------------------warning: this is riddled with full blown spoilers (like the whole movie)------------------
This morning I heard a powerful sermon about the creation story, and one thing it reminded me of is the power of being named into being, or named back into being.
Drawn by Lin-Manuel Miranda's music, my husband Ben's been set on our seeing Moana. He tried to take us every day this week; we missed the start times, arrived after it was sold out, thought of it just as the kids melted down. I casually suggested more than once that he take the kids without me, but no, for whatever reason, he wanted us all to go. So finally today, we did.
Though I liked Frozen well enough, I stopped hoping for an empowering Disney heroine after that -- Anna led the charge, sure, and sisterly love won out in the end, but her spunk and free spirit was undercut by her cutesy, beyond naive ways and her classic quickness to fall in love. She was less than I’d hoped for my daughters.
Moana tips the tables. The redemption is all over the place: -- SLIGHT SPOILERS -- she’s the “daughter of a chief” and a future chief rather than a princess; she makes much of her voyage alone; she gains courage from herself and her grandmother rather than the men in her life; she doesn’t fall in love with the ego-driven muscled demigod she’s with nor try to impress him ever—rare if not unheard of in a Disney film; and in the end she returns home to both of her parents. There was much I reveled in. What struck me most, though, was the revelation of the true self at the end of the film.
The terms "false self” and “true self" have been so utilized in the last decade that I'm rarely struck by their profundity anymore. Yes, we have a false self, the Ego, that masks our wounds and parades around, loudly, distracting from our insecurities, and somewhere beneath that voice, is our quiet created true self that with healing, emerges more and more, engaging authentically and birthing our strengths.
In the movie, as Moana follows her purpose, her singular task is to return the heart of the sea to Te Fiti, the goddess who created all life and then became an island, herself. The most terrifying thing about returning the heart stone, though -- besides fierce adorable coconut pirates -- is the Lava Monster, a raging fire-throwing, she-beast.
Tonight is the last night of Thanksgiving vacation and though we ate pie every day and got a Christmas tree (on the second attempt), we did have some lava-monster moments (the first attempt) over our five days at home.
When the lava flares, we usually address it in one of two ways: hightail it outta there or fight lava with lava. Neither goes well.
Moana handles it differently. In a turn of events -- MAJOR SPOILER ALERT -- Moana realizes that the lava monster is in fact Te Fiti, the goddess, raging without her heart, and without hesitating, Moana walks through the sea straight toward the monster who’s trying to kill her.
When they face each other head on, instead of flinching, Moana leans into the creature's face, touches her forehead to forehead, and says, this isn’t who you are, this isn’t who you really are. Instantly, the monster’s lava flesh darkens to stone, and her flaming eyes close. Moana leans in and replaces her heart. Grasses and flowers burst to life along the monster’s charred black body and in seconds, she’s restored to the beautiful island goddess, vibrant green with mossy skin. Her health radiates out into the sea, heals the “darkness” plaguing the islands and they all bloom again. Te Fiti’s back to her true self.
How often when my heart feels emptied – in large or small ways – do I, like Te Fiti, throw fistfuls of lava at anyone who comes near? My kids would tell you it’s not rare. What would happen, in our lava states, if someone came toward us, came forehead to forehead when we were trying to scare them off, looked in our flaming eyes, and reminded us: this is not who you are, not who you really are.
Our hearts come back that way.
It’s a whole different kind of brave to walk into hate and speak a true word like Moana does.
Like Te Fiti, we need others to remind us who we are so we can return to our selves as stunningly as she does at the end of the film.