I watched The Lion King the other night. It was the first time I’d watched the movie in years.
(I know that sounds weird coming from a true Disney fan. People usually assume all you watch are Disney films. I don’t. I actually want to like the movies, and as Shakespeare once noted: “familiarity breeds contempt.” I find the more I watch a movie I really like, the less I like it. But I digress.)
The movie is truly one of Disney’s greats. It seems a little unfair that the Academy Award for Best Animated Film category was created so late that Disney’s Bronze Age of animation didn’t get the Oscars they deserved (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King are far superior to the first winner, Shrek), but luckily their legacy lives on in a myriad of ways. Sadly, some of that legacy gets diluted by the very marketing arm keeping the characters alive so many years after they first appeared. (Oops, I digressed again.)
The Lion King is a clear and blatant ripoff of Hamlet, and some people say it is a blatant ripoff of a Japanese film called Kimba, which tells the story of an orphaned lion who becomes king. (Which is a lot like Hamlet, and well, a lot of other stories where orphans become king.) But what it lacks in originality it makes up for in great voice acting, beautiful traditional Disney animation, one of the greatest opening sequences of a movie ever (featuring the best song in the film, Elton John’s “Circle of Life”), and a truly inspirational scene.
Simba has rejected what his legacy says he should be. His role in life, to be the next king, has been usurped by another (his murderous uncle), and instead of fighting for his rightful place, Simba adopts the philosophy of “Hakuna matata,” or “No worries.” He now looks at the past this way: “Sometimes bad things happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.” He disappoints Nala, his childhood friend and sweetheart, by not being more like his father.
What Nala doesn’t realize is that Simba is acutely aware of his inadequacy. He knows he is not living up to his potential, that his father, Mufasa, would not be proud of the way he is living his life. He tries to blame it on his father, shouting at the nighttime sky, “You promised you’d always be there for me. But you’re not!”
A visit from a crazy old baboon, who claims to be able to show Mufasa to Simba. Simba follows him to a pool, and Rafiki points into the water. “Look down there,” says the baboon. Simba looks down and sees only his reflection. “No, look harder,” says Rafiki. Again Simba looks, and now he sees not his own reflection, but a reflection of his father. “You see?” says Rafiki, “He lives in you.”
Wind howls, the sky darkens, and in the rumbling thunder, Simba sees his father in the clouds. Mufasa speaks in a low but powerful voice: “Simba, you have forgotten me.” The young lion argues, “No! How could I?” But his father is firm. “You have forgotten who you are, and so forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become… Remember who you are. Remember….”
The words brought tears to my eyes as I thought about their power.
How often do we forget who we are? As a child of God, I am the son of the King. But do I remember? Or do I choose to live my life believing “Hakuna Matata?”
No worries for the rest of your days. A problem-free philosophy.
But is it problem-free? We were created to live lives of responsibility of meaning. “No worries” doesn’t exist when you have realtionships. Sure, you don’t need to worry about everything that happens in your life, but choosing to “put your past behind you” and just moving on is no way to live. You need to see where you’ve come from, learn from it, so you can be what you are meant to be.
How often does God need to say to us, “You are more than what you have become!” We sacrifice our identity as children of God for lives of leisure and ease. Our homeland is a difficult place where we must battle against an enemy and stand for what is right. That takes work. Much easier to stay in a place of pleasure, entertained and enjoyed than to fight against an enemy who has robbed us of our identity and whispers in our ear, “What have you done?”
Simba runs away because he has been convinced he is guilty. We run away because we are guilty. God comes to us and says, “You must remember who you are.”
Who are you? Who have you become? And is that the person you were created to be? Simba wakes up from his life of ease and realizes his place is to fight for his father’s kingdom. To not be content while the enemy continues ravaging and destroying. How I pray that I hear God’s words to me, “You are more than what you have become,” and do the same.
Interesting to note: when Simba stands up for who he truly is, those who advocate the life of pleasure and comfort suddenly see that the world is something to fight for, too. Not only does it change his life when he becomes who he was meant to be, it changes the lives of everyone around him as well.
That’s the way God intends it to be.