Only love can keep us strong

I generally don’t like animated movies. But last Boxing Day, our three eldest granddaughters introduced me to Encanto, a new movie from Disney that pleasantly surprised me. “Would you watch it again?” one asked a few weeks later.

“I would. And I did! Gampa and I watched it together.”

She pretended shock. “Nana! You mean there’s actually an animated movie you liked?”

“I really liked it,” I said. “Know why?” She shook her head.

“I saw it as an allegory.” She looked at me puzzled. Her sisters, hearing our conversation, entered the room. “The story was about an enchanted house, kept strong by a magical candle, right?” They nodded, and I carried on. “I think the candle represented love. And the magical house? It was only enchanted and strong because the family who lived there loved each other.”

Light dawned. “You’re right!”

The movie had a darker side. Misunderstandings weakened the family bond. Strong dissention extinguished the candle entirely. The house developed irreparable cracks and eventually crumbled.

I recalled prior conversations with those beloved girls. Conversations only a grandmother is privileged to share, about things they may feel more comfortable bringing to Nana than Mama or Daddy. “I saw every one of you in that movie,” I told them.

And I had. The bright one who lit up every gathering, the discouraged child who felt she had no special gifts and had no sense of her value to others. The child who had slipped from the family circle because he felt he was too different to belong anymore. The strong child who lifted everyone’s heavy loads–until the day she collapsed, unable to meet the heavy load of expectations.

Disney got it so right. The movie made me want to weep, but not only for all the broken families that surround us. Homes once strong, now crumbling. I thought of our churches and the divisions all too common among Christ-followers. “You are the light of the world,” Jesus said, reminding us all that the only way forward is spelled L O V E. When we refuse to love, our lights, like the candle in the movie, grow dim. When we don’t seek peace with and forgiveness from fellow believers, our strong walls crack.

I also thought of the state of our country, and how the pandemic has divided us. The candle in our national window has grown dim as we have refused to even attempt to understand differing viewpoints, and instead shun, victimize or isolate those who hold them.

“I’ve never experienced a more unfriendly atmosphere ‘out there’ at Christmas,” one woman said, referring to the recent holiday season. “Scrooges on every corner. Hardly anyone sent or spoke greetings. No one came into our office to thank us for our service or bring chocolates or cards. Everyone is cocooned in fear.”

The movie, as is Disney’s pattern, ended happily; the magical home restored by a loving community. May it be so for us all in 2022. Blessings and prayers.

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