“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14
Our pasts have the ability to hold us back from what God wants to do in us and through us. Maybe some of us feel discouraged because of past insecurities or are scarred by a past event that is a struggle to move on from. Perhaps we feel dragged down by sin or the shame of something we have done. Whatever it is, we all have a past. Something that we desperately want to erase, overcome, or even run from. At least we think we can run. We think we can rid ourselves of past hurts or scars. Overcome them on our own strength. But we can’t. Somehow our pasts continually come back to haunt us.
For the last post in my Disney series, I decided to delve into an all-time favorite; The Lion King. In Walt Disney’s The Lion King, we see a recurring discussion on the topic of the past. The main character’s (Simba) prominent internal conflict is coping with the death of his father Mufasa and the guilt that haunts him over it. In the movie, young Simba has a close and loving relationship with his father, the king. Mufasa has a brother named Scar who was next in succession to become king until Simba comes along. Out of envy and evil ambition, Scar plots Simba and Mufasa’s murder so that he may become king. He sets them up to be caught in a stampede so that they will be trampled to death (I know. How is this a kids’ movie, right?). Mufasa is killed in the process but is able to rescue Simba. When Scar confronts him, he convinces Simba that his Father’s death is his fault and tells him to run away and never come back. Simba runs away into the desert to escape the shame and pain of the past. He almost dies from the heat when he is taken in by the comedic duo, Timon and Pumba. When asked where he is from, he tells them it doesn’t matter because he cannot go back. The two give the young lion some interesting advice.
“You’re an outcast, that’s great! So are we.”
Right off the bat, the three have something in common. Hearing about Simba’s desire to change his past, Timon shares his intriguing philosophy: Hakuna Matata. You’ve got to put your past behind you. Bad things happen and the solution is to forget about it. “When the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world.” Hakuna Matata means no worries. It’s a philosophy of not caring in order to block out the past or pain. It’s escapism really.
Flash forward and we see that Simba has grown up under the care of Timon and Pumba living out the “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle. When an old friend, Nala, suddenly appears and tells him that his home has been ravaged by his uncle and that he has to go back to stop him, Simba has to deal with a daunting truth: you cannot run from your past. Conflicted, Simba goes out to find solace. In frustration, he finally expresses his anger at his father for leaving him and his guilt of thinking that he caused his death. Then, he is met by an old baboon named Rafiki who was a friend of his father. Rafiki is seemingly crazy but gives him sage advice: The past can hurt but you can either run from it or learn from it. In that moment, Simba is finally able to confront his past. Rafiki tells him that his father never left him and that he lives in him. Simba, now reconciled with his past, is able to move forward and claim his right as king.
There are two conflicting philosophies in the movie about dealing with the past: Timon’s and Rafiki’s. Timon says to forget about it, which Simba later finds is impossible. He is having an identity crisis in a serious and comical way. He has trouble figuring out who he is because of how his past defines him. He runs away to live with a meerkat and warthog, eating nothing but bugs. Not only is he not taking his rightful place on the throne but he’s not even acting like a lion, who he was born to be. We often let our pasts define us. It wasn’t until someone (Rafiki) told Simba who he was that he was finally able to move on with his life. He became reconciled with his father, whom he discovered had never really left him. Rafiki tells him that he knows who he is. He’s “Mufasa’s boy.”
Simba’s true identity and calling were found in his father. The only way that he could move on from allowing his past to define him and on to who he was truly created to be was to reconcile his relationship and find his identity in his father, the king.
We, in so many ways, are like Simba. We run from our pasts and let what we have done or the things that have been done to us define who we are. But our pasts do not define us if we are in Christ. We are told who we are. It is the God who sacrificed himself on behalf of our sins, Jesus Christ. He tells us that we are made new. We are sons and daughters of the king. We can be found in him and he in us. Being reconciled, the past is behind us and we can finally move on to who we are called to be.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19