Last night, we caught a few minutes of the animated movie Bolt, starring the voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus, among others. Actually, it was my three-year-old who caught it. She wanted me to stop, while I was flipping around, so that she could watch it. She is still at the age where she likes to watch movies she has seen 3,000 times again and again.
We came upon a part of the film that really struck me for its handling of a pretty deep theme. I told my sixteen-year-old today about my reflections on it, and he sorta shook his head in disbelief. I don't know how intentional the writers of the movie were about the development of some pretty mature and deep themes, but there is one that particularly caught my eye.
Bolt, if you are unfamiliar with the film, is a dog who is a television star. He plays a super-hero dog, with special powers and the like, who constantly saves the day with his little girl owner, named Penney, from the clutches of an evil villain. The problem is, Bolt believes he really is a super-dog, even off camera. The director wanted the realism, so great pains were made to make sure Bolt really believed he had special powers.
Soon, however, Bolt is accidentally separated from his owner and finds himself in New York City, three-thousand miles away. Within a short time, Bolt comes face to face with the utter disappointment of not being a super-dog. There is a scene where, after saving his feline friend, Mittens, he, Mittens, and the hampster named Rhino are resting easy for a moment, riding in half of a manufactured home on the back of a flatbed truck cruising along the interstate. The excitement of the escape has died down and suddenly the reality of Bolt's marginal, non-super-hero identity sinks in. He is crushed.
But a turn takes place. A "new dawn" breaks in, without all the fireworks and hooplah of being "Bolt, the super-dog!" He starts asking Mittens serious questions about being... just a normal, ordinary dog. What is it like? Well, she begins to show him. She shows him how dogs drink from toilets, eat everything they can find on the floor, and, most importantly, love to stick their heads out the window when riding in a car -tongue out, of course. In a sense, Bolt finds freedom in being ordinary. He actually loves to stick his head out the window with his tongue out.
You are probably shaking your head, like my son, at this point. I'm going waaaaayyyy too far with this. Well, maybe, but I think the point is still valid, so let me explain. So many of us struggle with what our culture calls "low self-esteem." We don't like ourselves because [fill in the blank with any number of reasons -we aren't pretty enough, rich enough, smart enough, sexy enough, strong enough, manly enough, etc.]. Our culture tells us that the problem is that we think too lowly of ourselves. The solution, then, would be to find ways to build your estimation of your greatness, your self-esteem. But in reality we are just like Bolt after he found out he is not a super-dog. We are downcast because we want to be a hero, we already have high thoughts for ourselves, we need to be great but feel like we don't measure up -and we allow a litany of cultural or personal, externally-based values the power of granting or withholding the greatness we crave.
What we do not realize is that, like Bolt, freedom is found in being what we actually are and letting the narcissistic, super-person dream die a thousand deaths. You aren't a super-hero. You aren't so awesome that you can win the applause and favor of everybody all the time. You aren't the most beautiful creature on earth, and the beauty you have will inevitably fade. And if things like these are what you think you need to do and have in order to have a good, meaningful life, then you will live and perform like a slave.
You are a normal dog. You are limited in more ways than you want to know, even though you also have divine giftings. And you are a self-directed, self-absorbed sinner who regularly turns from the Creator who made and loves him.
You aren't superman. You are more like a grasshopper. Are you ok with just being a grasshopper? God is ok with it. He gave up His Son to die to cover and pay for your sins and expiate all of your uncleanness. You are loved and perfectly accepted in His sight, but it won't mean anything to you so long as you are intent on being your own super-hero. You will remain a miserable slave.
Or here is a way to think about it: The Extraordinary came down and became ordinary, to suffer and die as cursed and sub-ordinary, so that you and I would be freed from and die to the delusion of our own importance and grandeur.