You gotta block him out. Do you trust me? [Blindfolds him.] You and me.
– Hiccup to Toothless-
In this second installment of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise (I have heard there will be three! Read our discussion of the first one here.), Hiccup and his Dad have worked out their differences and Stoic is planning to retire and pass on leadership of the Vikings to his son. All seems to be going well, until they encounter an evil Viking, Drago, who uses an alpha dragon to control other dragons and conquer neighboring lands. There are some wonderful lessons about forgiveness, diplomacy, people’s potential for change, etc. But the lesson that I loved the most had to do with Hiccup helping Toothless resist the alpha male. It’s a powerful image and has great correlation to the spiritual life.
Drago’s alpha male was huge and powerful…and evil. Toothless had already fallen under his spell once before. He had looked at the dragon and been unable to turn away. The alpha got into his head and once in his head, Toothless didn’t know how to resist. The alpha male ordered him to kill Hiccup and he complied. Fortunately for Hiccup, his dad, Stoic, saved his life—but it cost him his own. (Which is another wonderful lesson and connection to the gospel—a man giving his life so that someone else can live…that’s Jesus!)
This is how sin works. The moment we look at it we usually find that we cannot look away. And then the enemy has us under his control. He tempts us to do things we know we shouldn’t, things we may not even want to do, but we feel like we are powerless when we are under his control. And then, as happened with Toothless, our sins hurt someone else and we feel incredible shame and guilt.
Poor Toothless didn’t realize what he had done until after the fact. When we came to his senses, it was too late; the damage was done; Stoic was dead. Then he was so embarrassed, so ashamed of his actions that he wanted to keep away from Hiccup. Toothless was ashamed, but he was also afraid. He now knew what he was capable of, the damage he could cause to those he loved—and he didn’t want to risk hurting Hiccup again. That “sin” separated him from Hiccup, just as it separates us from God.
Toothless’ fear only increased his weakness towards the alpha dragon. Fear does that, it gives power and control to the thing we are afraid of. Toothless didn’t feel like he had power to resist the alpha because he had been defeated once before—fear and a sense of failure made him too discouraged to even try.
Toothless was at a loss as to how to escape the alpha’s control—he needed a savior. He needed Hiccup. The problem was, he didn’t know how to return to Hiccup—how could he? He had just killed Hiccup’s dad, as he tried to kill Hiccup.
The Bible says that our sins put Jesus on the cross. He died for us, because of us. It was my sins that killed Him. It was your sins, too. How could we come to Jesus knowing it was our fault He died? We need what Toothless needed. We need for Jesus to come to us, to seek us out, to forgive us and save us. That’s what Hiccup did for Toothless. He forgave him, loved him, promised him that together they could defeat the enemy and break his control over Toothless.
Toothless was overjoyed to be reunited with Hiccup and desperate to be free of the alpha’s control. So how did they do it? They did it much the same way as you and I must.
First off, they did it together. Toothless couldn’t have done it without Hiccup. Then, the next step was to trust Hiccup fully with his life. He had to give up all control, all trust in his own abilities and instincts, everything. It was a scary thing and a lot to ask, but it was the only way—Hiccup put a blindfold on Toothless’ eyes, and muffled his ears. He was going to have to fly blind and put all his faith in Hiccup (who was riding him), but it was the only way. It was the only way to ensure the alpha couldn’t get control of him again—He had to be sure he couldn’t look at or hear the alpha. He had to be sure the alpha had no way to get into his head again.
Do you see the parallels? If we want to be free from sin, we have to follow the same steps. We have to do it with Jesus’ help. We have to trust Jesus completely with our lives and be willing to give up all control. We need to be willing to do whatever it takes to be sure we cannot even be tempted—we need to blind ourselves (or to be willing to let Jesus do it) and close off our ears so that he cannot get to us, and so that the only thing we can feel is Jesus. It’s scary, but Jesus is trustworthy.
Doing this had some additional positive side-effects besides the obvious (that the alpha couldn’t control him). It strengthened Toothless and gave him confidence (because he was no longer a victim of the alpha). It not only took away the Alpha’s control, but also increased his faith and trust in Hiccup…which in turn increased their love and their bond. So it both stopped the negative and increased the positive—that’s a win, win!
This was a crucial first step, but it didn’t stop there. Hiccup didn’t want to keep Toothless blind and deaf forever. He needed to be enough for Toothless. He needed Toothless to be able to trust him when he was blind and deaf, but he wanted Toothless to be able to be his full partner again. He wanted to get to the point that Toothless could once again work alongside him with all his abilities and gifts, without danger of the alpha’s control. Toothless had to know how to resist the alpha first, but in the end, he needed to defeat the alpha.
The time to defeat the alpha once and for all came when the blindfold fell off. Suddenly, Toothless couldn’t just not see the alpha—the alpha was right there, staring at him, requiring his submission. Toothless looked between his two masters—the evil alpha who forced him to obey, and the loving one who asked for his trust—and he chose love. It was easy in some respects—he wanted to follow Hiccup. But it was the harder choice too, because Hiccup didn’t force his way like the alpha did.
I once heard Graham Cooke talking about the different relationships we have with the Lord and compared them to growing up, the relationship with have with our parents. He mentioned four growth stages, but the two that I remember are the first and last…and are applicable here. The baby stage is when we trust the Lord with everything. A baby does nothing for himself. He trusts his parents to provide for all of his needs. He will simply raise his arms in the air and know with full confidence that the father will lift him up. This was the relationship Toothless had with Hiccup when he was blindfolded and ear muffed. Simple, complete trust and dependence.
As we grow we add more dimensions to our relationship with God. It’s not that the baby stage is done away with forever, but rather other dynamics are introduced. The mature stage (or maybe dynamic is more accurate) is one of partnership. A grown son will become a partner in the family business. He will have his father’s full confidence and authority to handle problems, to transact business, to act and make decisions in the father’s name and on his behalf.
Toothless learned total trust in Hiccup in the baby stage when Hiccup took away his sense of sight and sound. God does the same thing with us in various ways, taking away the things we have put our hope and trust in so that we learn to trust in Him alone. (He did it literally with Paul who was blinded for days after his conversion to Christianity!) The baby stage has to be learned first before you can go on to the mature son stage if you are to do it well, but the baby stage isn’t meant to be the only stage. We don’t stop there. We are always intended to become mature sons and daughters of God. We are always meant to become partners in the Father’s business. So, after we learn to trust in God and not in our own senses and abilities and understandings, we get those things back.
Toothless got his eyes and ears back, but when they came back, they were his tools, his servants and not the other way around. Before he had depended on them, trusted in them…in a sense, they ruled him. So, when the alpha was able to control Toothless’ senses, he was able to control Toothless. But, once he learned that he could operate without them, he was able to use them without being controlled by them. The alpha tried his best to control Toothless, but Toothless was ready to stand up to him. He resisted the alpha and then went a step further and took authority over the alpha. He challenged him for the position of alpha dragon…and won!
This is the journey we are on, as Christians. We are learning to flee, to resist and then to take authority over and defeat the enemy. Jesus already has the victory. The battle has been won, but we have to learn to live out that victory here on earth. We have to learn how to be overcomers, victors, mature sons and daughters of the King. After Toothless defeated the alpha, he was ready to be Hiccup’s partner in ruling the Kingdom. It wouldn’t have been right if Hiccup had had to keep Toothless blindfolded all the time because he was so susceptible to the alpha’s control. It wouldn’t be right for us to always be needy babies either. At some point, we need to grow up and become the rightful, mature heirs to the kingdom we were intended to be…but to get there, we have to be willing to become as babies, blind and deaf and helpless, trusting only in our Lord. Both are needed.
It’s a crazy journey, but a good one, and How to Train your Dragon 2 does a great job of illustrating it! Let it be a reminder to you and your children of how to resist sin, how to trust God, and how to mature.
Questions for Discussion:
- How do you think Toothless felt after he killed Stoic? Have you ever done something that hurt someone else (whether you meant to or not)? How did it make you feel?
- How did Toothless’ “sin” separate him from Hiccup? How does your sin separate you from God?
- How did Toothless and Hiccup restore their relationship? What can you learn from them?
- Is there anyone you need to forgive? Or do you need Jesus to forgive you?
- Why did Hiccup blindfold Toothless?
- Do you think it was scary for Toothless to be blindfolded and ear muffed? Why or why not?
- What good things came out of Toothless being blind for a period?
- Why do you think God blinded Saul when he became Paul?
- Can you think of times when God has allowed something you have trusted in to be taken away? Why would he do that? Can you think of good things that came from it?
- How did Toothless resist the alpha? How did Toothless defeat the alpha? What can you learn from Toothless? How can his example help you resist and even defeat the temptation of sin in your life?
- Toothless had two distinct relationships with Hiccup – one of total dependence, when he was blindfolded, and one of partnership, when he got his senses back and defeated the alpha. Do you have those two relationships with God? Which one of those do you need to learn/develop?