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, " 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.

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