Saturdays during summer camp are a beautiful time to rest and refuel for the next week. But I have found over the past several weeks that I am so wound up from go, go, going, I don’t know how to relax well. I actually prayed to God, “Please help me relax in a way that is honoring to You, that isn’t wasteful.” As I tend to relax best getting lost in the story of a book, song, or film, I pulled out Tangled, a movie I had not seen since it hit the theaters. What I got within minutes stunned me.
First of all, Tangled is a beautiful picture. The animation is exquisite. You get lost in just the subtle adjustments in Rapunzel’s big, bright eyes, which rival her long hair for the spotlight. The computer generated camera moves are romantic and sweeping. The world around her is very detailed and believable.
Secondly, the storytelling is fantastic. Yes, it’s a Disney princess film/musical, so the ridiculous is to be expected. A pet chameleon and nearly human acting horse, a pub with a gang full of ruffians who really want to play piano, bake, and mime (High School Musical knock-off), and of course, a guy the princess has got to fall for. I’m not saying this is all bad – it’s just silly entertainment elements. But the wonder instilled from the opening narration to an incredible healing tear is a worthwhile journey.
But in the midst of a beautifully animated, silly-at-times Disney princess movie, I found a warm glow. The story reflects the Greatest Story. While it isn’t an allegory by any stretch of the imagination, there are elements that shimmer with greater truth. Rapunzel is a lost child. She is a captive, kidnapped by an evil, selfish woman. She is trapped in a closed tower, never even so much as setting foot on the grass. Worst of all, she doesn’t know it, not directly anyway. She only knows the lies she has been told by her captor – the tower is the safe place. But the prison that shadows her life is incapable of keeping the light of truth out. Every year on her birthday, the king and queen light a floating lantern to commemorate her birth, releasing it in quiet hope that their daughter will one day return. The entire kingdom does the same. The lights fill up the night sky, dazzling Rapunzel from her tower window. “I don’t know why, but I feel as though they are meant for me,” she surmises. It becomes her dream that one day, she will see these lights up close and in person. The day arrives. We get a glimpse into the heartbreak the king and queen still experience over their lost child, the yearning they have to be reunited.
In a small boat, Rapunzel wonders if this experience will be everything she ever dreamed it would be. In a shimmering display, we are caught up with her in the dance of a thousand flames, each burning as a memory for her. Back in her room in the tower, she unfolds a simple cloth with the insignia of the kingdom, a flaming sun. Suddenly, she sees that sun appearing over and over again in the murals she has painted. A memory long lost returns of looking at the same insignia as a baby and then her true parents, a loving king and queen. She is floored by the truth – she is the lost princess. She is a daughter of royalty. It is a truth always with her but never realized. But her captor still stands, and she is overcome by the wicked woman whose lies have finally been exposed. She is powerless to save herself, and when the only one who knows where to find her arrives, he receives a death stab from the old woman. She offers to stay a captive in exchange for saving his life with her magical hair. But he would rather die than allow her to remain a slave. He cuts her hair, the old woman dies in defeat, and Rapunzel is left with a dying savior. The tear she sheds fills his wound and the room with sparkling sunlight. He awakes to life and the two share their first kiss. Having set her free, he brings her to the home she should have always had, to the parents who ached in their love for her. They embrace their long lost daughter.
I am Rapunzel – a long lost child held captive under lies. I knew nothing but my tower, blinded by sin and darkness. But my tower could not keep out the lights sent out by my Father, the King of kings. They were meant for me – they were calling me home to the love I was always supposed to have. It is a love that burns and dances like a million lanterns, shining like the morning sun, lights for the lost. To experience that love up close and in person is more than I could ever imagine or dream. It penetrated everything I did, the truth always with me though I never realized it. When I could not break free from my chains, my Savior came. He would rather lay down His life than allow me to remain a slave for life. He arose again to life to bring me to my Father, who embraced me – His long lost child.
Again, the connections are not direct and perfect. Rapunzel had nothing to do with being a captive. I am a captive to sin by nature and by choice. Rapunzel’s lover is a thief whereas Christ is perfect and holy. Christ laid down His life and had the power to take it up again. Still, the eternal truth shimmers like a “window in the world,” as Andrew Peterson puts it. I watched how this story found its way into my heart, revealing again that the truth of the Greatest Story is so grand, it penetrates stories that don’t even recognize it.
I found Psalm 43:3 to be a beautiful prayer earlier this summer – “Send out your light and your truth.” I’ve prayed it many times since. I just wanted to relax tonight. God allowed me to get tangled up in His light and truth as well.