It may be spring, but Frozen is still in the air.
A few days ago I heard a woman singing one of the songs from the now famous Disney movie soundtrack to her children in a parking lot. I felt compelled to sing along to my kids as well as we walked to our car. Do you wanna build a snowman? – but I only crooned the lyrics so as not to reveal to passersby that I am vocally challenged in the worst way.
When we go to the store, Frozen memorabilia is everywhere.
Nearly every day, I see an article or an online post about this movie.
Friends are talking about it. Kids are make believing they are actually in the movie.
Full-grown adults are recording videos of themselves on YouTube singing the songs.
Yes, Frozen seems to have taken us all (or at least most of us) by storm — pun intended. And from a parenting standpoint, this movie has also been a veritable goldmine of talking points for me to share important life lessons and values with my kids.
Like many of you, I don’t want to waste any potential life-lesson when it comes to guiding my children toward the heart of Christ for their lives. So, with Frozen (and other culturally provided learning opportunities), I ask myself, “What practical illustrations can be gleaned from this story in light of what God has already revealed to me about life, and how can I pass these lessons on to my kids?”
I do not want to waste any age-appropriate opportunity to incrementally expose and discuss culture from a biblical worldview with my children. If I do not help them learn to think critically about what they hear and see in this world, someone else eventually will (and from who knows what kind of perspective).
Kids must be taught the following concept Jesus taught His disciples, and they need to learn this incrementally and by example. Jesus said:
I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (John 17:15-18, NASB)
Exactly how we, as parents, time the introduction of cultural matters into our kids’ lives is an issue of preference. The spirit of this post is to simply offer up one mom’s approach to the movie Frozen – not as a right or wrong standard, but just to spark ideas of parenting creativity. Ultimately, we all need the Lord’s wisdom to be balanced in our approach to teaching our kids about how to live in a broken world and yet not add to its brokenness by being of the world.
And before I jump right in to my parenting approach to Frozen, let me forewarn you — SPOILER ALERT!
Here’s one of several ways I have used Frozen as a tool to teach about the subjects of gifts and personalities.
Elsa had a gift. Her ability to create frozen objects of ice and snow was unique. It had the potential of being used for good. Yet, as with any gift, if Elsa used her powers improperly, people could be hurt. Damage could be done.
Shortly into the storyline, Anna is injured when her head is struck by the freezing powers of her older sister Elsa. Seeing the risk posed by Elsa’s gift, the princesses’ parents restrict Elsa to her bedroom. They teach her to “conceal, don’t feel,” and load her up with rules intended to keep her from using her gift inappropriately and/or hurting others. Unfortunately, the rules also keep Elsa from using her gift to benefit others as well as herself.
Years of isolation stifle the once beautiful relationship that Elsa and Anna shared.
When Elsa is finally forced to emerge for her coronation day, she and Anna hardly know each other, and Elsa has not made the smallest amount of progress in learning how to use her gifts. Oh, she knows what not to do, but she is full of fear and anxiety about how she could ever really live among others without just being seen as a risk and a problem.
After an encounter of interpersonal conflict, Elsa learns that the rules that had been set up to keep her gift from causing others harm would not be adequate in every life situation. Not knowing what else to do, she flees. Elsa takes the first of two giant steps in her journey of personal growth. This is the moment when she decides to “Let It Go.”
Elsa has learned that rules are incomplete and insufficient. Rules tells us what not to do, but they don’t tell us what to do.
Elsa has learned that gifts are meant to be used, and not held back.
Elsa has learned that she was being controlled by fear.
She wants a change. She wants to be able to use her gift, but she does not yet know how. All Elsa knows is that rules alone will forever fall short for her, because they only have the power to restrain. And focusing only on restraint born out of fear will hold back the bad at least most of the time, but it will paralyze and kill the potential for good as well.
Elsa is half-way there. She now understands that living according to a fear-based system of rules and suppressing the expression of her gift is a miserable existence for her as well as her loved ones. But she is only half-way there. She still has not figured out a better guide that will actually allow her to use her gift rather than simply repress it.
It is only when tragedy strikes that Elsa learns how to use her gift appropriately. As her younger sister, Anna, seeks to undo the harm Elsa has caused, Anna’s heart becomes frozen due to Elsa’s misuse of her gift. In Elsa’s grief, she realizes how much she loves her sister. In a culminating moment, the new queen has an epiphany. She realizes that love alone will be able to temper how she proactively uses the gift of her freezing powers.
Loving others does for Elsa what rules alone could never do.
Where rules alone tell what not to do, love tells what to do.
Where rules alone stifle gifts and relationships, love produces growth in gifts and relationships.
Where rules alone incite fear, love stimulates courage and confidence.
Like Elsa, we all have gifts. And if you are a believer who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, you also have spiritual gifts. Whether we are considering a practical gift (like a talent), a spiritual gift, or even just our personalities, all of these aspects that help make us uniquely who we are can be used for good or bad. We can bless people with our talents, gifts, and personalities, or we can do great harm.
Rules, especially man-made rules, will be inadequate to guide us to use our gifts appropriately. Rules may be able to assist with merely avoiding unfortunate incidences of hurting others, but they will not be able to guide us to live up to the full potential God has placed within each and every one of us.
Legalism can only help us avoid sin, but it cannot lead us to righteousness.
How have I used this illustration formatively with my kids?
One of my kids has more energy than I could ever DREAM of having. For this child, we have talked about the fact that there are not enough rules that could be made up to cover every scenario of how he might choose to improperly use his gift of abundant energy. However, thanks to Frozen, we have been able to talk about how loving others as the Lord would have him show love can lead him to making choices as to how best to use his energy to love God and love others in action. Instead of using energy to be wild or pester others, he can look for opportunities to serve and help others.
Another one of my kiddos is a people pleaser. She wants to make her parents, teachers, and every other authority figure in her life happy. We have talked about how this is a gift. It is a blessing to want to show honor and respect to authority. Yet, ultimately, our highest loyalty must go to God. Being guided by her love for the Lord rather than playing by the rules for authority will come in handy some day when she is put in a position either to have to be a God-pleaser or a people-pleaser. Hopefully, she will see that by loving God and giving Him her highest allegiance, she will also be doing the best thing by telling her parent, teacher, boss, husband, spiritual leader, or any other human authority figure, “No, this isn’t right. I can’t obey you if it means disobeying God’s will for my life.”
My other child is not afraid to speak up if something is not right. This is a gift. She may be tiny, but I see the early signs of the gift of exhortation in this girl’s life. Yet, if she relies on rules or raw emotions (like anger) to guide her, she will lose sight of speaking out and will begin lashing out. Even Scripture will not detail out every exact scenario that comes her way in life. She is going to need the Holy Spirit and the principles in God’s Word to give her wisdom to know when, how, and what to say if she recognizes an injustice. Loving God and loving others (in that order) will serve her far more than a collection of rules alone ever could.
So, when my kids and I are belting out “Let It Go” as we are driving around town, we all know that what we are celebrating is the idea of letting go of the inadequate system of fear-based, rule-driven living. My kids understand this song in context (or at least they are learning to). They also understand that we cannot just “turn away and slam the door” from living only according to rules, but we have to learn to complete the inadequate with the superior. Love alone can do what rules fail to do on their own.
Love uniquely allows us to move forward using our gifts for the good of others and the glory of God.
Here are some awesome Scripture references that the story of Frozen illustrates regarding living by the Spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB)
For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:5-6, NASB)
Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6, NASB)
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:18, NASB)
How has the movie Frozen been useful to you in sparking discussion with your children?