Monday, February 10, 2014

Growing up at the Movies: The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid

I have a funny story about this movie. Indulge me for a moment... 

When I was quite young, my parents took me to see “The Little Mermaid”. Shortly afterwards they decided to go to Red Lobster to celebrate my mom’s birthday. In retrospect, this was poor planning.

My mom loves to eat crab. As soon as she placed her order, I began to cry, begging her, “Please, don’t eat Sebastian!”

Perhaps the funniest part of this story is that I don’t remember the incident at all...

Apparently my parents soothed me, and “ordered” something else. I guess I never questioned the fact that mom’s “hamburger” came in an exoskeleton.

There really isn’t a point to that story, except to say that “The Little Mermaid” has been dear to me so long, I can’t even remember when I first saw it.

Because I’ve never known a time without this film, I kinda assume everyone else has seen it too. It was brought to my attention much later that several of my friends weren’t allowed to watch it- mainly because mer-people aren’t very modest in their sense of fashion, and because the main character is quite disrespectful and disobedient to her father.

Those are some valid complaints to be sure. I guess my parents didn’t find that to be a huge problem.

I get that on one level Ariel portrays the typical rebellious teenager, but I guess I never really saw that. I only saw a girl who wanted to be part of a bigger world.

I identified with that. A lot.

Only one difference. Ariel wanted to be human. I wanted to be a mermaid. 

It’s probably apparent to you, dear reader, that I can’t simply watch and enjoy a movie. If I like it, I have to live it.

During the mermaid phase, which probably lasted between the ages of four to eight, I devoured any book I could find about mermaids. I would pretend that I was under an enchantment, and that as soon as it wore off, I would be able to return to the sea.

I once read a picture book where a mermaid had legs when out of the sea, but as soon as her toes touched water they’d transform into fins.

After that, I would spend hours in the bath, but the only thing I acquired were prune-like wrinkles. 

Here’s the kicker. I just knew I was supposed to be a mermaid- but I was afraid of swimming.

We lived next to an irrigation ditch, and my parents decided that for safety’s sake I should have a couple swimming lessons.

I hated them. I hated water in my nose. I hated how it stung my eyes. And I could never really figure out how to swim and continue to breath at the same time.

That didn’t keep me from my mermaid dreams though, I figured if I could only find the magic enchantment, all that uncomfortableness would go away. I’d be able to breath, I’d be able to move, and I wouldn’t get muscle cramps in cold water.

Where am I going with this?
Just like Ariel in “The Little Mermaid”, I wanted to be part of a different world. The problem is that I wasn’t made to actually live in that world.

In the book by C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”, Mr. Lewis uses the analogy of a tin soldier to describe how our sinful natures must die in order to become more like Christ.

Here are his words: “Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you.”

Now, I have a hard time imagining what it would like to be turned from tin to flesh- but I’ve often looked at my misshapen toenails and wondered what it would take to turn them into sparkling scales.

I can only speak for myself, but I’ve never felt like I actually “fit-in” here on earth. I’m thinking I’m not alone in the longing for “somewhere else”. Somewhere better.

After a lot of thought and pondering, I’ve decided that perhaps I wasn’t made to live in the sea either... 

So, that leaves.... well, somewhere else.

It is my belief that our souls are eternal, but our bodies are mortal. That’s a weird combination, and the longing I often feel, I can only describe as; “My soul remembers the eternal place and wants to get back there.”

In the Bible, God is described as a perfect being and Heaven as a perfect place. I’ve thought a lot about Heaven, and I’ve decided that it probably isn’t all a bunch of people sitting on clouds wearing white and playing harps.

I’ve got nothing against harps, but listening to harp music forever and ever sounds terribly boring.

There’s not a lot of good descriptions of Heaven in the Bible. Mostly we’re just told that it’s indescribable and beyond human imagination.

That means it better be good, cause in the words of Han Solo, “I can imagine quite a lot”.

And if it’s beyond my imagination, that means that I cannot fit in it as I am now. I’m an imperfect being, so I cannot exist in a perfect world. But I long for it, oh how I long for it!

Reading “Mere Christianity” I finally realized that when God says he will save us and give us new life, he literally means new life! Different life. Life that we can’t even imagine.

And when I read about the tin man, who is horrified at being turned into something he is not, I realized that I too will be turned into something alien. And that process might not be pleasant.

C.S. Lewis talks a lot about human nature, and how it is easier for us to be bad than to be good because we are sinful creatures.

Being good- well, being perfect- goes against everything we know. That explains why it’s so hard to be good. It’s like turning tin into flesh, and that can be downright uncomfortable.

I have since learned to be okay in deep water. I can swim enough to keep myself from drowning, and I won’t freak out if you splash water in my face. However, I doubt I’ll ever be completely at home in the water. Even if I became the greatest swimmer of all time, I still wouldn’t be able to live there. I still have to breath air to survive.

Yes, I’m turning “The Little Mermaid” into a redemption story. 

You can see where I’m taking this, Ariel has to be changed before she can live on land and be with her prince.

My love of “The Little Mermaid” led me so far as to read the original fairytale. Disney definitely changed a lot before they turned it into an animated feature. In the real version, every step the mermaid takes on land is as painful as stepping on shards of glass. Even through the pain, she is happy because she can be with the one she loves.

Being a Christian can feel like that sometimes. Often, I feel quite uncomfortable trying to be unselfish. It doesn’t feel nice forgiving people who’ve hurt me. I keep trying though- failing, falling, and picking myself back up to try again.

There are many things that keep me going down the ol’ straight and narrow. One thing is the desire for Heaven. 

I can’t get to the Somewhere Else, that I long for. Not yet. But someday I’m gonna get wings, or fins, or whatever it is that I need so that I can go live there.

Someday I’ll be “part of that world”.

Yeah..... I had to stick that in somewhere.

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