Wanting to escape the relentless summer heat, my wife and I decided to set aside our normal Saturday chores to go to a local movie theater. Appreciating the clever story-telling of the previous three films, we decided to see Toy Story 4.
Though we enjoyed the movie, I left the theater with an unresolved heaviness that I had not experienced in the earlier films. Easing into the front seat of the car, I sat for a moment, unable to shake the emotional stirring that was taking place in my heart. “This is silly,” I thought, “this was a kid’s movie.” And while I could attribute some of my tenderness to a less-than-tidy ending, there was something else: a heightened sense that God was speaking to me.
You see, as the story unfolded, I found myself captivated by the relationship between Woody, the central toy figure in the series, and a brand-new character named Forky. Hand-made from scrapped crafts in a Kindergarten class, Forky becomes another toy beloved by his maker, Bonnie. When Forky emerges from Bonnie’s backpack at home, Woody exhorts his toy-friends to embrace this new friend explaining that Forky is, “the most important toy to Bonnie right now.”
With vintage Toy Story banter between the characters, Woody quickly discovers that there is significant complexity in caring for this new friend. As Bonnie slept, Forky would wiggle out of her hands to find solace at the bottom of the trashcan. Explaining his behavior, Forky proclaims, “I was made for soup, salad, and maybe chili... and then the trash.” Out of deep love for Bonnie, Woody relentlessly pulls Forky out of the garbage, places him back in her arms, reminding him, “You are not trash, you are Bonnie’s toy.”
I couldn’t help but think of the myriad of times that I, like Forky, escaped to find solace in the trash. Why? Because I thought I was trash. My perceived freedom, my comfort, and my identity came in emotional dumpster diving: consoling myself with refuse. Trash was all I knew as it “conveniently” set itself up as the solution to the very problem it created. It was an endless cycle.
Like a large ocean wave, another thought crested and crashed on the shore of my thinking. Woody invested his life relentlessly and sacrificially reminding someone else that their true identity and purpose is found in relationship with the one who made them. In one particularly poignant conversation, Forky asks Woody, “Why am I alive?” Without skipping a beat, Woody unapologetically responds, “You’re Bonnie’s toy.”
God seized the silence of my reflection and tenderly asked a simple question. “Would you be willing to be Woody to those around you?” Through my tears of surrender, my heart cried, “Yes! I want to be that someone who pulls people out of dumpsters full of the trash of wrong thinking. I want to be someone who calls those around me up to their true identity in the eyes of the One who, before they were knit together in their mother’s womb, knew them.”
As I learn to walk out that fresh "call," may I remind you of something and then ask you something?
The reminder: You are not trash. You were not made for the trash can. That is not who you are. You are treasured by the One who created you. You are valuable... priceless, in fact. There is nothing you could do that would make God love you more and there is nothing you could do that would make God love you less. You are relentlessly loved because that is God’s nature. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Eternal, ‘plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope – never forget that’” [Jeremiah 29:11 PASSION]. God willingly, joyfully, and lavishly offers you grace: His empowering presence to become all that He sees when He looks at you. Open your heart and your hands, precious one, and receive that gift. You, indeed, are more than you know.
Now the question. Would you be willing to be a Woody to those around you? Would you interact with others in the Spirit-empowered nature of Love that says, “there is nothing you could do that would make me love you more... and there is nothing you could do that would make me love you less”?
You see, “We don’t call people out on their stuff. We call people up to their true identity. THAT is not who you are, THIS is who you are” [Graham Cooke]. Would you serve people with the Spirit-granted grace that assures them, “You are more than you know”?
As you begin to see with Spirit-granted vision, I believe God will free you from your own ‘Forky’-ish tendencies... and will anoint you afresh with, “an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains” the Forkys struggling around you. [Isaiah 50:4 NIV]. Why not ask Him now? This beautiful prayer sung by Babbie Mason called, “Show Me How to Love” will be a great starting place!
Thanks be to God! Amen.
Want to explore a little more? Enjoy this 22-minute testimony called "A Journey of Grace" that shares how God has been helping me see who we really are in Christ.