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St Johns Southgate

08 Oct 2015

Hardship, loss, redemption, grace and Disney

On September 26, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performed Disney in Concert at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. I wish I could have been there with the kids, but it wasn’t to be.

Disney has impacted my life in different ways over the years, firstly as a child, and now as a parent of young children. My first memorable experience with Disney was when I was eight years old. I went to see Bambi at the cinema as part of a friend’s birthday celebrations. It was a re-release of the 1942 Disney classic.

Walking into the darkness of the theatre I wasn’t sure what to expect, but having had it described to me as a “cartoon” I was probably imagining something along the lines of Mickey Mouse or Goofy. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the scene where Bambi’s mother is shot and killed by a deer hunter! It absolutely devastated me. I remember crying, but trying to hide the tears, not wanting anyone to see.

The Disney movies and the stories they tell are loved by millions and for good reason. While being marketed as family movies, they can be deeply moving, pushing all kinds of emotional buttons. Watching the recent smash hit Frozen with my daughter I was transported back to that same feeling I had watching Bambi as the tragic figure of Queen Elsa experienced terrible grief and aloneness following the untimely death of her parents.

Disney doesn’t deny the sadness and complexity of human experience. But it also speaks to the positive journeys of life – journeys of growth, redemption and the experience of undeserved kindness.

So often in the Disney movies the terribly flawed or downtrodden characters – such as the Beast in Beauty and the Beast – take their anger out on the world around them, and yet there comes a time for personal redemption. But that redemption is almost always achieved not on the individual’s merits, but with the kindness of another, even to the point of their self-sacrifice.

In the Lutheran church, these themes are our bread and butter. A Lutheran spirituality is one that embraces the reality of brokenness and heartache, but also provides a pathway to having confidence in newness of life through the sacrifice made by Jesus.

When I watch a Disney movie, I’m reminded of my own human struggles and heartaches. But strangely, in the redemption narrative that is so often told, I see the redemption that I know in Jesus and the happily ever after that I look forward to with him.

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