There was a four-letter word that barely existed in my vocabulary before I met my wife. It was a word that she innocuously wormed into my everyday speech. It was a word that led my sister to one day have to say, "I have never heard you say <mystery four-letter word> this much in your life." And it is a word that is embodied in the movie Zootopia. Give up yet? Well, that word is CUTE.
My wife has so changed me (for the better of course), that the word cute is one of the most frequently said words in my everyday life. It was a word that I looked askance at for most of my life, deriving a smug superiority from the fact that I did not lower myself to the realm of the "cute". But now? Now I realize how silly and foolish I was to so limit myself, my enjoyment, and my world. My wife opened me up to try a new realm of experiences and enjoyments, and I am richer for it. She did the same thing that the amazing artist Gazelle (Shakira) calls us to do in the song Try Everything from Zootopia. If you don't know the song, watch it here, get it stuck in your head (and your hips) and then come back ready to talk about it.
Zootopia: Let me explain... No, there is too much. Let me sum up
For those of you who missed out on Zootopia, let me sum up: Zootopia is a world where anthropomorphic animals live in harmony. Our heroine is Judy Hopps, a bunny who wants to be a cop - even though the world tells her that it's ridiculous and impossible.
But Judy will not be held back, she will push on and she will make it and she will be the best. GET IT BUNNY! There's a lot more to the movie, but it's awesome, so rather than ruin it I'm going to tell you to GO. WATCH. IT!
Okay, I'm back in control. Time to talk about this song. Try Everything is a great song. It's catchy, it's meaningful, and it makes me want to get up and go try things (which is saying something, because I prefer to sit on my couch and kill Hive in Destiny - but that's for next week).
And this is vital for following Christ. I know for me, I have felt like a failure in so many aspects of life, and in so many different things that I have tried that I have put myself in a niche that I at least feel decent in. And I stay in that niche. The problem with that is that if I am reading the Scriptures correctly, God doesn't like us staying in our niches. He calls us into the uncertain, the unfamiliar, and the uneasy so that He can make His power manifest in and through us. That's where this song comes in. It's almost like the Spirit is calling out to the Church and calling us to be bold, to strive and try and to push forward knowing that He is with us. Let's look at the two verses and the chorus of this song and see how it resonates with the Scriptures.
Verse 1: Sin and Restoration
One theme that I have heard over the years with Christians is the theme of failure. We struggle so hard against our sins and our cravings, but we keep failing. The people I have talked to have had a myriad of reactions to these failures. Some have been full of shame and despair, some even to the point of believing themselves incapable of being loved by God anymore. Others have been filled with rage, either at themselves or at God. Still others get filled with antipathy - a sense of "O well, I am always going to fail, that's just the way it is, no use caring about it." Perhaps the most heartbreaking of all are those who have allowed their failures to lead them to a sense of acceptance. "I've fought this sin so many times, failed so many times. But if God loves me, He wouldn't let me keep failing like this. Maybe I've been wrong this whole time. Maybe this thing isn't sinning, maybe it's actually good. Maybe it's the way God has designed me!" I've gone there too many times with my gluttony. I love food, and I recognize God's great gift in food. He has made a necessity into a joy. But that doesn't give me a license to turn the gift into a god. Paul puts it this way in Philippians 3:19, "Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and their glory is in their shame. Their minds are set on earthly things."
But this song, and I believe the Spirit, calls us to a different way of looking at the struggle against sin. "I messed up tonight, I lost another fight, I still mess up but I'll just start again." Simple and accurate. There is no sugar-coating the failure - I messed up tonight. I lost another fight against sin. I gave into the lies of the Satan. This side of Eternity, I still mess up. Okay, cool - I'll just start again. I know who I am - even more, I know whose I am. I know the price that was paid for my redemption, a price beyond any amount that my sin could overwhelm. I know the power of the Spirit who even now is changing me into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (see 2 Cor. 3:18 and Romans 8:29). I know the love of the Father who was willing to send His Son to die in order to reconcile me and re-create me (2 Cor. 5:17-20). Self-condemnation has no place in our lives (1 John 3:20), but neither does complacency about sin (Romans 6:1-4) and even worse, turning sin into something acceptable (Jude 1:23).
How can we live like this? How do we face fight after fight, difficulty after difficulty, and just get up with a bubbly, poppy attitude and try again? Well, that's where hope (and the chorus) come into play.
Chorus: The New Heavens and the New Earth
Hope. What do you think when I say that word? My brain usually goes to desire - a longing that something will happen that I think should happen. But in the Christian life, hope takes on a different form. Peter says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter 1:3-5) For disciples of Christ, our hope is not just some nebulous desire that may or may not come to pass, our hope is living. Our hope is the fullness of salvation. What does that mean? Well, it's a lot bigger than just "going to heaven" when I die. You see, the biblical story is that the great Story culminates with Christ returning and establishing the New Heavens and the New Earth - aka the New Creation. For those who have been re-created by Jesus, there will be a new Eden, a new Paradise, a newly created order for them to enjoy forever. And that future, that joyful, unbelievable future is secure and assured because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.
So what does that mean for me? Well, it means that goal, that drive, that HOPE can be the foundation to face all the challenges in my life. "I won't give up, no I won't give in, till I reach the end, and then I'll start again." There is no reason to ever give up in this life because the prize on the other side is worth any price, worth any struggle, worth any hardship and pain. I will keep pressing on till I reach the end - either my death or His return. Because in that day, I will see Him, I will be transformed to be like Him, and I will enter into a whole new way of life (1 John 3:2). I will start living all over again - better than ever before. Humanity will be what we were always meant to be, creation will be what it was always meant to be, and we will be connected with each other and with God and with the created order. That's hope. And that's a powerful motivator not just to endure, but to try everything.
Verse 2: Fear Not
Pastors have themes that they are really passionate about. The previous pastor of the church I attend, Rick Durrance, had a few of those - but one that he kept coming back to over and over is the idea of fear. As he loved to remind us, the most often repeated command in the Scriptures is "do not be afraid!" This is powerful. So many people live our lives paralyzed by fear.
We are afraid of dying, of suffering, of disappointing others, of not living to our potential, of pain, of rejection, of missing out, of bugs, or any amount of other things. Those of us who are truly wise know the only legit fears are those of heights and needles.
Fear is indeed a powerful enemy. Fear is one of those tools that Satan uses to bind us in slavery (Hebrews 2:15). Fear comes from the fact that we are no longer in Eden, that we are bound by a curse and death. Exiled from paradise, struggling under a curse, I can't trust others, I can't trust myself, and I can't trust the goodness of this created order.
But like our song tells us, "look how far you've come, you filled your heart with love". In the words of the Scripture, "perfect love casts out fear." For those who are in Christ, for those who have the hope of the New Heavens and the New Earth, our lives are no longer defined by the curse, they are defined by the new creation. Those who have been rescued, restored, renewed and redeemed by the Triune God have all the stability and safety that they need. There is no room for fear of others, of failure, or of death. There is too much wonder and love for the Three-In-One who was willing to do everything to save us.
Get Out There And Try
There is so much in this world to try. In fact, there's more to see than can ever be seen and more to do than can ever be done. For all humanity, God has created us to bear His image in this world, to represent Him and to care for this world just as He cares for us. For those of us who have been rescued from sin and death, it is our call in this world to show what that can look like, to be the foretaste of the Age to Come in the midst of the consequences of sin. But we cannot do that if we are bound in fear. We cannot do that if we don't try because we are afraid of failure.
We have to push out, and Try Everything that God calls us to, even if we might fail. And when we do fail, we just get up and try again. After all, "I'll keep on making those new mistakes, I'll keep on making them every day." If I'm not making mistakes, I'm not trying, I'm not learning, and I'm not growing. May the Lord make us into people who are so passionately pursuing Him and running toward His Kingdom with such passion that we are tripping over ourselves and picking each other up!