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:


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.

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