Conceal Don't Feel? Or Let It Go?
The Bible views human beings as lovers. This is not to say that we are romantic creatures, though that’s part of it, but we are lovers in the sense that we have desires that go beyond survival instincts. We have longings for love, joy, pleasure, purpose, acceptance, success, fulfillment, and on and on our hunger goes.
Originally before for the fall, God satisfied these longings by being our ultimate love, joy, pleasure, purpose, acceptance, etc. Like the Sun at the center of a perfectly ordered solar system, the Creator reigned at the center man’s heart, and all our desires and longings were properly ordered and sustained.
But when humanity chose to replace God as this supreme center of our affections, we became a complex mess of disordered loves. Love is now chaotic. We don’t know what to do with our desires, we don’t know where to turn to have them satisfied, at times we desire too much, at times we desire too little; simply put, we are all extremely frustrated lovers.
What to do? We can’t simply turn off desire, that’s asking a human to be an animal, so what are we to do with our desires?
Let’s learn from Elsa.
Elsa has something magical within her. Like human desire, it is simultaneously beautiful and dangerous. Fearing its danger, her parents teach her to suppress it.
“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know…”
She learns to hide her power but is never able to turn it off. It’s always there, lurking, threatening to erupt. Her solution is to retreat all the more, hiding out in her room.
“Do you wanna build a snowman?
Come on lets go and play
I never see you anymore
Come out the door
It’s like you’ve gone away.
Indeed she has gone away, a shell of her former self. She cannot enjoy her power rightly (build a snowman) because she is too focused on keeping it hidden. Deeper and deeper the effort to conceal goes until she is trapped within the prison of her own suppression.
This is one way we try to deal with desire, and this is often (rightfully) associated with religion. The religious answer is to conceal don’t feel. And Frozen brilliant depicts why this will never work. You can’t turn off what is fundamental to your being. You can only work really hard at pretending and hiding, but eventually you will find yourself imprisoned and alone, a shell of the desirous human being you were created to be.
Not surprisingly Elsa can’t keep playing the “conceal don’t feel” game, and in the climactic moment of the story she gives way to what is inside and proudly chooses to “let it go.”
“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I’m free!
Let it go, let it go!”
But here is where Disney really surprised me and what I loved about Frozen. Let it go wasn’t the answer either. At first it’s exhilarating, satisfying, and liberating. She clearly enjoys releasing what has long been her hidden, but then something strange happens. Once again she is alone in hiding. She has found a new prison, the prison of unfettered indulgence
“The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation,
And it looks like I’m the queen.”
Without a doubt she enjoys indulgence more than suppression, after all she has traded her bedroom for her very own castle, but she is still utterly alone and destitute.
Once again, Disney really captures well the other way people tend to deal with their inward desires and longings. On the opposite end of the religious answer is the philosophy of our hedonistic secular world. Cast off restraints, give in to what is inside, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else then you are free to indulge whatever desire you find within. In short, let it go.
People who choose this path will soon find themselves just as ruined as those bound to the chains of religious fundamentalism. It’s a different kind of prison, one marked by excess, compulsion, dependence, and addiction, but it is equally unsatisfying. And this path is usually more devastating to those around. I love that when Elsa decided to “let it go” those she loves and the world she left behind were devastated by her power unhinged. Anyone who has ever loved an addict knows how true this is.
So what we see in Elsa is the vanity of both suppression and indulgence. Neither the religious answer nor the secular answer is able to handle our deep and undeniable longings within
So what’s the answer? Is there hope for desirous creatures like us?
The Bible’s plea is to return to the original design. When God commands, “Thou shall have no other God’s before me,” He is commanding our love. He is saying return to me as ultimate, and once again your desires will be properly ordered. When God is loved ultimately, then everything else will be loved rightly
Ah but you ask, how does one love God ultimately? Love is not controlled; love controls us. So how does one choose to love God ultimately? We don’t. We can’t. God must love us first. God must win our love with His love. And this is what our God has done.
Anna is the story’s picture of relentless love. When Elsa was hiding in the room of her suppression, it was Anna calling out to her to come and play. When Elsa was away in the far off country of her indulgence, it was Anna who pursued her begging her to come home. And it is Anna that Elsa has terminally wounded by her power.
When Elsa finds out, she collapses under the weight of grief, helpless to defend herself against the sword of the story’s great deceiver, Hans. But then in a final act of true love, Anna jumps in between, just as she turns to stone from Elsa’s wound, and the blade of Hans shatters upon the now frozen body of Anna.
Then predictably Anna is resurrected, Elsa is changed, Olaf gets an eternal snow cloud, and they live happily ever after; you get the picture.
Do you see how every story we tell is merely an echo of the one true story?
We have turned away from the great Love or our soul, insulting him with our misplaced desires, desires that are now disordered and chaotic, desires we helplessly try to suppress or indulge, desires crying out for their true and ultimate end.
But it’s too late. Our love is out of control, destroying us and the world around us. Yet in the greatest act of true love our God pursues us and lays down His life for us, and those who behold this great love will find their love reclaimed by His love. And it is there with our God that we discover what every longing was longing for all this time, what every desire ultimately desires. And now with God supreme in our hearts, we learn again how to rightly desire and love all things.
This is the redemption that Jesus alone offers. It is neither the religious suppression of desires, nor the secular indulgence of desires, but instead it is the redemptive reordering of desires that comes from ultimately desiring the One who first desired us.
Now just because I know you’re dying to hear it…