Morning Zephyrs! Julie again.
When one princess shoots down the entire Disney canon in one fell swoop…
Those of you who followed Zeph@10 yesterday may be experiencing déjà vu as you’ll know that Yvonne’s post was inspired by Frozen 2. Here’s the companion piece – a theological exposition of Frozen! (“Hooray!” I hear you cry! Buckle up…)
If you’re a Disney fan, there’s lots to love about Frozen. The songs, the beautifully animated icy landscape, the step away from romance-centred plotlines to sisterhood and female empowerment (all without missing a trick on merchandising potential – it is still Disney… 😉).
For me, predictably, the best thing is the story which, I think, works on one level as a powerful parable for the transforming nature of God’s love. Bear with…
At the start of the film, we meet two sisters – Elsa and Anna – as small children. They love playing together. Elsa, the eldest of the two, has magical powers – she can create enchanted snow and ice and freeze things – and she uses them to fuel all sorts of snowman-building, ice-skating, snowball-throwing wintry fun. Anna’s faith in her big sister is absolute, trusting Elsa to create frozen snowbanks to catch her as she leaps into the air. Until she takes a risk too far, leaping too fast for Elsa to keep up. Elsa slips on her own ice and her misdirected power strikes her sister in the head, causing her to fall…
Elsa and Anna’s parents step in and fix things, but there is a price to pay – Anna’s memory of her sister’s powers is wiped and their relationship is never the same again. Terrified of their daughter’s powers, the parents focus on constraint rather than teaching Elsa to control them. Several significant plot points later, we see the young adult Elsa, distanced from everyone around her, imprisoned by her own harmful levels of self-control, her life focussed around keeping her powers hidden, concealing the very heart of herself. Her parents have passed on their fear ten-fold – inadvertently leaving Elsa with a core of shame and self-loathing.
As events and heightened emotions push her to lose control of her powers again, Elsa accidentally sets off an eternal winter, flees her kingdom, and claims freedom – expressed through that most epic of Disney ballads, Let it Go! The freedom, however, also comes at a price. Unfettered by the fear of her impact on others, Elsa releases her powers to amazing effect, conjuring up a beautiful ice palace and undergoing transformation; BUT – she is totally alone, isolated and cut off from any other human. She is too afraid of herself, too stuck in her own shame, to allow herself to seek relational connection.
Like Adam and Eve eating the fruit in the Garden of Eden, the moment when Elsa’s powers injure her sister is revelatory. Both moments bring on a flood of self-awareness with confronting clarity. Adam and Eve – and Elsa – gain the knowledge of good and evil – and of their own potential to embody both, to damage those around them, to cause pain, to mess up. Adam and Eve hide from God in the garden – Elsa hides who she really is. Neither of these situations is sustainable; Adam and Eve have to leave the garden, Elsa flees from her home and isolates herself in the mountains.
The rest of the movie focuses on Anna’s efforts to reconnect with and redeem her sister – much like the rest of the Bible focuses on God’s efforts to reconnect with and redeem humanity. Although her memory is erased, Anna’s complete trust in her sister is unchanged. She repeatedly seeks connection with her, only to be rebuffed and rejected every time. But she keeps on going. Just like God’s trust in humanity’s intrinsic worth remains unchanged – and he repeatedly seeks connection with his people through the Bible, never giving up despite the cycle of failings.
In the end, it is Anna’s complete love for and trust in Elsa that fuels her redemption. Even after taking a further accidental blow from Elsa to her heart, Anna still believes in her sister – she doesn’t see the shame, the mistakes, the fear. She sees the whole person, who she loves and who is packed with potential to make the world a better place. In the end, it is God’s complete love for and trust in humanity that fuels our redemption – he doesn’t see the shame, the mistakes, the fear. He sees the whole of us, as people who he loves and who are packed with potential to make the world a better place.
One of the many pearls of wisdom in the Frozen script is this – “Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart”. In the end, Anna’s love for and total acceptance of Elsa is powerful – because, in the end, it gives Elsa enough self-worth to allow herself to feel the love she returns for Anna and let it fuel her actions. Trying desperately not to give the plot away too much, in the end, it is her own act of true love that thaws Elsa’s heart, melting the chokehold of shame and self-loathing, as she reaches out to accept and reflect back the love that Anna has for her.
One of the many pearls of wisdom in the Bible is this – “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Our challenge, then, is two-fold…
First – like Elsa – we need to accept God’s perfect love and let it cast out our fear, let it cast out our shame and transform our lack of self-worth. And let’s not be blasé about that – it is hard work to accept and embrace that kind of love and let it change us; it is a daily act of will to continue that inner transformation, to recognise that we are worthy, we are loved, and we are packed with the potential to make the world a better place.
And secondly, alongside that because there is no point waiting for our first task to be complete – it is a process; we must – like Anna – believe in as much of that self-worth and value and love as we can so that we can pass it on to others. Like Elsa – and all of us – Anna is a flawed character; but she isn’t defined by her flaws. If we are truly to allow God’s perfect love to cast out our fear, so that we CAN pass on that transformation to others in the world around us, we must make sure we don’t define ourselves by our flaws either. God doesn’t define us that way.
“Perfect love casts out fear.”
Fear holding you back? Let it go… 🙂
Love is transformational. That is huge. Wield it wisely.
Thanks for indulging me. Have great fear-free days, Zephyrs!