What Disney’s The Little Mermaid Taught Me About God

What Disney’s The Little Mermaid Taught Me About God

Everyone who knows me in real life knows I’ve had a life-long obsession with Disney’s The Little Mermaid. My dad still tells the story of how when I was a toddler, I would say, “Daddy, tell me about Ariel,” and he had no idea who she was. (Crazy, right? That’s because this was circa 1989-1990 and movie was still new.)

I’ve always identified with her. I had that feeling of being different, wanting something more, wanting to experience the world. I loved to sing (still do), and I even had reddish hair (I was strawberry blonde as a little kid, though my hair turned golden blonde when I got older). As a kid, I spent all summer swimming underwater in my grandparents’ pool, pretending to be her. I still know all the words to “Part of Your World”, which basically was my theme song as I was going off to college.

I basically am Ariel. But putting that aside…

Something about the story in the Disney version had stood out to me recently, and it relates to infertility, but it really applies to any cross that one could carry.

It’s about trusting in God’s goodness.

Ariel had a dream. She wanted to be human. In fact, you could say that she was called to be a human. She loved everything about humanity, and was in love with one human in particular. She knew this was where she belonged. But she had one big obstacle- no legs.

She wanted legs so badly that she was tempted to make a deal with the sea witch. The sea witch gave her those legs- but only temporarily (three days) and at a tremendous cost- her voice, as well and her freedom. Next thing you know, she finds herself changed into a human, but in danger of drowning, trying to swim to the surface. She has legs, but no voice, no clothes, and no way to win the prince’s heart before her time is up and the sea witch takes her captive.

How much is that like sin? We want something so badly, sometimes we fall into sin to get it. Generations ago, they called this “making a deal with the devil”- because that’s what it is. He’ll give us what we want, sort of, temporarily, at the cost of our freedom in this life and our soul in the next. It’s a rotten deal. You can’t really get what you want: peace, happiness, love, and fulfillment.

Ariel fails. She loses that deal with the devil. She’s turned back into a mermaid and taken captive by the sea witch. All seems lost.

Until her father, the king, steps in.

The deal was made. He can’t break it. So out of love for his daughter, he steps in an takes her place. (Sound familiar?)

The battle happens. The sea witch is defeated. The captives are set free.

And there we see Ariel, the little mermaid, still without legs, still longing to be human and be where she belongs. Her father sees this, and his heart is moved.

He uses his power to make her human. And she gets to keep her voice. And instead of leaving her underwater and without clothes, her transformation leaves her on the beach, clothed in a gorgeous sparkly dress, and in the arms of the prince she loves.

Of course, they live happily ever after.

Ariel messed up. But her dad loved her anyway. And he made her dream come true.

Sometimes we have dreams, or even vocations, that seem impossible. Unbelievable, even. But here’s the thing- just like Ariel, we have a Father who loves us. We need to believe that. He really is full of goodness, and he can and will take care of us in his love.

All we need to do is trust.

Romans 8:28 ❤

 

 

 

 

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I’m a Wretch, You’re a Wretch

I’m a Wretch, You’re a Wretch

What is the virtue humility, and what does it mean to be humble?

I did a little Googling on this last week and found these awesome videos from Gabriel Castillo. This guy is definitely intense, but WOW, what a teacher. Each of his videos are like a 30 minute retreat.

I found his two part series on humility, and this is what I got from it. Humility means knowing 2 things:

  1. The truth about who you are.
  2. The truth about who God is.

That’s it, that’s what it is.

So, who are we? We’re dust. We’re miserable. We continually fall into sin and can’t do crap on our own. My favorite line there: “I’m a wretch. You’re a wretch. We’re all wretches.”

Yes, we’re all wretches. But the good news is that God,  who is infinite power and goodness and love, loves us and even became one of us to save us from our wretchedness. And in his infinite mercy, he fills us with his grace. And then,

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

Jesus-The-Good-Shepherd

If you want to know more, you’ll have to see this video. Part 1 is about humility, and part 2 is about listening and following God’s will in your life.

Once you see this, there’s no turning back.

Ready for your life to change? Check out the video.

Sin and Sauerkraut

Sin and Sauerkraut

It was either Lent or Advent. One of the two. I know this because we were getting ready for a school-wide penance service.

All of Ms. Q’s 6th grade religion class was seated in a circle on the floor. Ms. Q. was at 12:00, holding a bowl of the most disgusting concoction I’ve ever seen: canned liver-flavored dog food mixed with sauerkraut.

“If ANYONE moves a muscle, if ONE DROP of this gets on the floor or if ANYONE puts this on anyone else, you WILL get detention. Immediately.”

Boy if that doesn’t strike terror into the mind of an 11-year-old. Let’s hope I really was the teacher’s pet in this case.

“Now hold out your hands.”

Oh, gross. Must we?

For the first time in, like, ever, you could hear an ant crawling.

With the fear of God in our hearts, each of us accepted that gross pile of crap. Ms. Q. explained,

“This is what sin looks like on your soul. When we go to Confession, it’s like taking a shower. God washes away all that gunk.”

I’m sure she was more eloquent, but that is what I remember. I also remember being in girl’s room afterwards, scrubbing my hands and bumming lotion and hand-sanitizer off my cousin who was in 8th grade at the time. (1999 was the year of Bath and Body Works mania, thank God!)

Some say that Ms. Q. was out of her mind that day- but I’ve always considered this a stroke of genius. Sin is ugly. It really is. And even though an 11-year-old might not be able to understand all the consequences that sin can bring later in life, she can understand that something that smells and looks like worm-infested vomit isn’t something she wants in her life.  In fact, 16 years later, that inner 11-year-old can still remember the smell. And though my understanding of Confession has since deepened, the thought of a spiritual hand-washing still motivates me on occasion. (If you’d like to read some deeper, more adult thoughts on the subject, click here.)

Thank you, Ms. Q., for instilling in me a sense of spiritual hygiene. And, um, pass the lotion, please.

The Crack

The Crack

I often cry at Mass, but I’ve never cried during a homily- until tonight. Tonight, I had tears streaming down my face the whole time. It was like God was using the priest to speak to directly to me.

This week’s gospel is the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. I can’t really replicate this homily here, but I’ll try to summarize.

We all have these walls we put up, from our hurts, our sin, our wounds. We put them up to protect ourselves, so we won’t get hurt again. Though these walls may protect us, they also don’t let anyone in- not even God. And as long as those walls are up, we can’t heal.

The woman obviously had something wrong in her life. She was at the well in the middle of the day, rather than in the morning with everyone else. She clearly wanted to avoid seeing the other women in the village.

You can picture Jesus smiling knowingly when he said, “Go get your husband.” And you can picture the woman say, rather hard and defensive, “I don’t have a husband.” There. There’s the sore spot. And Jesus reaches in with, “I know. You’ve had 5 husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” There’s the wound. Clearly she must have been through some terrible things.

Later, she goes out to the very townspeople she had been avoiding and says, “This man told me everything I’ve ever done. Could he be the Christ?”

The only way to heal is to let the walls crack enough to let Jesus in. And he is the only one who can heal you. And he’ll use that very thing, that wound, to transform you and bring you to him. That wound is how you are going to glorify him.

He knows everything you’ve ever done. Learning that your life was not what you thought it was, discovering that you would never be a “normal” person, realizing that you could never again look at things the same way, feeling like an outcast, knowing that there would be no one else in your life who would really “get it”-that’s exactly what he’s going after. He’s going to reach in with his healing touch and turn that around so it can be used for good, to bring others to him. He’s going to help you tear down those walls.

And it all starts with a crack.

He Cried More

He Cried More

Last night I went to my first healing service. I never would have gone on my own, but my mother-in-law has been inviting me for a few months now, so I went. Knock long enough and the door opens.

At one point in the night, I went to confession to a priest I’ve never met, and I told him about the trauma of learning at age 16 that I was born without a uterus. I told him that I didn’t even feel like I belong at a “women’s night” when I’m missing something that is so central to what we perceive womanhood to be. Little girls play with baby dolls, and as Christians we hold a deep love and admiration for the mother of Jesus. I didn’t even know if I would be allowed to be married. I didn’t know how a potential husband would take the news. Pregnancies and talk of “starting a family” bring up a host of traumatic memories and wounds so deep that many will never understand. We talked about that for a long time. And he said something to me that no one has ever said before.

“As much as you’ve cried over this, since age 16, God cried more.”

The priest continued, “He loves life, He loves babies! He didn’t plan for this to happen to you. He is right there with you.”

I have never “blamed” God for MRKH, but I always just kind of assumed that he must be ok with it, since he allowed it. But there is evil in the world as a result of sin, and it has nothing to do with the paradise that God originally planned. There is physical evil, like Ebola and cancer and the common cold, and there is natural evil, like hurricanes and tornadoes… and being born without a uterus. He didn’t want this to happen. It wasn’t part of the plan. It grieves him too.

He cried more.