Monday, March 21, 2011

Our ability to be discerning can sometimes get 'Tangled' up between light and darkness

"18There is no judgment awaiting those who trust him. But those who do not trust him have already been judged for not believing in the only Son of God.
19Their judgment is based on this fact: The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.
20 They hate the light because they want to sin in the darkness. They stay away from the light for fear their sins will be exposed and they will be punished.
21 But those who do what is right come to the light gladly, so everyone can see that they are doing what God wants." John 3:18-21

Have you ever thought about why so many crimes are done at night, under the cover of darkness? I think Jesus’ words above give us a pretty convincing answer to that question. Particularly the end of verse 19. People whose actions are evil are not going to like being in the light, because it exposes their evil deeds. In the same way, when we invite Jesus into our hearts, He exposes the ‘dark’ parts of our lives, the un-confessed sin and secrets we don’t want anyone else to know about.

The concept of light representing all that is good and pure, and darkness representing all that is evil and sinful is demonstrated finely in Walt Disney’s newest cartoon movie “Tangled” a retelling of the classic story of Rapunzel, the girl trapped in a tower with very long hair. The story begins by telling us that a special flower that had healing powers was used to heal the Queen as she was about to give birth to a princess. The princess was then born and her hair glowed brightly like the flower and it was soon discovered that her hair had the same healing power.

The evil Mother Gothel desperately desires to be kept perpetually young, and is convinced that the power inside of the young princess’ hair would allow her to stay young. Thus, she devises a plan to break into the castle and cut off a lock of the princess’ hair to have with her at all times. However, she finds out that when the hair is cut, the healing power ceases to work. Thus she kidnaps the princess and takes her away to live with her in a tower on the outskirts of the kingdom, and because Rapunzel’s hair only has the power if it remains uncut, Mother Gothel never once takes scissors to the princess’ hair, thus her hair is very long by the time the story picks up again 18 years later.

As princess Rapunzel grew up, she was constantly told by Mother Gothel that she can’t leave the tower because the world is a scary and evil place. Even at age 18, this is still the case. Every time she talks about the world to Rapunzel, the scene always becomes dark. This illustrates how Mother Gothel has something to hide and is fearful of light. By contrast Rapunzel’s hair glows whenever she sings and has the power to keep Mother Gothel young. Whenever Rapunzel is at the center of the scene it is always light, demonstrating her innocence and purity.

The contrast is recognizable immediately for those who are paying attention. The Apostle Paul asks in 2 Corinthians 6:14b “what fellowship can light have with darkness” and we see this illustrated as the movie progresses. Rapunzel has a deep desire within her that she doesn’t completely understand. This desire is to be able to leave the confines of the tower and go to see these mysterious lights that appear in the nighttime sky every year on her birthday. She has noticed these over the years we are told, and had always believed that they had something to do with her. She thus pesters Mother Gothel to allow her to go and see the lights closer up, a request which Mother Gothel always flatly denies.

Then one day Flynn Rider, a kingdom outlaw on the lam from the law takes solace inside of Mother Gothel’s tower while she is away. Rapunzel kidnaps him, ties him up with her hair and questions him about the outside world. She makes a deal with him to take her to see the lights and he reluctantly agrees. So she hides Flynn in a cupboard, convinces Mother Gothel to leave again, and sets out to see the lights, with Flynn as her reluctant travel guide.

As she goes along, she at one point feels guilty about disobeying what Mother Gothel had told her about leaving the tower. Flynn replies to her that some rebellion is a normal part of growing up, and I immediately thought of what Solomon wrote in Proverbs 22:15 “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of child.” Rebellion is for the most part foolish, and a part of children’s sin nature. So in some ways Flynn’s statement is true, it is a normal part of growing up, but not necessarily a good part. However, as the story progresses we see how while rebellion is certainly not right, God still uses it for good, as he so often does in our lives (see Romans 8:28, and Genesis 50:20).

Another biblical parallel with this story is as some of you might expect, the story of Samson recorded in Judges 13-16. You see like Rapunzel, Samson had long hair that was never cut, because God told his parents that they were not allowed to cut his hair (Judges 13:5). Therefore, Samson grew to be a man possessing superhuman strength, which was endowed upon him by God to accomplish the task of rescuing the Israelites from the Philistines. However, Samson knew that if his hair was ever cut, his strength would leave him, because of God’s covenant made about him with his parents before he was born.

Rapunzel’s hair as I said previously, has the power to keep Mother Gothel young, and as we find out later I the movie, heal wounds as well. However, much like Samson, if her hair is cut, she no longer has those special abilities. That is another reason Gothel kept her locked up because not only did she want to keep Rapunzel’s special power exclusively for herself, she also didn’t want anyone to ever cut Rapunzel’s hair.

The concept of light and dark makes a return later on in the movie, as after Rapunzel has made it to the center of the kingdom and gone out to see the lanterns fly in the sky, Mother Gothel finds her at night, and tells her under the cover of darkness again, that Flynn is going to betray her and that she should come back to live in the tower again. Rapunzel doesn’t believe Mother Gothel until she sees in the darkness the shadow of a boat leaving the shore way, with Flynn on board (though it is hard to tell whether or not it is him, and what Rapunzel can’t see is that Flynn is tied to the ships steering wheel being forced to leave).

Once again, Mother Gothel works under the cover of darkness to deceive Rapunzel into believing lies. Satan himself tends to lie to us by deceiving us into believing things that we deeply fear will happen, are happening! Jesus Himself warned us in John 10:10a that “the thief comes to steal, kill and a destroy.” Most Biblical scholars agree that here Jesus was definitely referring to Satan as the ‘thief’ and I most emphatically agree. You see friends, Satan never wants us to believe that God has plans for our lives that are to bless and not harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). He wants us to stay wandering around in the darkness not believing we can be anything or accomplish anything more than a meaningless existence. However if we seek out God, He will reveal Himself and His will for our lives to us, though it may take time.

Sometimes He will give us a vision in our minds for what He wants us to do, sometimes he speaks in dreams as he did many times in the Bible (Genesis 41, 1 Kings 3:5, Matthew 2:13). Other times he speaks through people who give us Godly council about questions and issues we have in our lives. As the movie draws near to it’s exciting conclusion, Rapunzel appears to have a kind of dream where it is revealed to her that she is in fact the lost princess who the lanterns are lit for each year, which reflects how God is at work in our lives and can use many ways to communicate with us!

Being sensitive to those times when God is speaking, while always keeping in mind that Satan is out in the world trying to keep us in darkness away from God’s light, is essentially a message that one can glean from this fairy tale. You see Satan can use people to tear us down, as much as God can use people to build us up! Being able to discern when we are being deceived is a process that takes years to learn, and a lesson that I don’t think we will ever be able to completely learn while we are still in a fallen world. That is why Paul warned the early church in Acts 20 that after he left “savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears” (v. 29b-31 NIV). The Enemy is present in the world, and he loves darkness and hates light, therefore it is good to pray that God’s light would illuminate our minds so we don’t get deceived and drawn away by the darkness the Thief so badly wants us to wander around in forever!

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