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It’s a movie about sisters, about real love, about fear, about hiding and suppressing who we are, about conformity and honesty… tied together with a hilarious snowman named Olaf… and it’s fantastic! Just fantastic. About half way through the movie, I realized I had a huge grin on my face…and it was there to stay. Not only is it heartwarming, delightful and full of laughter and fun, but it is also layered with meaning. Its truths are worth discussing whether you are five or fifty-five, Christian or just simply human.
Here are some of the discussions I’ve been having because of this movie.
My pastor friend left the movie and was excitedly talking about the way love was presented. “I have a wedding coming up, and I am totally going to use some of this dialogue about love as I prepare what I’m going to say!”
He was talking about what the adorable snowman, Olaf, had to say about love. Princess Anna has just realized that what she thought was true love (her first love), wasn’t. He was just using her to get to the throne. “I don’t even know what true love is,” she admits. Olaf chimes in, in his perky, optimistic and simple-minded way, “I do! That’s when you put someone else’s needs before your own.” Brilliant. So simple, so un-complicated, and so right-on. True love isn’t the infatuation or connection she felt with her “first love,” Hans. True love is when you sacrifice. It’s when you choose to put someone else’s needs (and sometimes desires) above your own.
Olaf then proceeded to point out how Kristoff had been doing just that, because he loved Anna: “You know, like when Kristoff brought you back here and left you forever?!” It’s hilarious, actually, when he says it. It doesn’t sound like love. Kristoff left his true love behind? Forever? Yes—because she told him that she had already found her true love, and was engaged to him. Kristoff loved her enough to put his feelings aside and do what was best for her by leaving her with her true love and fiancé. (Don’t worry—he realizes she’s still in danger and returns, leaving Olaf to comment: “Oh well… I guess he didn’t love you enough to leave you forever after all!” Hilarious.)
So, love, true love, is putting someone else’s needs above your own, according to Olaf. That’s pretty much the same definition that Jesus gave—the same Jesus who demonstrated his own love for us by dying for our sins. Jesus commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you.” He goes on to explain the kind of love he has for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus had that kind of love for us. He died for us. And there is no truer or greater love than the love that He demonstrated, the love that puts someone else’s needs above your own.
It’s not that this is the first Disney movie to show this kind of sacrificial love—I thought Beauty and the Beast demonstrated it beautifully (as did Tangled, and many others). This may, however, be the clearest it’s ever been explained. Olaf nails it on the head with the profound simplicity of a child.
Questions for Discussion:
- What does Olaf say true love is?
- Who demonstrates true love (according to Olaf’s definition) in the story? (Besides Kristoff?)
- Who do you know in your life that demonstrates true love?
- Who have you ever shown true love to, by sacrificing your needs/wants/etc. for theirs?
- How is true love different from the love you hear about in our culture, on TV, etc.?
Elsa – and a Million Different Ways you Could Apply Her Story
I love Elsa’s story. She was born with magical powers to create ice and snow, powers that were celebrated and enjoyed when she was younger. However, there was an accident and her sister was hurt by those powers. So, in a classic over-reaction, her parents took extreme measures to be sure that her powers stayed in control and weren’t a danger to anyone else. Elsa was cut off from other people, even her sister. Isolated and encouraged to learn to keep her feelings “under control,” Elsa grew up with a fear of her powers. Rather than learning to control her powers, they controlled her.
Once Elsa’s secrets were exposed (because secrets always are, eventually) she went bezerk. It felt good not to have to hide anymore, so she finally “let it go”. She let it all go. Years of pent-up power and snow all unleashed at last, as she walks off into the mountains to be alone (where she can’t hurt anyone), singing about how she was always being “the good girl she had to be” and never let anyone see the truth. It’s a powerful song. She said she was finally done with that lie, “couldn’t keep it in” and was just going to “let it go”—“that perfect girl is gone.”
There are really so many ways to apply Elsa’s story to every day life. I will contain myself to two. The first is the idea of performance. When we feel that we have to perform for acceptance, versus feeling that we are loved for who we are, regardless of performance, it creates a scenario much like Elsa’s. Someone who has to perform feels that they have to hide who they are, what they think and what they want. They deny those things, stuffing them deep down inside. Maybe they are afraid of them. Maybe they are ashamed of them, but for some reason, they feel that there are things about themselves which must be hidden, or they risk no longer being accepted.
The problem with performance is that we aren’t robots. Eventually, if we are denying parts of ourselves, those parts will come up to the surface and demand to be released. Unfortunately, when that happens, we often find that they surface with the subtlety of a volcano, destroying everything in their path.
The same is true with desire. For some reason, the church has traditionally done a horrible job with desire. Because the things we desire often lead us to do bad things, the church has tried to cut the tree down at the roots, by killing desire itself. That’s the wrong response. We are made with desire, and made to desire. The issue isn’t that we want things, it’s how we handle those things that we want. When we humbly subject our desires to the sovereign authority of God, trusting Him (and His law) to fulfill desire in the right way and time, that desire is a good thing. It’s when we give desire free reign to fulfill itself whenever and however it chooses that we get in trouble. OR—we get in trouble when we deny desire altogether. Back to the volcano, back to Elsa—when we deny desire it doesn’t go away, it just slowly builds up pressure overpowered her. It’s the same with desire. It needs a proper outlet and a good direction to grow in, because it will grow and it will find expression.
- How could Elsa’s parents have responded in a more helpful way to Elsa’s power when she was little?
- What examples have you seen of people who felt the need to perform in order to be accepted? Did it last, or did they have a melt down? Or was it more of an explosion?
- Have you ever felt the need to be perfect? How does that feel?
- Have you ever felt that your desires were a bad thing? Why? How did you respond to that?
- One extreme is to blindly follow your desires, the other is to deny them altogether. Which extreme do you tend to lean to? How can you find a healthy balance between those two extremes? Who do you know that lives life in a healthy balance between those two extremes? Is there anyone in the movie who you think has found that balance?
Love Thaws a Frozen Heart—or—Perfect Love Casts out Fear
Elsa’s story doesn’t end when she goes bezerk, thankfully. Elsa was afraid of her power, because she knew that it could hurt people. (Again – SO many lessons, here.) Her response was to hide her powers, which created more fear. In the end, it was love that made the difference. Anna, her sister, sacrificed her life for Elsa, and that act of love melted her figuratively, and melted the winter around her, literally. When she really knew that she was loved, as she was, for who she was, the fear subsided. As the fear subsided, so did her power. More accurately, it’s not that her power subsided, but its out-of-controlness did. Her power’s power over her, was a result of her fear. When she no longer feared her power, she gained control of it.
The Bible says that “perfect love casts out fear.” And, as we’ve already discussed, perfect love is the kind of love that sacrifices itself for someone else’s needs. This is exactly what we have with Anna and Elsa. Anna sacrificed her life for Elsa, and that perfect love cast out Elsa’s fear.
- What are your fears?
- How would it change your fears if you felt perfectly loved?
- What difference would it make in your life if you could really believe and know that the almighty God of the universe was absolutely, madly in love with you and that everything He did or allowed was somehow an expression of His perfect love for you?
I hope that you get a moment to laugh and enjoy Frozen this year. But I really hope that if you do, you’ll also take a moment to think about (and maybe talk about) some of the spiritual themes and applications. And more than anything, I hope that you will come to know and trust in the perfect love of God, who sent his (willing) son Jesus to this earth as a baby, all the while knowing it would mean Jesus would also give up His life, for us, in a gruesome death on the cross. Why? Because we needed someone to pay for our sins, and because that’s what love does—it puts someone else’s needs first.
By Stacey Tuttle
 Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”
 John 15:9-17
 I John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.