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  • Writer's pictureRevShirleyMurphy

Lesson learnt from the Movie “Toy Story”

Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”

At the start of Toy Story, Woody loves being Andy's favourite toy and feels threatened by Buzz, the new toy in the room. When Woody and Buzz both wind up lost out in the world, they have to overcome their issues and work together to make it back home.

The Toy Story movies have always had a message of community and purpose at their core. No matter the setting, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the gang have always been motivated by two central principles: keeping the group intact, and their sacred mission to be there for their kid, Andy. One reason the films have stayed so strong over their 24-year lifespan is that they emphasize the ways that these two central concepts are interlinked.

In each film in the series, the characters learn lessons that point back to both these ideas. In Toy Story, Woody had to learn humility and adjust his priorities after Buzz, Andy’s new favourite toy, threatened his place in the hierarchy. Similarly, Buzz had to learn that his true mission was more humble, but no less rewarding, than what he’d first believed it to be. Toy Story 2 touched on the need for relationship, and how true community requires sacrifice and risk. Toy Story 3 explored an evolving understanding of home, and found the toys rededicating themselves to a new owner, Bonnie.

These are ideas that also have a strong presence in faith communities. As Christians, we constantly have to learn lessons about humility, relationship and personal fulfillment through our connections to each other and the church, as well as through the mission of ministry.

Toy Story 4, the latest entry in the franchise, was no different. However, this film asks a different question, one that may contain the most important lesson yet for its characters: how do we rediscover our purpose--as a community, and as individuals--when our circumstances radically change? Woody’s struggle to adjust to his new life with Bonnie, and his journey to find meaning in a new role, reflects the same importance that change plays in the health of a spiritual community.

Toy Story 4 picks up shortly after the events of the previous film, with Andy’s toys settling in to their new home with Bonnie and her family. For years, Woody--Andy’s favourite toy--has been the default leader of the group, but their new home upends the status quo. He’s no longer in charge, and he’s not the favourite anymore. In fact, Woody is barely played with.

With nothing to do, Woody isn’t sure where he fits in. He is, however, desperate to be of use, and quick to recognise Bonnie’s needs because of that. Woody notices when Bonnie feels insecure about starting kindergarten, and he recognises immediately how much Bonnie loves Forky, the spork-based figure she creates at school. Woody is intent on helping Forky realise his value to Bonnie, even if Forky can’t see it himself.

When Forky escapes during a family road trip, hoping to return to the trash (his natural habitat), Woody sets off to bring him back and teach Forky to understand his new calling. That quest brings the pair into contact with Gabby, an antique doll with a busted voice box, driven mad by her need for a child’s love. It also reunites Woody with Bo Peep, a former toy from Andy’s house who now lives a life of independence. Woody’s adventures cause him to rethink where he’s being called in this new stage of life. Should he stick with the group he’s always been dedicated to, or could it be time to move on?

Feeling like a valued member of a community, faith-based or otherwise, is an important part of our own spiritual journey. Paul describes the church as a body, but just like any body, a faith community requires growth and change to stay healthy. We can see examples of this in the gospels, in moments like the Great Commission, where Jesus splits up the disciples and sends them into the world to spread the good news. We aren’t necessarily meant to stay in the same community, performing the same role forever. It’s our responsibility to recognise when we’re called to something new and consider what it is God’s asking of us.

This is the same crossroads Woody finds himself at in Toy Story 4. Through his interactions with Gabby and Bo, there are two possibilities presented. The vintage, unplayed-with Gabby is a relic from the past, obsessed with the imperfections she believes makes her unlovable. Bo, on the other hand, has moved on entirely from being played with. She no longer wears the frilly pink frock she once did, and though her porcelain body arguably makes her more fragile, it’s not a big deal when she breaks. She finds usefulness by helping other overlooked toys build a community of their own and accepts the scrapes and breaks that come with that role.

Toy Story 4 is about recognising that sooner or later, we all face the same decision that Woody does. In spiritual communities, there will always come a time when the role we’re used to filling suddenly changes, and we have to find a new calling. That can mean gracefully accepting different responsibilities. It can also mean that it’s time to go somewhere new. Toy Story 4 reminds us that both options are equally valid, but that staying in the same spot just for the sake of staying can risk the health of the individual, as well as the group.

Toy Story 4 shows us that Forky came to life because of Bonnie's love for him. But Forky didn't want to embrace his new identity as a toy that's loved and valued by its owner. Likewise, In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul teaches the Ephesian Christians to see themselves in a new way: Not as the trash of the culture, but as God's treasure! The only way to accept your new identity as God's treasure is to receive his incredible love.

Next, we see in the movie that kids love their toys...and the toys love the kids back! In the same way, we weren't just meant to receive God's love...We were meant to return His love right back to Him. John Piper said, "The purpose of humanity is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever." This is why we gather at church on Sundays... To receive God's unconditional love and forgiveness and give Him praise and love through our worship.

God created you and me to RELEASE HIS LOVE! Throughout Toy Story 4, Sheriff Woody knew his purpose was to help and love kids... And he found purpose in helping Forky discover his new identity as a toy that Bonnie loves. Woody lived out his purpose by helping other toys!

In the same way, we express our purpose by releasing God's love. As God's beloved child, we're called to share God's love with the world through our compassion, gifts, and ultimately, our lives! As God says, "You've got a friend in me," we can say the same to God and our neighbours.

We throw away precious time because we fail to see the reality of our situation. We were made by a Creator who loves and values us. He set us in a world with gratifying work to do, gave us amazing minds that can create and invent, and bodies that can experience the pleasures of taste, touch, sight, and sound that he designed. Then He revealed Himself to us and gave us an “instruction manual” for life.

Just like Forky, we will only find fulfillment when we understand and embrace our real purpose — to glorify our Creator and enjoy Him forever. It’s time to come out of the dustbin.

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