One of the most enjoyable movies I’ve ever encountered is a Disney gem called Enchanted. In it, an animated Disney princess named Giselle is banished by an evil stepmother to a place “where there are no happily-ever-afters.” She is sent, in fact, to real-world New York and crash lands into the life of single father Robert, who happens to be a divorce attorney.
This movie is Disney’s playful love letter to the musical Disney princess genre and includes some fantastic genre-aware humor, including my favorite moment where Giselle explains to Robert that it’s important for him to express his love, so that his true love knows that he loves her. Giselle, of course, explains this by breaking into song.
Robert, initially annoyed, becomes increasingly flabbergasted as random people around him pick up the melody as if everyone has managed multiple rehearsals beforehand. By the end of
(*Production number available below)the song, he is resigned and amused to be in the middle of a full-blown musical number.
Genre-aware humor is one of my favorite aspects of a good parody movie, but being genre-aware in real life is more like being stuck in an anxiety loop.
For example, as I grew up in the Church, I heard many stories from pastors or guest speakers about they have seen a person in distress on the bus or at a coffee shop, and how God has often prompted the speaker to approach with an offer for prayer. This is Just How Reality Works For Christians to me. But not many people talk about how one is supposed to discern that it’s God highlighting a need and not your own thoughts.
One day a few years ago, I was killing time at a shopping strip, waiting for my then-boyfriend, Sergey, to finish with an appointment. As I meandered around the mostly-deserted parking lot, looking for an outdoor bench where I could read, I happened to notice a woman. This kicked off an internal dialogue like a bad Saturday Night Live skit.
Oh. Oh no. I noticed her. Does the noticing in itself mean that I’m supposed to approach her and pray for her?
If I noticed her, that must indicate that God wanted me to see her. There’s nobody near her and she looks unhappy. If she’s unhappy, does that mean God wants me to walk up to her and pray for her?
What if God gets mad at me because I didn’t approach the lady and pray for her at the exact time she needed it? Is God going to be disappointed in me when I am in judgment and tell me I did the wrong thing?
Someone else is with her, now. Will I be accused of intruding or interrupting if I approach?
Does the lady speak English? What if she doesn’t speak English? THEN what???
How do I know this is the right thing? What if I just think I’m supposed to approach because I heard all these stories about how it’s the thing to do?
I’m clearly frightened by this, which is probably a sign that God wants me to stretch my boundaries, right? Being uncomfortable is also direction, right?
WhAt If ShE dOeSn’T wAnT pRaYeR aNd ReJeCtS mE?! What if she gets MAD?
I’m so scared I’m shaking. IS IT SPIRITUAL WARFARE? IS THE FEAR PROOF THAT I’M SUPPOSED TO PUSH THROUGH AND PRAY FOR HER BECAUSE I’M UNDER ATTACK, OR PROOF THAT I DIDN’T REALLY HEAR GOD AND AM FORCING A SITUATION HE DIDN’T ASK ME TO BE A PART OF?
After several minutes of freezing like a deer in the headlights, in the middle of the parking lot, I backed off and walked away—both afraid that I was running from a Divine Appointment, but more terrified of being wrong in my assessment of the situation.
Sometimes I wonder if people who didn’t grow up in the Church—who become Christians later in life—don’t have problems like this. I picture them as having much clearer “before” and “after” mental snapshots to weigh against whether they’re being directed by God. I imagine it as a case of two people. Person A grew up with a terrible case of acne, but one day they received a cream that cleared everything up permanently. Person B grew up using that cream every day, and spent a lot of time angsting over whether that little red bump on their face was a mosquito bite or the start of acne. Person B didn’t have the clarity to discern that kind of sharp difference like Person A did.
Seeing myself as person B, who grew up in the Church believing in Jesus, I often wonder what kind of clarity Person A has about God’s activity in their life. Not a perfect metaphor, but you get the drift.
I am not familiar enough with the whispering of God to pick it out of the screamy mass of other thoughts in my brain. I usually only recognize His voice when it’s loud and clear. I find myself pleading alongside a lesser-known lyricist, “Don’t tap my shoulder, Lord, please slap my face.”
But I’m also learning that not everything is a sprint, and that The Thing That God Is Preparing Me For may be a thirty year ministry or a single moment of obedience toward the end of my life. And neither will be weighed by the standards of this world. So, for now, I try to learn and absorb from where I am and wait and release, bit by bit, the anxiety that I am “doing God wrong” along with jealousy that others hear him better. I am where I am, and He’s walking me through this process, step by step, day by day.
Need a smile? Click Enchanted poster above
to view full musical production number