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's seeing where you're going in your mind...knowing where you 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.

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