Outside of the basic hygiene necessary to keep everyone thinking I’m a respectable (and sweet-smelling) member of society, there are only two things I do almost daily: read the Bible and watch Moana.
You’ve seen Moana, right? If not, figure out your life, dude. It’s been out since November, is super rad, and currently streaming on Netflix.
There aren’t even children living in my house and I’ve been known to watch it three times in one day. I’m not crazy, I just don’t have cable and Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius. And also, I am a little crazy, after all. I have been aggressively shushed by preschoolers for singing along. (Keep it up, Ellanora, it’s not like your Christmas present is on the line or anything.)
Sometimes it’s just pleasant, melodic noise to have on while I work or read. If I ever really sit and watch it, I cry every time. Every single one. Different moments hit me each time, but overall it comes back to this main theme: living up to the truth of who you are.
Moana’s grandmother affirms her identity as she grows up, Moana affirms her own identity over and over again. She speaks her identity to herself to carry her through challenges and to others who would stand in the way of her mission to bring life back to her people. Moana calls true worth and identity out in others along the way. And when she is abandoned, alone, and ready to turn back, the ocean, who called her to this mission to begin with, reminds her who she is and what she’s been called to accomplish. Come what may, I know the way. I am Moana.
When facing the villain, the monster who has to be defeated, it isn’t a sword or a spell that vanquishes the evil. It is words and the healing of a long burning wound. I know your name. This is not who you are.
Peace, unity, reconciliation, healing… the whole world changes because the characters are restored to who they truly are. Maui, her warrior companion, learns he is worthy regardless of his special powers. Te Fiti is restored to her life-giving self when her heart and identity is returned to her. The village returns to their origins as wayfinders. All of this because Moana stayed true to her call and found her strength in being reminded over and over again who she is.
That’s a lot of words to devote to a cartoon. I get that. But apart from my general daily overexposure, I think I am captivated by this movie specifically because the thing that Moana needed to defy her family, jump onto a boat she had no skill at sailing, convince powerful Maui to right his wrongs, and eventually come face to face with a fiery threat beyond imagining, is the same thing I need: to know exactly who I am. And there is not a person on this planet who doesn’t need it, too.
There are a million messages out there telling us all kinds of untrue things. We aren’t smart enough, attractive enough, fun enough, strong enough. We have hurt too many people, missed too many chances, made too many mistakes. The world is against us. We have nothing to give.
But the Bible says none of that matters. We never had to be enough. Nothing we carry is too heavy.
We are chosen, holy, adopted, dearly loved, and guaranteed a full inheritance as children of God. (Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4,Ephesians 1:1-5) There is no earthly point of origin that makes you more or less worthy. We are not rejected by God, but saved by grace and chosen to be family, seated with Christ in heaven. (Ephesians 2:6) That is our value. That is our status.
We are citizens of heaven. He has torn down the dividing lines of hostility between us. We are no longer foreigners and strangers, but one family. His plan is to “display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2)
We have direct access to the Holy Spirit and can approach Him with boldness and confidence. (Hebrews 4:16, Ephesians 3:12) God is able to do above and beyond all we could ask or even imagine and we have the permission and ability to just march right up to Him and say what’s on our minds.
That is who we are. And there is so much more. If I were to type out a list of all the things the Bible says about who we are, it would fill page after page. In addition to knowing who God is, the next most important thing to get right is who we are to Him.
Someone said the other day that before she walks into any situation that makes her nervous, scared, uncomfortable, etc., she says a quick prayer and asks God who He says she is. No matter the outcome of the situation, who we are to God remains intact. And who we are to God is not a matter of the subjective opinion of a loving parent who happens to adore us, but a truth told by the creator of all things.
There is real evil in the world. It is taking many forms and has been burning for a long time. The perpetrators are never literal monsters, breathing actual fire and swinging actual scaly tails. They are people. Sometimes they are us.
There are real battles to be fought for the hearts of people. More is at stake than our own self-worth. It matters that we know we can approach God with boldness because there are bold, scary questions that need to be asked. It matters that we know we are one family and that He has torn down the dividing lines of hostility between us because there are forces working hard to build those borders back up, tall and strong. It matters that we know we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) because when we operate from a place of abundance, we are never afraid to share what we have with others. It matters that we know we are reconciled to God and are ourselves ministers of reconciliation (1 Corinthians 5:18-19) because is there anything the world needs more than that right now?
This is what I need to do now: read, study, pray and become very certain of who I am in Christ and who we are to each other because there are big, important, impossible things to be done.
Perhaps we think Moana had it easy, being fictional and all. How hard is it to be an epic heroine when it’s literally the way you are drawn?
But hear me: it is also the way we are drawn.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) The word translated as “workmanship” is where we get the word “poem” in English. It indicates a masterpiece. We, Church, are His masterpiece. He prepared good works that we should walk in them. He has done all the heavy lifting.
So here are my questions, to myself as much as to anyone else:
Do we live like we know exactly how we are made and who we are?
How would our actions and behaviors look different if we truly took hold of who we are in Christ?
What is something simple you can do every day to remind yourself of who God is and who you really are?