The Anchor of Hope
An e-publication of Living Hope Presbyterian Church
June 14, 2014
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. (ESV)
[Spoiler Alert: If you are one of the very few who have not seen the Disney animated movie, Frozen, beware.]
In the Disney movie, Frozen, Elsa is born with a dangerous gift. Her hands can turn anything to ice. She grows up hidden away in her parents’ royal castle, both for the protection of herself and for the protection of others. She is constantly taught to conceal her gift. However, after the death of her parents, she ascends to the throne, her cursed gift is revealed, and she flees into the mountains near her home. There she sings the well-known song, Let It Go, a beautiful song hauntingly expressing the pain of her previous seclusion and then joyously, confidently declaring the freedom to now be herself and do as she pleases.
[Note: I’m guessing that Let It Go is also the only song ever written with the word “fractal” in its lyrics. The authors scored favorable points with me on that aspect alone.]
Elsa’s freedom was an illusion however. She had merely traded one isolation for another (The lyrics to Let It Go even have Elsa refer to her “kingdom of isolation”.). Elsa could not flee from her responsibilities to her sister, her people, and even humanity (If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about.). And it didn’t take her long to realize that her previous words concerning freedom were wrong. Her desire to be alone was in essence a mistaken selfishness wrought from fear.
Much may be learned by applying the verse above to Elsa’s internal conflict and actions. Whatever else may be said of Elsa’s pursuit of isolation, that desire led to her unintentionally, but deeply, hurting the one person who loved her most and the people (her subjects) who were depending upon her benevolent rule. Everyone of us have responsibilities and people to and for whom we are responsible. To isolate ourselves from them, as the verse above states, is ultimately selfish and lacks judgment.
A well-known Old Testament commentary, Keil and Delitsch, admits that the wording in this verse is difficult to understand, but they argue this verse depicts someone, who out of selfishness, pursues their own desires contrary to the common good of their community. Of course, I would add there is no closer “community” to a person than their own family. Therefore, isolation, or withdrawal, is wrong because we become deserters of our duties. Whether you are a spouse, a student, a parent or a child, a employer or an employee, a magistrate or a civilian, we all have biblical responsibilities to fulfill within each of those relationships.
But isolation does not merely entail geographical distance. One may isolate oneself in other ways as well. I am extreme introvert (believe it or not). And partially because of that trait, I am completely uncomfortable with emotional intimacy. It is, and has been through the years, very appealing to me to withdraw and isolate myself for protection – both against exposure of my own sinfulness and against my being hurt. As one can readily ascertain, both of those reasons involve self interest.
Where may such isolation lead? Not to be too theologically hard on Elsa, but her singing “no right, no wrong, no rules for me” foretells the ultimate moral destination of isolation. The isolated self becomes its own moral compass and judge – a self-centeredness which is morally autonomous from God. Similarly, that is one reason why ingrown groups and cults can be so dangerous. These groups contain needy and hurting people who have rejected sound judgment in order to be wrapped within the isolation of the group. When a person capitulates on his own relational and moral responsibilities, a leader becomes every member’s sole moral authority and conscience – moral autonomy by proxy.
Of course, the movie wraps up all the loose ends and tangled relationships in under two hours. Our lives are not so neatly packaged. Our relationships of sinner with sinner are not so easily untangled. Isolation would be safer and far less complicated. You would only be dealing with one sinner (yourself), and you are generally less condemning of your own sin than someone else would be (the moral autonomy thing). However biblically speaking, we do not have that option. But for those who do choose isolation, deep regret and truncated relationships will be stops along your journey in life.
God’s gives life, and that with abundance (John 10.10). Fully live the life He has granted to you. To put the thought another way, for those who have seen the movie, go out and build a snowman.
Note: Some (many?) will tell me that I’m taking the animated Disney movie, Frozen, too seriously – that I just need to sit back and enjoy it. “Stop being so analytical. It’s just a nice children’s story”, they might say. While the movie is certainly not perfect, I genuinely enjoyed it. It does have some positive elements. It’s entertaining. It has both fun and serious, heart breaking and uplifting songs. It presents the biblical concept of sacrificial love to a shallow world. And “love thaws a frozen heart” is the movie’s way of saying “love casts out fear” (1John 4.18).
However, precisely because it is popular, it is now integrated into our culture. Just try to walk through the Walmart toy or kid’s areas without seeing Frozen on display. Apparently, it is cool to be cold. And because it is so popular with children and adults alike, but especially with children, we must pay attention to what teaching is being transferred to young minds.