This weekend I went with some students to see The Lion King. Seeing it with students was a great excuse to see a kids’ movie, which I really wanted to see anyway. From the opening scene at Pride Rock, I was immediately caught up in all the nostalgia of the Disney classic. Here are some reflections on The Lion King, complete with spoilers because we are way past the spoiler statute of limitations.
A major theme in The Lion King is how we address issues from our past. Simba is racked with the guilt because he feels responsible for Mufasa’s death. Instead of addressing that guilt and working through those feelings, Simba runs away and adopts a worry-free mentality. The Hakuna Matata lifestyle allows Simba to live in the present without really dealing with his past. That lifestyle falls apart, though, when his past crashes into his present. It seems easier and more attractive to avoid or ignore our past, but all of our choices, the good and the bad ones, shape who we are. The apostle Paul had a past which would have been easier to forget. And even though he was focused on where God was leading him, he acknowledged his past and how those choices had shaped and prepared him (Galatians 1:13-14). Like Simba, our pasts may be full of mistakes, but God can redeem those mistakes and use them for his glory.
I’ve always loved Rafiki. Even when I first saw The Lion King 15 years ago, Rafiki was always my favorite character. Now that I’m a pastor I can see why I love Rafiki: he’s the holy man of Pride Rock. Sure, Rafiki isn’t a Christ-following mandrill, but he gives guidance, performs ceremonies and helps others see the unseen. Even though Rafiki practices divination and knows nothing of Jesus, it’s interesting to see the search for deeper, spiritual meanings even among animals in an animated movie. Even in children’s movies, the desire for something more is clearly seen. The narratives of our culture long for a deeper reality because God is constantly revealing his deeper reality. Not everyone is looking, though, so we end up trying to find him in new age spirituality, a best-selling self-help book or an animated monkey. God is right there, though, waiting to reveal himself, if we’ll only look.
The soundtrack for The Lion King was one of the first albums I bought. I got it on cassette and listened to in nonstop for a few months. I sang the songs at the top of my lungs and I’m sure our neighbors were tired of hearing how much I wanted to be king. Even as I sat in the theatre this past weekend, I got goose bumps as “The Circle of Life” kicked in and I was anticipating “Hakuna Matata”. Music is truly a gift from God. There’s no reason music needs to exist other than the enjoyment it brings and how it can glorify God. Music speaks to our souls in a way that words can’t and it also connects us to God in a way that words can’t. It wasn’t the dialogue in The Lion King that gave me goose bumps or stirred up the most nostalgic feelings; it was the music.
I loved seeing The Lion King again. As I’m nearing my 30th birthday, it was a great way to relive a part of my childhood. If you haven’t seen The Lion King for a while, seeing it in the theatre in 3D is a great way to experience it again. And if you’re a little older than you were when you saw it the first time, you might see a little more than you did back then.
What does The Lion King make you think about?