I cannot tell you enough how much I love the story of Beauty and the Beast. It was my favorite movie growing up. I loved it so much that I would dress up like Belle in a yellow gown, sing along to the film, and watch it again and again and again on VHS . I felt a kinship to Belle in her love for reading and her heart to see the good in others, even if their good qualities were veiled by a beastly character. When I found out that Disney would be remaking my favorite classic Disney princess film into a live-action movie, my emotional joy matched that of Belle's joy when the Beast shows her the library of her dreams.
I'm sure you've heard that there have been a number of controversial posts and discussions in Christian circles in regards to this new live-action film, namely due to "an exclusively gay moment." I'm sure it will deter discerning parents from allowing their children to watch it, but after viewing it on the night of its theatrical premiere, let me make a hearty recommendation to you: go see it!
After watching the new Beauty and the Beast, I was reminded once again of how this story and tale as old as time depicts the gospel (the ultimate tale as old as time) in the sacrificial love that redeems and transforms the characters, literally transforming them and making them human again... cue the Human Again song. Not only that, but there are glimpses of the coming restoration through Jesus in the way that the characters and the castle are restored and brought back to life after an act of love.
If you've never seen Beauty and the Beast before, the premise of the story is that a vain prince is turned into a beast by an enchantress and can only be changed back by true love. A beautiful woman named Belle ends up at his castle in search of her father, and she might be his last chance to be restored. The only way the Prince can become human again is if he falls in love and is loved in return.
I could share specifics about what makes this new live-action film worth seeing from a filmmaking perspective, but what amazes me are the glimpses of the gospel story that are present throughout the original animated film and this new live-action retelling. I'm a firm believer that all well told stories offer a glimpse of the greatest story, that of God sending Jesus Christ to save and redeem sinners through his sacrificial love. Here are two ways that B&B depicts the gospel story:
Restoration and Making All Things NEw
As the film draws to its climax, the final rose petal falls. The beloved servants turn into antiques, losing their humanity. The beast dies, without a hope of being restored. Belle weeps with the thought of losing the one that she loves. We weep and we mourn. It's a sad moment, and it looks like there is no hope.
But as Belle weeps over the Beast, she tells him that she loves him. With her proclamation of love, light suddenly surrounds him, turning the beast back into a man, and restoring him to life. Belle's love saves him. As the Beast is restored to a man, the people of the castle are restored as well. They are all transformed into humans again, and the castle returns to its former glory. It is a beautiful moment, watching the transformation and the restoration, but it is a glimpse of a restoration that will be even more magnificent and beautiful, when Jesus will make all things new. John, one of Jesus' disciples, writes about this in the book of Revelations:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
The restoration that we see in Beauty and the Beast is a picture of what the restoration will be like when sinners are restored to the Lord through the love and sacrifice of Jesus. But that's not all! It's also a glimpse of what it will be like when the earth is restored and made new. We love this aspect of Beauty and the Beast because it is a picture of what is to come for those that receive the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and love him in return. Our hearts enjoy watching restorations in films, because our souls are longing for when everything will be made new and right again.
Saved and changed By Love
Have you ever noticed that what doesn't save the Beast is that he loves Belle, but rather what saves him is that Belle loves him. It wasn't until watching the new retelling that this fact from the film struck a chord in my heart.
I'm just like the Beast. I am not saved simply by my own love for Jesus, I am saved by Jesus' love for me, that He loved me so much that he went to the cross willingly to die for sinners like me, to restore us to God (John 3:16). While I do love Jesus, what will restore me and others to (eternal) life and will transform us into glory in a more spectacular way than in Beauty and the Beast is Jesus' sacrificial love for sinners. Jesus' love is what transforms beasts (sinners) into humans and makes us new.
These are just two gospel themes that I've been thinking about after viewing the new retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I'm sure there are more themes that I could pick out (I guess I'll just have to go watch it again), but it's beautiful to see glimpses of the ultimate tale as old as time in a well-known classic. It's a reminder that every story is a reflection of the greatest story, the gospel. The difference is that the gospel is a true story that will end with a real restoration and real transformations.
So when you watch Beauty and the Beast (or re-watch it again and again like me), I hope that it points you to the ultimate tale as old as time, and that you watch as the restoration and transformation unfolds on screen, knowing that it is a glimpse of a greater story that is unfolding.
If you want to listen to music from the new film, check out the new album: Beauty and the Beast (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
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One of the things that I love about blogging is getting to connect with other writers and bloggers. One of my sweet friends, Chenea, just started a blog called Made New By Grace, focused on how God's grace makes us new and transforms our hearts. It has been a joy to watch her blog launch and to read her posts as well as the Scripture study through Esther that she is hosting.
Chenea asked if I would write a testimony of the Lord's work in my life for her blog, and was this request timed so perfectly! The Lord has been doing a lot in my heart over these past few months, and one of the things He has been teaching me is that His approval is greater than trying to seek the fleeting approval of man. You can read the post that I wrote for Chenea's blog: Officially Unfriended.
While you're at it, take a look at the study she's leading through Esther.
Little known fact, this blogging journey began three years ago this month in my college dorm at Penn State, while I wrestled through life as a new follower of Christ and as a hopeful filmmaker wanting to make art to impact the world. (I detail the tensions between being a follower of Christ and a creative person in my first thirty one day series called Confessions of a Creative Christian.)
Three years later, I'm amazed that I'm still writing on here and consistently too. What started out as Engaging Culture became She Laughs Without Fear (Mainly because I couldn't purchase the domain for Engaging Culture and She Laughs Without Fear suited me better). These past three years though have taught me so much about writing, blogging, and loving others through the process.
In celebration of three years of blogging, I thought I would share five things well learned lessons from blogging as well as some of the pieces that were either impactful to others or have made me a better writer today. Praise God that He allows me to write and use my talents in this way.
Smacznego (Polish for "Enjoy")
5 Things I've LEarned
1. It's Okay If Your Blog is Small
Friend, so many of us dream that our endeavors or in this case, blogs, would grow big fast. We hope that others will read what we have to say, that a simple post will garner praise and followers and an instant following and community. That is not the case with this blog. She Laughs Without Fear is small. I don't write everyday or post viral content or go out of my way to try to blow it up with views, and that's okay. It's actually nice that this blog is small, because it helps me feel like I'm writing mainly to friends, whether I know them in real life or not. Which brings me to lesson number two.
2. Write Like You're Writing To A Friend
I often struggle when it comes to sitting down to write. The Lord puts ideas or thoughts into my heart and prods me to share it with others so that they might be encouraged or know that they are not alone. It has served my writing well to remember that I'm writing to friends, hoping to encourage them and help them along in the journey. This mindset not only helps me to actually put fingers to keys, but it also helps guard against self-promotion and pride in my heart and that fear of sharing what I write. If I'm writing for a friend, I'm more apt to share.
3. There Is Room At The Table
I shared about this in a previous post (Making Room At The Table), but there is no need for comparison when it comes to blogging or to feel like you have nothing to offer. God is doing something different in every person and gives others something different to share. Blogging is like eating at a table. It's lonely when you're by yourself, but it makes a world of difference when there are others there that you can converse with and learn from.
4. Just Try Things
I have loved getting to visit other blogs and see the things that other writers are doing in terms of delivering content. I've loved as bloggers have created monthly round ups or link ups or even thirty one day blogging challenges. Taking part in these things and just trying different types of writing and blogging as grown me creatively and as a blogger as well. It's been a joy to just try different things.
5. You Don't Have To Do Everything All At Once
As I've watched a number of my friends begin blogs and listened to bloggers encourage others, I've noticed that many try to do everything at once: blog daily, post regularly on all social media avenues, try to build a following by following a lot of other bloggers or creatives. It can feel overwhelming, but you don't have to do everything at once. I still don't post regularly on social media, and there are certain social media avenues that just aren't as exciting to me (ahem Twitter). I mainly post on the avenues that I enjoy engaging in (Facebook, Instagram, and other bloggers link ups). You don't have to do everything right away or at all.
These are just a few of the things that I've learned over these past three years of blogging. If you're starting a new blog or if you have a blog that feels like it's not really going anywhere, I hope that this encourages you.
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There are some things we just can't avoid in this life: suffering, hardship, adversity, and death. No matter what we do, we will all face these things at one point or another in this life. February was a month of reminders of the inevitability of these things. Maybe it's just because I'm more aware of it currently, but I keep finding that so many people are suffering. Suffering through illnesses, suffering through the death of loved ones, suffering through depression, you name it. And people are dying. My neighbor from home, a friend's friend, a friend's grandparent, and a church member. So much death.
I spent most of February walking through my own suffering and anxiety and fears, and I'm not through the valley quite yet. The Lord is still teaching me a lot through it, but one thing He has been pressing into my heart is that we're all longing for home, for eternity with the Lord.
Home. It creates a lot of mental images in our minds. Some good and some bad. When I think of home, I think of a place of comfort, rest, and peace. A place where I am free to be myself, and where the troubles of life are forgotten. But while we might experience glimpses of this feeling in this life, there is a hope of a better home, where the troubles of life will truly be forgotten. In light of suffering and fears, heaven has grown in the forefront of my mind and it's truly the home that our souls are all longing for, but it comes only from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I'll never forget the first time I learned that what makes heaven "heaven" is being reunited and reconciled with God and getting to be with him in His Kingdom for the rest of eternity. It was while watching The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader when Aslan, who represents Jesus, tells Reepicheep that he will get to be in Aslan's country for all of eternity. I watched Reepicheep sail across the sea into Aslan's country, knowing in my heart that that's where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in God's country and kingdom, and the way is through a relationship with Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
The Lord gives us a lot of glimpses of heaven, of home. A worship song, encouraging fellowship, a beautiful day, sweet friendships, a wedding feast, and times of intimate prayer. Our hearts were made for that world, to be in perfect relationship with our Maker, but splashes of hell often cloud our vision. We experience pain, suffering, and broken relationships. We don't walk with God or follow Jesus. We give in to sin. But there is hope, and Paul says it so eloquently when he writes to the church in Corinth:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Paul says it better than I could ever say it. Home. Are you longing for it? If we are in Jesus Christ, we will one day be at home with the Lord and the pain and struggles of this life will be a forgotten memory. So be of good courage as you long to be at home with the Lord.
Shalom! I'm Madi, a laughter-loving, movie-going, spontaneous-dancing, follower of Christ. Join me as I seek glimpses of God's grace in the ordinary and everyday.
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She Laughs Without Fear