August 20, 2016: I just got back from the movie theater. For me tonight, the choice was between Ben Hur and Pete’s Dragon. I chose Pete’s Dragon. And I am glad.
We grown-up, preoccupied adults, so caught up in the cares and responsibilities of life, need to watch a children’s movie now and then. We need to reclaim the magic and let it sweep us away. We need, beyond the great conflicts portrayed so simplistically in such movies, to see the promise and heartwarming gladness of a fairytale ending, and to believe that such endings can be true—for they are true. Somewhere beyond the griefs and struggles of this world, there is a happily-ever-after that truly is happy and truly is ever after.
We need to tell our inner critic who says, “How corny!” to shut up, and allow ourselves to be carried off in the emotion when the music swells and friendly dragons fly joyously over the mountains, and loneliness becomes belonging, and what was lost is found, and all things turn out right and beautiful in the end. We need these things, for they call forth someone inside us without whom we cannot live—the child in each of us, who sees truly, and who is honest and free of heart, and who is the best part of us. Children’s movies like Pete’s Dragon remind us who we really are, and who our heavenly Father is, and how he sees us and longs for us to see ourselves.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,” Jesus said, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” And then he continued, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14–15).
Whatever it means to become like a little child—and it can entail many things: innocence, trust, openness, emotional honesty, and more—I think it includes an attitude that embraces great stories that are closer to the truth than any textbook. Stories that call us back to ourselves, and open our eyes to the character of our Father, and open our hearts to his heart.
“And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (v. 16). Tonight, through Pete’s Dragon, Jesus laid his hands on me and blessed me. For though I am sixty years old, inside I am still just a little boy who loves to run through the fields and climb trees, and who feels, with the new heart of a child, the wonder of a sunset, the mystery of a starry night sky, the beauty of a rainbow, and the glory of a storm.
Thank you, Father! May I never grow too old to be young, and to see the beautiful, free child in others, however hidden that child may be by masks and walls—for you yourself, the Forever Child, renew our youth and beckon us beyond our life-toughened exteriors to the tenderness at our heart’s core.
Amen, Lord. Do this for me always, and for those I love, and for your people. This world ages us, blinds us to the truth. So show us that truth again and again. Remind us. Guide us to our true hearts, reborn in you, and give us to live from them as little children. For there is where life begins, and there is where it all comes back to—forever.