An Act of True (Perfect) Love

             I adore Disney’s Frozen. Few times has a film, especially a movie whose target demographic is far younger than me, wrapped me up in the story so quickly. Queen Elsa is by far my favorite Disney character since Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and do I even need to mention how incredible the soundtrack is? I think not.

            But one thing bothered me greatly after the first time I saw the movie: its resolution. Disney’s never been one to stray too far from the “true love conquers all” conclusion, and in this instance, I saw that ending as a cheap cop-out in favor of a more creative ending (such as making Prince Hans a firebender of sorts, though I seem to be alone in that vein).

            That was, until, I really thought about it.

            Before I state my “revelation” of sorts, I’d like to establish some aspects about the movie, chiefly, the main antagonist. The lead villain in Frozen is not the Mayor of Weselton—he’s more of a comic relief villain at his most nefarious—nor is the main villain Prince Hans of the Southern Isles, despite the well-handled plot twist to put him in a very antagonistic role. No, the true villain of Frozen is a far more subtle force. The trolls mention it near the beginning after Elsa freezes Anna’s mind, and it’s occasionally cited throughout the film.

            The main villain of Frozen is fear.

            Fear is what keeps Elsa separated from her sister and the outside world. Fear is what keeps Elsa prisoner, terrified of her abilities. Fear is what ultimately leads to Elsa freezing all of Arendelle after her powers out themselves. And fear is what causes Elsa to nearly kill Anna by freezing her heart.

            Now that I’ve established that, it’s probably obvious where I’m going with this.

            That “act of true love,” performed when Anna sacrifices herself in a final effort to save her sister, actually carries far deeper meaning than I originally thought. This act of love repels the fear in Elsa, and she is able to wipe away the frozen terror that gripped her and bring back summer.

            Where have we heard something like that before?

            1 John 4:18 says it rather plainly: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

            Frozen’s conclusion is not Disney’s normal “true love” ending. It’s a scripturally-sound resolution exploring the realities of “perfect love” and how it eliminates soul-freezing fear.

Regret and Restoration

There’s a pain so deep, an agony which cripples the heart. It undermines the very foundation of the mind. It tugs on the heart and rips it asunder; letting the mind know full well that nothing it does can erase the memories. Why? Why does this thorn stick and twist, even after it’s been removed? Do some wounds never truly heal, doomed to bleed at the slightest provocation? What is the faceless villain; this evil which tears at the soul?

Regret.

The voices of the past can haunt the present, even with no warning. Whispers of days gone by and opportunities long passed trickle through the heart, leaving the victim powerless to fight. Days of youth breed lament; lost innocence sparks a torrent of flame that consumes the emotions. The bleeding seems unstoppable, a flow that will never be dammed.

Who? Who can stop the horrible bleeding? Who can put at ease the heart that is torn at the seams? If every thought leads to this pain, is the burden even escapable? Who can not only wipe the tears away, but stop their flow entirely?

He saw the regret in their lives. Their stories were laid out in front of Him, for He was the Author of them all. But rather than cast them down, doomed to the fate they deserved, He came and shared in their regrets. With a simple touch of His hand, burdens were relieved, eyes were opened, and the dead were raised. He was comfort. He was peace. He was there.

He bled for them. He bled for those whom He saved and for those who cut his body to ribbons. He suffered eternities of pain for those He loved; those children of His who could never be too far. As His hands were stretched upon the device which would mean His death, only words of Grace escaped His lips.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The world went dark as its Blameless Prince commended His Spirit to the Father.  When the earth shook at His passing, the veil between the Father and His wandering children was torn forever. Torn was the barrier. Broken were the chains. Gone were the pasts.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

Three days passed. Three days passed, and the Blameless Prince of Peace broke that which truly separated the children from the Father. He rose again. He appeared to those who followed them, first to one of His closest. She didn’t believe He could undo the pain and hurt of the past; that He could end even the darkest force in the world. He disproved that with a single, intimate word.

“Mary.”

All pain disappeared from Mary Magdalene at that moment; only the fullness of her God remained.  Restoration flooded through her, healing even the deepest wounds as she clung tightly to her Lord. He embraced her, knowing nothing would ever separate them again.

He can. He is able to cast even the deepest pains and regrets as far as east is from the west. How does He do it? He does it because He is an intimate Lover of our souls. All He needs to clean us, to restore us, is HIM. He utters our name and speaks to the deepest parts of our being.

He is the restorer. He is comfort. He is peace. He is here.

He is Jesus.

 

Peace which Transcends all Understanding

This has been on my mind AND heart for a long time, and it’s time I share my thoughts on this as my first blog post. Even if you barely know me, chances are you’ve heard me mention Bible Bowl once or twice. Words cannot do justice to the life lessons this game taught me, whether from the thousands of verses I memorized during my time playing the game, or numerous situations surrounding the game itself and the community formed around it. It was the most formative thing I have ever done, and I wanted to open my blog with something relating to it; a bit of a tribute, if you will, before I begin writing about things in this new phase of life.

It was the night before Championship Day at Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. I was a senior, someone who had played the game for seven years, and now I was coming to the end of my long career. This was a night that dreaded for years; a night which, I thought, would surely mean the crashing down of all the pressure I had piled on myself over seven years. That was how it had been the previous two years. Why would this year be any different?

Before I continue, I’d like to establish a few things about myself and my approach toward Bible Bowl. I’m a huge perfectionist. If something isn’t right, I relentlessly look for ways to make it better, striving for the ultimate goal of perfection. This applies to every aspect of my life, and my perfectionist nature found a niche in Bible Bowl. As I developed as a player, I wanted to be the best to ever play the game. Combine those two aspects, and you get someone who has to put a substantial amount of pressure on himself or herself to accomplish that for which they strive. This was certainly the case with me. If I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t good enough.

Up to this point in my Bible Bowl career, I hadn’t had a good grasp on my mind and emotions at Nationals. I was never able to handle the pressure. I’d made progress my junior year, but nothing lasting in terms of dealing with nerves came out of it. With that, I was sure that my mind would be collapsing on itself when my last night as a player came.

When the night finally came, my mind literally felt like a part of it was about to die. I knew that the end of my “Bible Bowl self” was approaching quickly, and I wanted desperately to make the most of my very last day.

But did I feel that unbearable pressure like I thought I surely would?

Not in the slightest.

My mind was like a tranquil pool that, as I walked around nighttime Louisville, was untouched by the chaos of life. The clarity with which I understood my situation was unparalleled by anything I had ever felt before, and is still unmatched today. Every time I thought about the next day and the challenges it would bring, I didn’t lose myself in fear. I didn’t give way to the dread that had so often demanded my attention.

I didn’t understand why it was happening this way.

Why, at the very end of my Bible Bowl career, was I finally able to keep my fears at bay? Why was it that I was just now beginning to enjoy the moment?

Now I see it was my lack of understanding which most points to God.

This peace I felt was not my own. It was the peace of God, a tranquility that surpassed and transcended my understanding. This calm within me was divinely timed and inspired. It was to show His power that he decided to grant me peace right before the end of my Bible Bowl life.

I said before that part of my mind literally felt like it was dying. When I think back to that aspect, I think of 2 Timothy 4:6-7. Paul is speaking about the end of his life as a whole, but what he says greatly applies to how I felt. “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure has come. I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”

I knew then that God was carrying me across the finish line. That’s why I felt such peace. He was going to see me through to the end of this phase of life, and He was going to make sure I finished as He ordained.

I see my final night of Bible Bowl as a gift from God; a long-overdue time of thanksgiving for Him. Through the calm after the storm, I saw everything He had done for me, and how He deserves all the credit for everything.

Soli Deo Gloria.