There are some words that just stick with you your whole life.
I just started this blog a few days ago with a post that delved into some words that have stuck with me in a way that has boxed me in. So it feels right to proceed with some words that have freed me.
This is going to be a post involving a Disney movie, and if you don’t like that, you should probably leave now. But I have collected words my whole life from all kinds of discourses, I am not really interested in enforcing a hierarchy of what sources of language “count” as “real” and which don’t, AND heartily agree that Disney movies in particular are hella problematic, BUT for better or worse their words have helped shape me, so. Let’s proceed. If you’re down with (or can at least tolerate) the whole Disney thing, of course.
I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand to have someone understand I want so much more than they’ve got planned.
Should I choose the smoothest course, steady as the beating drum? …. Is all my dreaming at an end? Or do you still wait for me Dream-Giver?
I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but I know something’s starting right now. Watch and you’ll see, someday I’ll be part of your world.
There’s been trials and tribulations. You know I’ve had my share. But I’ve climbed the mountain, I’ve crossed the river, and I’m almost there.
I’ve sung myself these words for years. They have inspired me, soothed me, moved me onward, reminded me of what has been and what could be. But recently, some new ones came along with a force that blindsided me completely.
I’m talking about Moana.
The Moana fever is REAL in my house, and has been for months. I have so much to say about the film, but for the purpose of this post, I’ll keep it to just one thing: her words about calling turned the world upside down for me.
And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me. It’s like the tide, always falling and rising.
My heart exploded out of my chest when I saw this scene for the first time. Who am I kidding, that was basically me the whole movie, but I digress.
The call isn’t out there. At all.
It’s inside me.
It falls. It rises.
It pulls and reshapes.
It is both ebb and flow and it is constant.
And no one else defines it.
It was a good thing I was already sitting down in that theater, folks. Or I would have fallen down, I am not exaggerating.
As a Christian, as a person who spent most of their lives being told and believing and feeling “called” to “ministry,” calling is an enormously loaded word for me. As a person in the midst of an incredibly dense and hard-to-navigate waiting-room-of-the-soul couple of years following the aftermath of an intensely abusive church dynamic, calling is a thing that haunts me, dogging my steps, making it hard to know the path ahead when so much of what I thought was my calling was forcibly removed and broken by others.
And Moana did more for me in those three minutes than months of therapy, years of soul-searching, hours of calling out to God.
Don’t get me wrong. Without the therapy, without the soul-searching, without the dialogue with myself and reaching out for heaven, I’m sure these words would have hit me differently. Maybe they wouldn’t have hit me at all.
But Moana gets the credit for bringing it all together and making it ring true in this moving, undeniable way.
The call isn’t out there. Not. at. all.
It IS inside me. ME.
It is like the tide that is our ocean breathing, the basis of life itself.
It is my next breath coming in. And the absence of breath left behind.
And the filling in of breath again.
It falls. It rises.
This does not change its nature, it IS it’s nature.
This does not discredit its force, it IS precisely what makes it powerful.
Not on good days only. Not when it is felt most strongly. Always.
What is calling you? What is calling your name?
What does it mean to be called?
I think Christian people have lost sight of this entirely. We’ve made it into a formulated experience subject to both written and unwritten church authority, a narrative with borders sharply defined by the dominant forces of church life: white, straight, moneyed, male leaders interpreting their bibles using commentaries written by white, straight, moneyed males, building their churches with authority granted them by white, straight, moneyed males, upon a foundation of hundreds of years worth of white, straight, moneyed male dominance. And anyone else scrambling to make themselves appear as white, straight, moneyed, and male as possible.
We do God a disservice when we ask people to fit themselves into this space.
We do God a disservice when we say She intended this space to exist.
My call is not in there, in that space, with those borders so vehemently protected with all kinds of violence both physical and otherwise.
My call is in me and I believe it is there because I believe God is in me.
It is a calling to love. It is a calling to justice. It is a calling to resist.
It is a calling to speak out against a church that has and continues to actively harm people of color, non-straight people, disabled people, poor people, people who are not male, people who are not Christian, and here in my country, people who are not American.
It is a calling to not be cowed by religious authorities. It is a calling to not be undone by the powers that be. It is a calling to rise up and say, “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!”
It is a calling to break chains of the captives. It is a calling to exalt the low and bring down the mighty. It is a calling to radically redefine the world as we have known it.
It was not Eli who called Samuel, and it is not the church authorities who have called me. And I speak now directly to those church authorities:
I am not called to uphold your system. I am not called to move within it. I am not called to niceness or to making Perfectly Nice People feel comfortable doing as they have always done aside from a change calmly voted on and properly ratified every 2.333 decades, give or take.
I am not called to do as you say.
I am not called to shrink myself down to fit on your forms.
I am not called to be more palatable to the American Christian appetite.
I am not called make myself in your image.
I find it deeply tragic and condemningly ironic that a Disney movie had to tell me what the church supposedly entrusted with my spiritual development was always too cowardly to admit.
The call isn’t out there at all. It’s inside me.
Thank you, Moana. Thank you.
(Is it too much to imagine a voice whispering back, “You’re wellllcommme!” at this part? Asking for a friend.)