The language of being called has long resonated with people of faith. Each of us feels a deep sense of identity and purpose in our call to live the way of Christ. What we don’t always do very well is help people to explore and discern a call, or even to fully embrace our call when we experience difficulties within our callings.
Disney has produced some of the most entertaining and wonderful stories in film history. Recently, I watched Moana with my kids for the first time … and I wept through the entire movie. I grew up watching princesses find their happily ever after’s, but I had never watched a movie in which I felt such an affinity with the main female character. Moana is the story of a call to leadership. It is filled with longing to find purpose, to serve her people, and to be who she was meant to be. Moana’s father is the village chief and because of his own traumatic experience with the sea, his people no longer leave the islands beyond the reef. As Moana grows into her identity as a leader, she begins to recognize that her call is going to take her beyond the reef, beyond the comfort zone of her father and the people of the island.
There are people who support Moana in her growth and development. Moana’s grandmother, more than anyone in the story, affirms her call – even before Moana fully understands her call. Her grandmother wisely gives Moana space to explore her call and discover its truths on her own. Nobody can name your calling for you. Nor can people live out your calling. It is something that must be experienced and claimed individually. In theological terms, I understand this to be an embodied ministry. God did not call me to lead like Peter or preach like Paul. God called me to lead and preach like Karin.
In the best song of Moana – in my opinion, of course—Moana’s grandmother appears to her when Moana is doubting herself, her abilities, and why the sea chose her. In response, Moana’s grandmother tells her who she knows Moana to be:
I know a girl from an island; She stands apart from the crowd
She loves the sea and her people; She makes her whole family proud
Sometimes the world seems against you; The journey may leave a scar
But scars can heal and reveal just where you are
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
Moana, listen: Do you know who you are?
And Moana responds by affirming for herself who she knows herself to be:
I am a girl who loves my island; I’m the girl who loves the sea: It calls me
I am the daughter of the village chief; We are descended from voyagers
Who found their way across the world; They call me
I’ve delivered us to where we are; I have journeyed farther
I am everything I’ve learned and more. Still it calls me
And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me; It’s like the tide; always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart you’ll remind me that come what may
I know the way. I am Moana!
As Moana lives into who she is and gains confidence in her abilities and call, she is able to do the same naming and calling for Teka that her grandmother did for her. And Teka – recognized finally as Te Fiti is able to heal and bless others in her healing. When people see us for who we really are, there is great healing and power that arrives and allows us to be transformed. It’s a great hidden secret that is right out in the open: being fully known, accepted, and loved, somehow makes way for Christ to move more fully in your life, to help you become the best version of yourself.
Our calls to live the way of Christ are forged in times of difficulty and we are guided by those who truly know us and help us to name how God has called us to live. Moana is a young woman who lives into her call as a leader through periods of difficulty and grows through them. To see that reflected in film for the first time in my life at the age of 38 was so deeply profound for me. Nurture the calls of those around you, even as you live into your own authentic purpose. It is how we heal the world; it is how we transform the world. You know who you are.
Rev. Karin A. Wright