Disney’s Pixar released its latest animated movie on Christmas day. For now, the movie is only available on the subscription service, Disney+, but if you have a chance to see it you should.
Soul is the story of a man who suffers a fatal accident the very day his dreams of playing with a professional jazz band come true. Joe Gardner awakes to see himself as a bodiless soul moving away from the earth to “The Great Beyond” where the dead merge peacefully with a great cosmic energy source. Sure that this must be a mistake, Joe runs away and falls into a different other-worldly place, “The Great Before.” Here, he is tasked with mentoring a young soul who is preparing for life on earth.
Even from this short description, it’s obvious this movie does not project a Christian worldview. So why should Christians watch it? And what can they learn from it?
1. It provides a good opening to discuss death with children and teens.
Although the premise sounds frightening, death gets the Disney treatment in Soul, making it far from menacing. The movie actually produces an optimistic feeling about death, but for the wrong reasons.
For older children and teens, you can ask what they think happens after death and find out just how much they’ve been influenced (or not) by the culture they live in. For younger children, this would be a good time to discuss the difference between make-believe stories and true stories.
For children of any age, the movie provides a good springboard to remind them of the truths of the Bible. God is the source of human life. He made us with a purpose, and he wants to spend an eternity with us. Death shouldn’t scare us if we love God and believe in his promises.
2. It helps us rethink our purpose.
This is one of the most philosophical children’s movies I’ve ever watched. In fact, children won’t understand half of it. The heart of the story is for adults.
The villain in this movie isn’t death; it’s never finding—or perhaps losing—our reason to live.
Perhaps you can relate to that. Have you failed to achieve your dreams? Or are you still chasing dreams, believing you won’t really live until you—what? Get married? Have enough money? Become successful in your career? What if you never do? If you were to see your life flash before your eyes today, would you say, as Joe does, “My life was meaningless”?
Too often we equate meaning and value with reaching goals, performing better than others, or checking things off our to-do list. We search for that one passion, that one accomplishment, or that one person that will give our lives meaning. This movie reminds us that instead of focusing in and obsessing on one thing, we would often do better to look around us and find joy in the little things of life.
Yes, God made us with a purpose. But our most basic purpose is simply to love God and be loved by him. That alone makes life worth living and gives life value. When we remember that and really embrace it, we see everything else in our lives with a clearer perspective.
3. It reminds us that negative self-talk comes from somewhere. Don’t let it come from you.
There is a heartbreaking scene near the end of the movie when one character is lost in a cloud of negative self-talk. She hears her own voice: “I can’t do it.” “I’m just not good enough.” “I have no purpose.” And she hears the voices of all the mentors who put her down, judged her harshly, and discouraged her.
If this scene doesn’t make you want to hug your children and tell them you love them just the way they are, you need to watch it again. Maybe you should hug yourself, too, and resolve to love yourself more.
Whether it’s our children, our spouses, our friends, or even strangers we meet as we go through the day, the words we say can build them up or tear them down. We need to remember that. That doesn’t mean you should never correct your children or disagree with your spouse. We just need to find ways to do it that helps instead of hurts.
And we need to remember that the value of other people should never depend on what they achieve, how good they are at something, or what they do for us. We reflect God’s love when we love people just because they are. Remembering God’s love can heal us from our own negative self-talk and keep us from contributing to others’.
A fresh start.
Today is the first day of a new year. 2020 kept a lot of us from pursuing our dreams or reaching our goals. And we still have a while to go before life returns to normal. Hitting ‘pause’ on some of those goals may not be the worst thing we can do.
Perhaps we should begin 2021 by taking our eyes off our goals for a while and let go of our desperate need to find meaning in our lives. Remember that God loves you. Remember that there are many ways you can make a difference in other people’s lives.
Today, look beyond your own dreams and desires and see what’s already there—a life waiting to be lived.
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Stories are a metaphor for life. That's a deep way of saying we can learn life lessons from stories we read or watch on stage or on big or small screens. When viewed through a Christian worldview, even secular films and books can tell us something about our Christian walk. Here you will find a collection of blog posts with lessons I have learned from stories. I hope you enjoy them!