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.  

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