The human heart loves a good story. Our minds work well with stories. This is why Jesus chose to teach using parables. Movies can have this same effect, helping us understand deeper truths about ourselves and the world and opening our mind to new ideas. Maybe I’m just going a bit crazy because my toddler has requested to watch Moana on repeat for the past month, but I see this movie as an incredible depiction of identity wounds & the journey of healing.
Moana is raised in an island village where she is expected to become the next chief. She was born into this identity and role, but her true identity keeps calling out to her. She feels a longing for a different, bigger life than is offered to her on the island. We can equate this to God’s call within us, showing us our true identity and who we are made to be, his beloved sons and daughters.
Moana follows this call, helped by encouragement from her grandmother. Her grandmother blesses her true identity by gently nudging her to follow this call and pointing her to practical tools to break from the identity Moana feels forced into. We need these kinds of people in our lives who bless our identity by reminding us of our inherent goodness and worth.
Moana’s father does everything he can to keep Moana from discovering and living in her true identity. He curses her identity by reprimanding her for wanting a different life. This doesn’t come from a place of evil, though; it comes from fear. He, too, felt the calling in his childhood, but when he followed it, he experienced the death of his friend. This deep wound formed the belief that following his calling was bad and led to bad things. He made the vow to stay safe in his little life and to keep everyone around him safe as well.
On her journey, Moana meets Maui. Maui’s wound came from his human parents rejecting him. This wound made him believe that he wasn’t good enough on his own, so he began to live from the vow that he must earn love through good deeds. He even proclaims, “I am nothing without my hook.” This magical hook allows him to give gifts to the humans from whom he desperately seeks love. In fact, his hook ceases to work when it becomes an idol for him and he depends on it solely for his worth. It is only when Moana blesses his identity and helps him to see his own goodness that his hook can actually work.
In a pivotal scene in the movie, after suffering a defeat against their foe, Maui experiences shame about not being able to complete the mission. Moana is desperate to prove her own goodness. Throughout the movie, she struggles with doubting the truth of her identity. She doubts the calling and continuously tries to reassure herself that this calling is good and true. Maui attacks that wound by telling her that she shouldn’t have been chosen for this calling, inflicting more shame and pain. Moana is distraught, confused, and ready to give up when her grandmother shows up again and offers the biggest blessing: she tells Moana that she will still be loved even if she cannot complete this mission. From this blessing, Moana receives her true identity as daughter and chief. She finds the courage to continue her mission. (Ironically enough, this mission involves restoring the heart and identity of the lava monster, Te Ka, who is going through the most visual identity crisis of the whole movie.)
Movies are like modern day parables; they really do have the power to teach us lessons about life and about ourselves. Moana’s story is not so different than our own. As we grow up, we believe we’re supposed to fit in a certain box and be the person our parents or others want us to be. We suffer wounds throughout childhood and young adulthood that form negative beliefs about ourselves and the world–sometimes that we’re bad, we’re only as good as our actions, or we have to act a certain way to be loved. Out of these beliefs come vows that we live by, vows to always strive to be perfect, to not let anyone see our weakness, or to not mess with the status quo. These vows define and shape our lives, our actions, and every decision we make. They leave us chained, enslaved, and limited. They stop us from living out the glorious adventure and mission that God has planned for us.
Our identity can be blessed by others, and our identity can be wounded and cursed by others. We must identify the wounds and untie the knots of lies in order to receive the blessing of our identity.
If you’re feeling stuck, lacking passion in your life, plagued by negative beliefs about yourself, or feel like your life was meant to be more than what it is, I want you to know that you don’t have to live this way. Freedom is possible. Joy is possible. A passion filled life is possible. You don’t have to just float along in life. You are meant for more than just surviving. It starts with taking an honest look at your life and confronting the pain, heartache, and disappointment. Counseling can be incredibly helpful for this journey to have someone walk alongside you and help you see the truth about yourself and your story that you may not be able to see on your own.
Healing is about identifying wounds that have led us to believe certain things about ourselves, restoring our view of our identity, and living from that restored place. This healing is what unlocks the potential for greatness and enables us to live out our mission. This healing and this greatness is meant for every single one of us. You are made for greatness. Do you believe that?