By Mark Brunke: What’s my purpose? My destiny? Why am I here? These are powerful and deep question that millions of us wrestle with on any given day.
Stop and answer it for yourself. Who are you? Answer it in one sentence. Now write it down and remember it, because how you begin to answer that question reveals a lot about where you find your identity.
Here’s some common ways we start to answer and handy Disney comparisons ala Moana.
Our Community: Moana’s parents work hard to convince her that her destiny is wrapped up in her island and her community. If you know where you are, then you'll know who you are. Her identity is wrapped up in the role she will play as a future chieftain.
If your answer to the identity question was about where you fit in a social group, then you are finding your identity in your community. I’m a dad, the funny one in my group of close friends, a pastor at my church. Is that who I am?
Our Heritage: Moana meets her ancestors. They affirm her parents’ values and then add something new to the mix. They tell the stories of their elders in a never-ending chain. So not only do we need to know where we are but where we've come from. Then we'll know who we are.
I’m Italian. I’m from Chicago. I’m from a dysfunctional family. Is that who I am?
Our Achievements: Once we are out on the open seas, we meet Maui. He is a hero with magical tattoos that appear on his amazing bod to tell the story of all his mighty deeds. If you want to know who he is, you just need to look at all he has accomplished.
Did you answer your question with a list of your finest moments? I have a college degree. I was a straight A student. I’ve led a bunch of people to Jesus. Is that who I am?
Our Toys: But Maui is a tad more complex than a walking tattoo billboard. He has a magical fish hook… or should I say… had a magical fish hook which gave him cool powers. And without it, Maui is convinced that he is no hero. He is nothing without that fish hook.
I’m a homeowner. I drive a Nissan Pathfinder. I have an iPhone 5s. Is that who I am?
Our Appearance: Moana and Maui journey together to the lair of Tamatoa. He’s a giant crab who keeps a hoard of treasure on his own back. Why? Because it makes him look shiny! He was a drab little crab once, but now he can be happy as a clam because he is beautiful baby.
Did you answer with the clothes you wear, jewelry you have, or even your social media followers?
I’m handsome (well, Christy thinks so!). I’m short for a dude on the east coast. I’ve gotten hundreds of likes on Facebook. Is that who I am?
Moana’s Big Answer!
Toward the end of the movie, two things happen that bring us to an amazing "aha" moment. Moana has a vision of her grandmother and she reveals the answer to the question that the movie has been clearly circling. She sings…
The people you love will change you
The things you have learned will guide you
And nothing on Earth can silence
The quiet voice still inside you
And when that voice starts to whisper
Moana, you've come so far
Do you know who you are?
If you want to know who you are, listen to the voice within. Moana is convinced. She realizes the calling she has felt her whole life wasn't something out there calling to her but something within her compelling her. To know who she is, she only needs to look within. She already knows and has all along. She cries out triumphantly as the music swells, "I am MOANA!" And it’s this revelation that allows Moana to save the day in the end by urging Te Fiti to look deep inside, to hear the voice within, and to remember, to know again who she really is.
I love that Moana takes us on this journey. It causes us to evaluate where we find our identity. But I’m dissatisfied with the conclusion Moana leaves us with. Just follow your heart and your desires.
I think we can all agree that deep down we shouldn’t find our identity in our community, heritage, achievement, toys, or appearance. These things can be good and important, but they don’t quite capture the worth and destiny of unique human lives. But what about the voice within?
The Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Whoa! The Bible stands in opposition to Moana’s conclusion. Don’t let your heart steer your life! Our hearts desire all sorts of foolish, harmful, and sinful things. We can’t find who we are just be consulting our heart and desires on any given day. So many today find themselves incredibly confused because we are looking within for answers about who we are.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” See, our identity isn’t bound up in where we are but whose we are. It’s not about where we’ve come from but where we are going for eternity. It’s not about what we’ve accomplished but what Jesus has accomplished for us. I pray that when you ponder your worth and your destiny in life, that you would turn to find it in the loving plans God has for you to walk in.