Finding Freedom in Frozen

By Gwen Sellers

I finally jumped on the Frozen bandwagon this weekend. Parent friends had raved about the movie, and I saw multiple online parodies of the various songs. I was curious, but not enough to actually go out and see the movie. Plus it's a kids' movie, right? But my mom, who also heard people raving about the movie, saw that it was available On Demand and requested that we watch it together on Mother's Day. It was her day, and it was snowing (gotta love spring time in the Rockies), so I agreed. What a treat! The music was incredible and the jokes were hilarious, but it also had a great message.

For those of you who don't already know, the story takes place in the kingdom of Arendelle and centers around two princesses—Elsa and Anna. We first meet the sisters when they are young girls playing together. Elsa has magical powers to freeze things, make snow, etc. Anna loves building snowmen and running around jumping on the snow Elsa makes. But Anna starts running too fast and Elsa accidently strikes her with her freezing powers. The parents rush Anna off to magical trolls to be healed. The elder troll tells Elsa that she has great powers, which can be very beautiful and also very dangerous. He warns her to learn to control her powers and also suggests that fear will be her enemy. Because Anna was struck in the head, which is "easily persuaded," rather than the heart, which is much more difficult to change, the troll can simply touch her to make her well and also remove her memories of the magic. The king decides that Anna will never be told of Elsa's powers, that the castle staff will be reduced, and that the castle gates will be closed. Elsa's powers will simply be hidden so that no one else gets hurt. We then see the girls age and watch Anna's vain attempts to get her sister to play with her. The parents die and it ends up just being the two girls in the lonely castle. Elsa is taught to "conceal; don't feel." She fears herself.

This is the first lie the movie debunks: "conceal; don't feel." Don't be the person God created you to be. Don't learn about your uniqueness and learn to use it well. We know that probably hurts, so just choose not to feel the pain. Fake it. Stop being who you are, because who you are is not okay. It just hurts and scares people. So don't be yourself, and don't be upset about that, and everything will be fine. Only it isn't fine. Elsa confines herself to her room. She has to consistently remind herself to hide who she is and suppress the painful feelings. She acts as if she has a horrible disease that disqualifies her from life. She is secluded and hurt and desperately tries to be the "perfect girl" everyone wants her to be. Anna is confused. She wants her sister to play with her and begs her to come out, only to meet with a closed door. Everything in her life, she says, has been a closed door. This is what sets her up to fall for the movie's villain, Hans. "Love is an open door," only Anna doesn't know what love is because everyone shut her out in order to, they thought, protect her. The people in the kingdom are left to wonder at what goes on in the castle. They don't dislike their rulers, but they are certainly shut out.

Finally, it's Coronation Day and Elsa agrees to open the castle gates and host a ball. But disaster strikes. She loses her glove and her undeveloped powers go haywire. She freezes most of the kingdom on her run up to the mountains, leaving people scared, confused, and helpless. Elsa has some beautiful moments on the mountain. She recognizes that hiding who she is has been a slow death. She sees the beauty in her powers. As she sings "Let it Go" and builds a magnificent ice palace, the audience wants to shout with her. That's right, Elsa, let it go. The cold doesn't bother you; it's those other people who have a problem. Be who you are. Look at the beauty here. The problem is that it's only partial freedom. Elsa recognizes her value and the utility and beauty in her gift, but she is still isolated. She still fears herself. Cold doesn't bother her, but she thinks she cannot be part of Arendelle. She's gone and that's better for everyone.

Another lie: You can be yourself all alone. We go lots of different directions with this one. Sometimes we are "ourselves" to the great annoyance of others and claim they are the ones with all the problems. We basically let everything about us—good, bad, ugly—come out in every environment with no regard for the interests of others. Sometimes we even play up the ugly just to see what people will do. Other times we're a little less confrontational. We choose the solo life. I'm okay with myself, but I don't think others are. And that's okay. I'll just do life alone because, really, I'm an introvert anyway and it's just better this way. Whether we're crass or isolated, we're still concealing and we're still stuffing emotions. But the sneakiest thing about this is not that it is a faked acceptance of self. It's that it is a lesser version of self. We really cannot live out the full extent of what God has for us all alone. Elsa left her kingdom in ruins. They needed her to return to fix it. Anna now had answers for all those years of closed doors and was eager to gain back her sister. And Elsa would not know the full extent of her gift until she engaged with other people.

We see what happens when we cling to the lie that doing life alone is better. Anna comes to ask Elsa to return home and is met with anger. Elsa is sorry she has hurt the kingdom, but has no idea how to fix it. And she'd rather just stay up on the mountain where she thinks she belongs, claiming Arendelle will be better off without her. The giant snow monster Elsa creates is nightmarish. Even worse is that Elsa strikes Anna with her powers, this time getting her heart. When people try to break into our self-protective shells, we often lash out. When we trust our own barriers for protection, rather than God, we end up confined and volatile. Not only does it hurt us, it hurts other people and can actually cause them to become hardened. The scary thing about Elsa's powers striking Anna's heart is that Anna will eventually become completely ice, unless saved by an act of true love.

After an exciting series of events where we find out that Anna's betrothed is in fact a scoundrel who plans to execute Elsa, whom he has brought down from the mountain, and allow Anna to die, while Kristoff, a man who helped Anna on her mountain trek, really does love Anna and is willing to fight for her, we come to the truth. The trolls have told Anna that only an act of true love will save her. We assumed it would be a kiss from Hans, her betrothed. When he shows his true colors, we are then led to believe it will be a kiss from Kristoff, who truly does love her. But that's not it at all. What saves Anna is her selfless sacrifice of her own life for that of her sister's. And then we realize the key to bringing summer back to the kingdom—love. Yes, love conquers all. I appreciate that the movie doesn't make it a romantic love. Olaf, the comedic snowman, tells us that love is when we put others before ourselves. Jesus certainly showed us that, and He commanded us to love one another (John 13:34-35). Love can unfreeze a heart and mend broken relationships. True love comes from God. First John 7:8-11 says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

But the movie doesn't end there. With her newfound knowledge of how to control her powers, Queen Elsa begins to live fully alive. She unfreezes the kingdom, provides Olaf with a personal cloud so he can be a snowman in summer, and then creates beautiful ice sculptures and an ice rink at the castle. The castle doors can remain open, the kingdom can enjoy the beauty of things frozen while also enjoying summer. It is when we come together in community that we can be most fully ourselves. Elsa's power was to be feared when it was denied, hidden, and untamed. But it was to be celebrated when it was revealed to others, controlled, and used well. Elsa could see the fullness of her powers and relish in life's joys only when in community, and the community could thrive best only when its queen was fully alive.

We are similar. God has designed each of us uniquely with many gifts. Often our gifts can go awry. The enemy of our souls succeeds when we deny or hide our gifts completely. He also succeeds when we use only one extreme of our gift, when we are not tempered by the love of God and attempt to use our gift by ourselves instead of under His authority. But God is magnified when we submit to Him and learn to walk in the way He has created us among the people He has given us to do life with.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:4-8)
So delight in the beauty God has weaved into you (Psalm 139). Embrace the unique imprint of His hand on you. Share it with others. Let them influence you and be willing to influence them. God made you and placed you where you are for a specific purpose. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). Delight in the work of the Master as you watch the masterpiece of your life unfold. Let it go, trusting that God is keeping it all together.

Published 8-6-13