Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Frozen" in Fear

Maybe I'm the last parent in the U.S. whose seen "Frozen."  Maybe.

My wife took the kids to see the movie long ago, and everyone loved it.  Can't remember what yours truly was engaged in at the time.  Probably work related.

Of course, the movie came out on DVD and BluRay a week or so ago.  The kids haven't stopped begging me to buy it.  (Before anyone gets the bright idea I'm a stingy old coot about buying the movie, please realize two of my children have birthdays this month.  Guess what at least one of them is getting.  Thank you.)  The kids found out my secretary owns the movie, and they conned her into loaning it to us.

Family movie night was Sunday evening.  Everyone was actually hoping I would be surprised by a couple of plot twists.  (I wasn't.)  And they were a little miffed that I figured out the act of true love that melted a frozen heart--before that act was actually revealed.  All that aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

Being the pastor and (ahem) theologian that I am, I cannot help but make all sorts of connections between faith, ethics and such movies.  "Frozen" offered a very, very good one in my estimation.

If anyone hasn't seen the movie, stop reading.  Spoilers ahead!

Elsa is blessed/cursed with magical abilities to bring about a perpetual winter.  If she can't control things, she freezes someone.  She hits her sister, Anna, in the head early in the movie (in the heart later).  Elsa's parents rush Anna to the trolls for healing.  Fortunately, the fix is quite easy, but the king  troll offers an ominous warning, "You must learn to control it.  Fear will be your enemy."   As a result of the accident and this warning Elsa's parents decide that she must be kept away from everyone, including her sister. 

What they don't realize is that they have just helped Elsa and fear become constant companions.  "Don't let them in, don't let them see, Be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know." becomes Elsa's mantra.  It's a mantra of fear, and this fear literally keeps Elsa frozen--frozen in loneliness, frozen in relationships, frozen in emotion, frozen in stoicism.  How can she escape this prison?

She tries running away, but her problems follow her.  And not only do they follow her, they get worse and worse and worse.  Soon, Elsa's life is in danger, Anna's life is in danger, the kingdom's life is in danger.  Who or what can break them free from this bondage to fear?

The troll actually offers us the answer.  "An act of true love can melt a frozen heart."

Anna eventually provides that act of true love as she sacrifices herself for her sister.  (Don't worry, there is a happy ending.  It's Disney after all.)

Through her sister's self-sacrificial act--a willingness to become frozen herself for her sister--Elsa's own heart is set free.  She realizes that love drives out fear, and for the first time, she is no longer afraid of her power.  She embraces it, learns to control it--not out of fear, but with love.  She is no longer frozen.  She let's go of her fear.  (Yeah, now go listen to that song again and realize why it should have been sung at the END of the movie!)

I know fear.

I felt it deeply.

My fear was wrapped up in how my congregation grew or didn't grow.  It was wrapped up in how many people were in worship.  It was wrapped up in proving that I had the right way of doing things as a pastor.  It was wrapped up in proving that Christianity was true.  It was wrapped up in thinking that I was completely and totally responsible for making my congregation grow and stick together and thrive.  If anything threatened any of those things I just listed, I became anxious, fearful, worried, distressed, angry--you name it.

"An act of true love can melt a frozen heart."

When I realized I couldn't make this congregation grow, I became even more depressed and anxious.  I wanted to make my mark on the world.  I wanted to make a difference and receive the adulation and praise that came with making that difference.  Call me selfish.  I deserve it.  I was and maybe still am to an extent.  But something's happened.

"An act of true love can melt a frozen heart."

I told the story of the encounter with my grandfather this Thanksgiving.  Just a reminder.  His words still haunt and empower me to this day.  "I may not have accomplished much in the eyes of the world, but the Lord and I are on very good terms."

That only happens by grace.  That only happens by the death and resurrection of Jesus--an act of true love.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Twas blind but now I see.

I spoke those words in my sermon this past Sunday, and I almost didn't make it through them.  My voice trembled.  Tears began welling in my eyes.  I'm not sure too many people saw or heard.  I don't know.  What I do know is the true impact in my heart.  Freedom.

Free from fear.
Free from anxiety.
Free from feeling like I had to do it all to make a church grow.
Free from thinking everything rested on my shoulders.

It doesn't. 
Conversion.
No longer frozen in the way things always were.

I can say at this point that this freedom has now allowed me to love the people of this congregation more deeply.  I don't know if they know that.

I can say at this point that this freedom has now allowed me to be more at peace within myself and with others unlike at any other point in my life.  I don't know if folks see that.

I can say at this point that this freedom has now given me a deeper passion to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ because I know, I know that which almost cannot be conveyed by words.  I don't know if folks can sense that.

But in many ways it doesn't matter what folks can or cannot see or sense.  I can't change them or make them come around.  Only the Gospel can do that.  Only an act of true love can do that.  Only Christ can do that.

When you encounter Him, you will know.  You will know peace.  You will know love.  You will know joy.  You will not be frozen in fear.  You will be able to let go of everything that once held you captive and kept you frozen.  Let it go.