I’m not the smartest guy on the block. God, in His mercy, is constantly reminding me of how little I know. He does this through marriage, parenthood, ministry, and, well, just about every facet of my life. I do know movies, however – at least I thought I did. So imagine my surprise several years back when I plopped down on our sofa for our “Family Movie Night” and ten minutes into the Disney classic Bambi I come to find out that Bambi is male.
I wish you could have seen the look on my face.
This fact shocked me! I’d never seen the film before but I was “certain” given the name’s feminine connotation, that little Bambi must have been a doe. I was stunned. How could this be? I felt like I’d been caught in the middle of some venison-induced charade. I began to wonder what other assumptions I’d made over the years that were likewise false.
Is professional wrestling fake? Does the President not write his own speeches? Is reality television not realistic? Was Charlie Sheen not just playing a character?
As the movie progressed I was struck not only by the story’s simplicity and purity but by the emotions it evoked in the hearts of my children. It didn’t have the insanely high-tech, CG effects of modern films. It didn’t have sassy dialogue or any recognizable star’s voices. It was slow moving and gentle, yet somehow it held the attention of even my two-year old. All my girls’ eyes were glued to the screen. And every one of them cuddled together tightly when (SPOILER ALERT) Bambi’s mother died.
Right about now you might be wondering why I’m blogging about this or what this has to do with ministry. I’m so glad (I’m assuming) that you asked.
Not long after my stunning revelation regarding Bambi’s gender, I came across an article about Walt Disney and one point, in particular, stood out to me. In November of 1938, following the commercial success of Snow White, the Disney brothers (Walt and Roy) bought their parents a mansion in North Hollywood. Several months later, however, an improperly installed furnace in the new home killed their mother, Flora, through carbon monoxide asphyxiation. The brothers were devastated and blamed themselves for the accident. It’s said that the tragedy stuck with Walt to such a deep level that he never spoke about it, not even to his own children.
Just under four years later, in August of 1942, the tale of Bambi – the little deer who lost his mother – hit the silver screen and became an instant classic. The timeless messages about life and death, family and friendships, and man versus nature are still touching young hearts generations later. Why? Because life and death matter and in Jesus Christ, suffering has a purpose.
I’d propose that Walt Disney shared more than a story or just another animated movie in 1942— he shared his cross. To what degree his own mother’s death influenced Bambi or any of his future projects, I don’t know.
What I do know is that everyone has a cross they bear. Some are more obvious than others. Some might seem heavier than others, but everybody is carrying one.
I’ve encountered many different kinds of people over my years serving in ministry. I used to be quick to judge, I’m ashamed to say. I used to unintentionally “weigh” others’ crosses against my own…believing that what I saw was all there was to them. The Holy Spirit has a funny way of broadening our perspective, if we let Him. Too many times in life I was so busy lamenting the pain of my personal cross (Lk 23:39) that I refused to seek Christ’s Mercy (Lk 23:42) or offer His Mercy to others (Lk 23:36).
I started doing something a year or two ago that has really helped me grow in both my prayer life and in compassion. Whenever I encounter someone – it could be a Staff Member, a colleague, a waiter or a disgruntled person I’m in line with – right when the conversation begins I say to myself, “Remember Mark, their cross is twice as heavy as yours is”. Since I began this little prayer exercise my prayer for others has grown immeasurably and my criticisms of them have dissipated significantly.
So Bambi and, by extension, Walt Disney – reminded me that things are not always how they appear to be on the surface. Every soul has a story, everybody carries a cross and everyone needs a Savior.
In reality, that’s the magic Kingdom – it’s the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.