Disney and Jesus
This past weekend was spent with a lot of high school and middle school girls at Girls Retreat! As the girls minister at Frisco First, it is obviously one of my favorite weekends. There are so many things I love about this weekend – the time away from boys, the moments spent giggling and having dance parties, the leaders that show up and love on our girls. But one of my favorite things is that Girls Retreat is led by students. We have a team of girls that comes up with the theme, plans most of the activities, and then executes it. They lead small groups and the games and most importantly the dance parties!
Coming into this year, I had an idea of what I wanted to do. We were going to theme the weekend luau with simple decorations, flowers and leis everywhere, and I had sermons planned off of it. Done. That was my plan. However, when some girls came to me with an entirely different, but well-thought-out plan, we ran with it! They presented the idea of Disney princesses.
I love a good Disney princess! But an entire weekend themed around it…I wasn’t so sure. Until they told me how they had made it all around Biblical themes. And I was sold. They had really thought this through past activities and decorations, plus this was their weekend, so we were rolling with it!
I went deep into this theme. I have listened to so much Disney music and watched so many of the original princess movies while making decorations I could win a trivia night. Sign me up!
One of the rabbit holes I found myself in was the conspiracy theories surrounding Disney movies. You can find more here, but did you know some fandoms think that Tarzan is Anna and Elsa (from Frozen)’s long lost brother because of the shipwreck their parents were in? They also think that Tarzan’s Jane is Belle’s great-great-great-granddaughter because Mrs. Potts and Chip show up at her camp. Or the thought that Mother Gothel from Tangled is the same witch from Snow White? They make some valid arguments. But honestly, you could get so lost in these threads. People spend hours and hours tearing apart these theories. It is kind of fun to think about. And I don’t know about you, but when I love a movie or show, I just want it to go on and on. So, seeking out these threads that tie it all together is kind of fun…until it drives you mad because it never ends. Fans want to hang on to the stories we love. But how can you know the truth?
Was it the original intent of the creators of Tarzan to make Jane Belle’s great-great granddaughter or that Tarzan was the son of Anna and Elsa’s parents shipwrecked on some jungle island? It’s hard to know. It is fun to theorize and question, but we can’t know the intent of those creators. They probably wouldn’t tell us because it’s good for Disney business if the internet is overrun with speculation.
Isn’t that how life is sometimes? Or maybe right now especially? It is hard to know what’s true, what was really intended. It’s hard to know people’s motives – what is true in the news, what’s really going on in the world, the intent of our friend’s text. How should I feel or think about certain things?
The source matters.
I am a naturally curious person. When I get interested in something, I go a little too far digging around about it. I get tunnel vision. When someone tells me news, or I hear about things happening in the world – or even if someone tells me a fact – I (wrongly) normally question it and want to figure out if it is true for myself.
We are in a time when it is hard to know who to trust. Are the sources you follow on Instagram giving you good info? Is that news source biased and only going to tell me the narrative they want me to hear? Is my friend telling this story to make herself look good, when the reality is that it is not as much drama as she thinks because she was in the wrong? On and on it goes.
There is a fatigue in our society right now from making decisions and trying to discern who can and can’t be trusted.
Here’s one think we can know: God is one you can trust.
He does not hide from us. He makes himself known.
He came to us.
I’m reading through the Bible in chronological order right now. And all of Genesis and Exodus, God calls His people to Himself, and there is something important when God says “Come.”
In Genesis, God is creating a set apart people for Himself – gathering them, lovingly setting them up to win and to have the sweetest life – mostly because He is part of it and because He has a relationship with them. But then, God does not just make us do the work. He walked with his people, and then ultimately came to earth to be with us. He made Himself known.
We are reading through Exodus on Wednesdays with students, and the way that God interacts with Moses is so personal. Moses is often a butt head – making tons of excuses. But God just walks with Him. In Exodus 16:9 Moses is told, “come before the Lord for he has heard you.”
In Genesis, God sees Hagar after she is cast out of Abraham’s family; we learn that God is El Roi – the God who sees. Daniel is in the lion’s den, but not alone. He is not left. God seeks Him out and rescues Him.
You are seen by God.
God seeks out his people.
So much so that He came to earth to seek and to save the lost.
He came for a relationship with us. And man, it is the best relationship. I do not have to question whether or not it is true or real or if God has ulterior motives. Jesus has come for us to have a relationship. With no mystery, no hidden Easter eggs. He came so that we may have an abundant life.
God sent Jesus to live a sinless life, die in our place for our sins. Because all have sinned and the wages of sin is death. But because of God’s grace, He sent Jesus in our place. To die and be raised to life. No one else could do that. And it is a fact. It’s not hidden, not a secret. That’s why we’re celebrating Easter this weekend. Because Jesus is risen and alive and He alone saves!
I read this quote somewhere recently and it says, “At the center of the Christian faith is the belief that by coming to earth as one of us, Christ could die for our sins, rise to new life, bring us into fellowship with God, and begin the process of putting right all that’s gone wrong. Jesus became one of us. He became flesh.”
Clarity, and full joy starts with a relationship with Jesus. “If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart then you will be saved.”
And then it continues. We get to daily wake up and choose to seek Jesus. We get to walk with him in relationship.
Growing up, I was a real whimsy girl. I watched (probably too many) Disney princess movies. Or DreamWorks princess movies (shoutout to Thumbelina and Anastasia). Or just any chick flick. Anything to get my imagination going and put me in a fantasy world.
They all end the same way – and they lived happily ever after.
A life with Jesus allows us to live happily after, sure. But that sounds so vague and intangible. The good news of the Gospel is that we get to know the end of the story! Life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever.
One of my favorite verses is Galatians 5.16-18 which says to “keep in step with the spirit.” We get to walk with Jesus daily, minute-by-minute.
Our lives won’t be a fairy tale, but we have the confidence and clarity to know that our lives belong to Jesus. “Nothing can snatch you out of his hand”
And honestly, as much as I think it would be incredible to be a real-life princess, life with Jesus is just better.
God gives us a new heart, new identity. We don’t have to wait on a fairy tale ending, God comes in and rescued us.
Many times, when people encountered God in the Old Testament, and honestly some in the New Testament, they had a name change. The place where someone encountered God would be named after that encounter. The water the Israelites thought was bitter was called “Marah” because it means bitter, and the people were becoming bitter like the water. But God changed the water and their hearts. Judah became Israel, Saul became Saul, Simon became Peter.
We don’t always give ourselves new names after we encounter Jesus. It would be cool if we did. What if we were known by different names because of the different things that God was doing in our lives? “Now call me Sarah because God did this in my life this week.” That would be stinking cool! Confusing, but cool. However, we do get a new heart. Our lives can show the world that we are made new. We get a new identity.
We are called daughters of the one true God – daughters of the King. And no one can take that away from us. When the world tries to label us by what activity we’re in, our job, our family, we can have the confidence that the one title that will never change is that of child of God. That of follower of Jesus.
Last princess analogy, I promise.
Years ago, there was a Disney Princess Summit. Of course there was, it’s Disney, why shouldn’t they have an entire summit dedicated to princesses. Here’s how it started. One day, Roy Disney – Walt’s brother, co-owner of the Disney empire – was walking through a gift shop at Disneyworld (or land, who knows). He saw a shirt or something with Belle, Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbelle. He walked by, thought something looked off, but kind of kept going. Then realized how wrong it seemed to have Tink with the other princesses. He started looking around and saw that there was quite a bit of merch with just a hodge-podge of any girl in Disney being considered a Disney princess. Bo Peep, Wendy Darling, or Esmerelda were printed with princesses. Something seemed off. So he took the original shirt to the merchandise department for questioning.
They explained, people love Tink, they love Cindy, why not throw them all on a shirt. And they’re all girls, therefore they were princesses, right?
That wasn’t gonna fly with Roy. The Disney brothers were intentional about everything they did, but they wanted to be thoughtful about what they were putting out. It needed to stay true to the Disney brand.
So, they had a summit. They gathered big wigs from all over the Disney corporation and had, I think a 2-week summit to determine who was a princess and what wasn’t.
Here are the qualifications:
The character must play a central role in a Disney or Pixar film and must not be introduced in a sequel.
She must be royal by birth or marriage, or do a heroic deed, as was the case with Mulan.
She must be human or human-looking, as is the case with Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and be appealing and recognizable to the audience.
Last but not least, the film in which this character is featured must neither be a flop nor an absolute hit. And they can’t be in a Disney show, like Sofia the First.
Among them, it is established that all princesses typically have an animal sidekick, are innately skilled at communicating with animals, and are beautiful inside and out. The vast majority of them are also gifted singers, except for Merida and Raya, both of whom do not sing in their films; therefore we don’t know if they can sing or not.
Based on these requirements, the list of official princesses is: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, Moana, and Raya.
And so, some ladies got kicked out of the lineup. Tinkerbelle was dethroned and given her own line of movies. Jane from Tarzan was a former princess because she marries the king of the jungle. But her clothes were not the right time frame or royal enough and she wasn’t the biggest hit with little girls – no one’s carrying around Jane dolls. Same with Esmerelda from Hunch Back of Notre Dame (although she was one of my favorite Barbies growing up…)
And, for the record, Anna and Elsa just did too well to make the lineup. They created their own franchise because of their success.
So, we have princesses, we have fairies, and we have other heroines.
All of them important. Tinkerbelle is the leader of her own franchise! Mirabel and Jessie are fun and important and tell significant stories that we learn from. All of them are the main characters of their story.
But their identity is important. They need to know who they are and where they fit in to the Disney empire. That way they know how to act, who they can interact, and there is no confusion on the part of the consumer. It would be strange to see Sleeping Beauty in Frontierland at Disney World. Knowing their identity also allows the princesses to know how to get along with each other. It gives Tinkerbelle purpose, knowing she doesn’t have to strive to be something that she isn’t.
The same is true with us. We have a common identity – that of Christ. We must walk in that identity and know who we are. Because when you know who you are, whose you are, then you can walk in the purpose that you were created for. We don’t have to strive to be someone we’re not because Jesus did the work for us. He has already named you and given you a new heart. We can rest in that and celebrate it this Easter!
Do people see Jesus when they see you? When they interact with you? Or do they see jealous, gossip, discontent? Do they see discord when they see your friend group?
My favorite bible verse – well one of them – is John 13:34-35. Jesus is talking to his disciples at the Lord’s supper, after he talks about Judas betraying Him and leaving the group. Then he turns to the other eleven and says, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus, knowing the division in this friend group that could result because of Judas’ betrayal, because of the confusion and hardship that would come as Jesus dies, reminded his closest friends and followers, that they are to be marked by Love – His love. That their unity is what will show the world who Christ is. That Jesus is worth following.
And so, as we head into Easter weekend, head into the springtime, what could God do if we lived out our identities and His girls got together and were united? What if we actually lived out the new name that God has for us?
Would that take walking across the room and reconciling with a friend? Asking for some accountability on the words you use? Starting to read the Bible together and then doing what this book says?
My hope and prayer is that our lives will reflect Jesus. That is where true beauty is found. Not in a crown or waiting for our prince to come.
I believe with all my heart, a few things. God wants to use you to change the world. But that can only be done if we get together. God can do incredible things when His girls get together. He can do it without us too, but he wants to use us. And it will go so much better when we get on His team. Our lives will be so much more significant when we live out our purpose and identity in community with our sisters. There is nothing the enemy likes more than a group of believers divided.
We can celebrate this weekend knowing that God has revealed Himself to us and wants us to walk in the calling and purpose He has for us