in these unsafe places, in the end, we will find ourselves farther from our mother island than we ever thought possible.


You know, it is always amazing to me how the wind shifts the ocean.  I love floating on my back in the ocean.  It only takes a few moments of floating though to drift.  You will close your eyes in one spot, and 5 minutes later, you are much, much farther away from where you started.  And in some cases, you have to fight to get back to the place you began.  I have always found this part of the ocean fascinating.  The ocean can move you so far, so fast.  The ocean can also turn deadly.  It might not look safe.  And really, it's not safe.  One of my favorite quotes from The Lion, The Witch & and The Wardrobe is when Susan is talking to Mr. Beaver about Aslan the Lion.

"Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion."

"Ooh," said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man.  Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"...Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe.  But he's good.  He's the King, I tell you."

The ocean isn't safe.  There will always be danger on the waves.  But if the right person rescues you, or better yet, you ARE the right person giving a life raft of hope to others drowning in the water, it is GOOD.  Jesus isn't safe.  He will ask us to give up everything that ties us to us.  He will ask us to put to death all the stuff that makes us chase after the world.  He does this, not to punish.  He understands the risk.  He himself gave up his very human body, to show us how to set sail in the ocean to rescue those who were dying.

The reason I say I have a love/hate relationship with Chief Tui is this:

I hate that he tried to force his purpose for Moana on her, to the exclusion of all other options.  I hate that he allowed his own story, trauma really, to keep Moana from her true purpose.  He wasn't malicious.  He was a father who loved his daughter, and a chief who loved his village.  There is nothing wrong with that.  He had to balance the way a leader does--doing what is best for your people, even if it is hard for them.  But he was also a dad and his job was to protect his daughter from harm.

But do you know why I also love him?

Because he is me.

He is you.

He is anyone who has every tried to set sail on mission for God, only to be beaten and battered by the wind and waves.  He knew there was more beyond the reef.  He had a call on his heart to explore the vast ocean and find new islands.

There was a rule, when Tui was young, long before he became a chief.  You don't go beyond the reef.  You stay in your village.  There is safety in the village.  But as a young man, Tui felt the calling on his heart to go past the reef.  He wanted to voyage.  And he had a friend who wanted to voyage with him.  They went and they faced fierce storms and Tui's best friend was taken by the ocean.  Tui was saved and returned home, but it changed him.  He had been traumatized.

His experience solidified that it is not safe to go beyond the reef.  The wind and the waves are too fierce.  There is no hope of survival.  He allowed the trauma he experienced to prevent him from going back into the ocean. And further, he again forbade his people from going past the reef.  It was done to protect, yes.  But it was done from a place of fear.

During the first five years of our marriage, while Kris battled his addiction to pornography, I was in so much pain.  My heart was an open wound, and every time Kris would fall, the barely scarred over places would open up again.  The pain would leak out, and it would touch everything around me.  I didn't know how to stop the bleeding.  So I did the only thing I knew to do.  I prayed.  And I prayed.  And I prayed some more.

I was SO terrified of being hurt again, that somewhere along the way, the focus of my prayers shifted.  Initially, I think I did pray from a place of longing for Kris to be free so he could experience true peace with God.  Over time, as my wound grew and began to abscess, my prayers became more and more inward.  I would beg God to take this away from Kris.  Not for his benefit.  But so that the pain would end.  So that I could finally bandage up my wound and try to find a doctor, so I could begin to heal.  

Somewhere along the way, I began to equate my pain with God's goodness, or lack thereof. When you pray for something so long and so hard, and you aren't being renewed in spirit and mind, because you don't understand that your own pain is the place to begin, you will become weary.  What at first was to be a resource to me quickly became a place of pain itself.  Why didn't God answer?  I knew he could hear me.  I knew he could see me.  Why did he want me to suffer like this?  Why couldn't the pain just end?  Why did Kris have to struggle in this way and why was there no way to make it stop?  

I was so distracted by my own pain at this point that the very thing that should have given me hope made me angry.  I began to see God not as good, but as indifferent to me.  I was looking for answers and a way to be free from all the pain I was feeling.  My hope began to die, little by little, until I honestly just stopped caring.  

I had allowed my past, my pain, and my fear to consume me to the point that I didn't recognize the imminent danger in the grass.  There was a lion there, waiting for just the right moment to devour me.  He was far more patient than I was ever capable of being.  This unseen enemy didn't attack when I was wrestling with my faith or trying to understand why God wasn't answering.  He pounced the very moment I gave up.  I stopped searching for answers.  I stopped caring about my husband's soul.  I quit fighting for our marriage.  And that is when the trap was sprung.  

That is why I love Tui.  Because I understand the trap he fell into.  He lost his best friend to the ocean.  Pornography took my best friend from me.  In his early years, Tui listened to his heart and went after with passion the great ocean.  His passion likely is what enticed his best friend to follow him into the great unknown.  Kris and I started out like that.  Full of passion for life and God and full of hope.

The storm on the seas became too rough and Tui lost his best friend, which caused him to close himself, his entire village really, off to the outside world once and for all.  I did this with my own heart as well.  Kris wasn't safe, he would never be safe, and therefore by association, neither was God.  So, I dug my heels in.  I would not venture toward God's heart any longer.  I would only stay in my own village, where it was safe.  I wouldn't let anyone in or out.  That was the way I thought it needed to be, for survival.  I didn't know what I know now about PTSD and trauma.

I didn't realize that survival would come by surrendering to the very thing that terrified me.  In order to stay in the ocean and keep exploring, I would have to become shipwrecked and allow my hull to be completely rebuilt.  I had weighed it down with so many dangerous and heavy things.  They had to be dumped into the ocean, and I would have to learn to sail all over again.  But this time, I would do it with my Master Wayfinder, Jesus.

Don't let your pain keep you from getting back into the water.  Maybe it's time to stop filling your boat with all things worthless.  Jesus sees you there, flailing in the water.  He is right there in front of you, reaching out and waiting for you to take his hand.  Will you be so distracted from what is right in front of you that you cling to all of the other distractions in the water?  None of those can truly save you.  You might find you can stay afloat a little while longer, but over time, that board you are holding onto so tightly will slip away from your grasp.

And then what?

I'll tell you what happens next.  When you finally stop grabbing ahold of all of the things the world says will save you, and you open your eyes and realize you are STILL DROWNING, you will see that Jesus is still there.  He is still reaching down.  He is still holding out his hand.  And he is still waiting to pull you up into his arms of safety and peace.

It was only through Moana's obedience to her calling and purpose that Tui could finally understand the truth:

Just because the ocean could bring immense pain didn't mean that it couldn't also bring  commensurate healing.  His pain was no less real.  He was still forever changed by the trauma of losing his friend.  He was just able to finally look at it through the proper perspective.  It didn't have to be the thing that defined him.  He could move beyond his pain, and once again see what truly mattered, and he learned this through his daughter's example.  

Sometimes we will teach our kids, and there are other lessons that God wants us to learn through our children.  Isn't that beautiful?  It implies a relationship between parent and child that is constantly renewing and sharpening and becoming better.  Don't ever think you don't have anything to learn from your kids.  Chief Tui learned just as much about being a chief and braving the ocean again from Moana as he taught her.  

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Part 4 - Sina

Today I want to talk about Moana's mother, Sina.  She represents one of three voices that Moana has heard her entire life.  As Moana grows up and tries to figure out who she is, there are 3 constants in her life.  Her mother, her father, and her grandmother.  These voices speak into her from the time she is very little, and continue speaking as she grows up and is being trained to become the next chief of her village.  It is interesting to me that three voices from the same family can give three very different messages about what Moana's purpose is.

Of the advice given, none of it is bad, per sae.  The choice will be up to her.  There isn't a clear cut right or wrong answer for her.  Her village DOES need her.  She will be their chief and what chief doesn't live among her people?

We don't actually see Sina too much in the movie.  She appears here and there and seems to be portrayed as the peacemaker in the family, and perhaps the voice of reason.  She may seem like she is playing both sides, always trying to convince Moana that her father just wants what is best for her and their people, but I don't see it that way at all.


I think that Sina wants Moana to stay on the island.  Sina wants Moana to listen to her father's wise counsel because she wants to protect Moana.  She knows there is an ocean out there, and she tries to help Moana see the reason behind WHY her father doesn't want her to go beyond their reef. She herself isn't sure whether it is better to stay on the island or go, but we are given enough indication to believe that she would have preferred Moana never set foot on the ocean.  And yet, when the time came to either stop Moana or encourage her to go, she had to make a choice.

There is this scene in the movie where Moana has decided to leave the village and try to seek help for their dying island across the great ocean.  As her grandmother lays ill, and at her urging, Moana rushes to back her bag.  As she is gathering her things, she senses something and looks up to find her mother standing in the doorway.  There is a look of "Uh oh, I'm caught." on Moana's face, as she wonders if Sina will try to stop her.  

And then, Sina does what Moana probably needed the most.  

She looks at Moana, full of compassion and understanding, and she stoops down next to her and helps her pack her bag.  

She is giving silent permission for Moana to go.  She doesn't want Moana to go.  She is fearful and doesn't know if she will ever see her daughter again.  But she also is hopeful that Moana can do something to save the village and their island.  She sends her out with hopeful expectation.  She is like the early churches who would send Paul and Barnabas and other missionaries off across the sea to foreign islands.  They would say goodbye to their beloved community and they would set sail across the ocean, trying to save those still drowning in the ocean.

I see this in myself as a parent.  When your kids become teenagers, they begin to try to figure out who they are.  It can be painful to watch them make choices that are different than what we would have made.  Something I am learning though is that my kids are not me, and they are most definitely growing up in a world that is far different than what I encountered at their age.  The simple truth is this: my kids will not do things the way I did.  The path they ultimately take to get to Jesus is not in my hands.  Kris and I planted as many seeds as we were capable of, and even when we didn't do it right, our intentions were always to honor God and raise our children up to know God, love Jesus, and to look to something beyond themselves.  

We may never see the fruition of the years of hard labor, trying to point them in the best direction possible.  Our children have to wrestle with the faith they saw modeled growing up, and learn to deconstruct and reconstruct it in a way that points them to Jesus.  Some may need quiet urging, and others may need the rug pulled out from under them.  Regardless, that part will likely not be my job, and so I have to let them go.  

I have to be like Sina, who knows there is risk in exploring the vastness of the sea, but encourages my children to go anyway, because perhaps it is out there that they will find out where their true purpose lies.  Maybe the sea will shape them into who they are meant to be.  

At the end of the movie, Sina and Tui are inspecting the plants.  They are both looking down when Sina senses something that makes her look towards the ocean.  On the horizon, she sees something and she takes off running.  Even though she had let Moana go, she never stopped waiting and hoping for Moana's return. She was always ready, which is why she sensed Moana, before she spotted her.  

Sina has within her what I want to tap into.  Because she is waiting with hopeful anticipation, her eyes and ears are always open.  She is waiting for the slightest rustling on the wind.  The smallest change in temperature or smell.  She is so ready for Moana to come home that while she can go about daily tasks, there is always a part of her waiting and hoping for Moana.

I want to be like that with the world around me.  I want to always be listening.  I want to do this because if I do, and someone around me starts to fall off of my boat, I can be so in tune that I notice it right away and can grab them before they go under.  Beyond that, I want to be so aware of what is going on around me and so full of hopeful expectation that I can sense people drowning in the water before I come upon them, so that I can offer them rescue sooner.  I want my heart to be so in tune with God and his purpose for my life that I can jump at a moment's notice into the water and go after the ones who can't reach my life raft.