Twenty five years ago, I sat in a cool movie theater in the middle of the summer and watched animals come alive in the most amazing opening sequence I’d ever seen. When the bass drum beat rang out and the words THE LION KING appeared, I almost stood up and cheered. My fifteen-year-old self didn’t expect to be moved by a cartoon of singing animals, but I was thrilled to be mistaken.
Eighteen years ago, my parents and sister and I drove to Toronto in the middle of a snow storm to see The Lion King musical. I was skeptical of the stage version. Would it be distracting to have people using puppets? Which face will I look at? The puppet or the singer? As the lights dimmed and the animals came alive, I knew I was foolish to worry. The elephants arrived and although I knew it was just stage magic, I could almost smell them.
This summer, on the hottest day of the year, we saw a new re-imagining of The Lion King. My kids called it "the alive version” and that’s a good description. The animals felt very much “alive” and real. Just like the other versions, I loved every minute of it, though I’ve learned not to be shocked by how great it is.
In every version of The Lion King, one scene stops me in my tracks. It brings tears to my eyes because it’s a perfect example of how we should approach God. Rafiki stands on the edge of Pride Rock and lifts baby Simba up for all to see. The animals go crazy. They jump, and stomp, and trumpet. Then, slowly, they stop what they’re doing, get quiet, and bow down.
It’s a perfect example of a cycle for approaching Jesus. And the cycle begins with:
The animals came from all over the kingdom to witness the presentation of the new prince. They assembled and beheld something significant. If you’re a believer, do you remember the first time you grasped the significance of who Jesus is and what he did? When you know and really get it, you begin to understand why a whole bunch of people regularly assemble and…
Just like the animals stomping and jumping, we should be moved to go crazy in the presence of Jesus. One synonym of worship is lionize: to literally treat God like a lion, like the king he is. If you’ve ever painted your face for a sports team or engaged in a passionate discussion online about a TV show, but are uncomfortable when people raise their hands in church, this may be an issue to examine in your life. The God of the universe who saved us from our sin deserves at least as much enthusiasm as we have for the new Marvel movie and (dare I say) infinitely more. The cycle isn’t complete until we…
This is where I often fall short. I’m all about beholding and worshipping, but once the music fades, I forget to bow down. To quiet myself and allow him to be Lord. To actually allow Jesus to order my life. But, if I’m not willing to make Him Lord, is my worship false? Is it a performance or simply emotions? My worship should move me to bow down and listen to God and be open to his urging. To allow him to catapult me into action. And you know what that will lead me to do? Behold Him. And the cycle continues.
Where in the cycle do you fall short? Maybe, you’re not a believer and you’ve never truly beheld Jesus. Don’t study Christians or churches, go straight to the source. Pick up the Bible and read one of the gospels. Don’t assume you know the story already. Take an honest look at the person of Jesus and I think you’ll find it takes more faith to call it all nonsense than to see it’s true.
If you’t feel compelled to worship or bow down, I suggest you go back a step. For instance, if you’re heart’s not really into worship, spend some time beholding. If you aren’t willing to bow down, worship first. In some situations, I can move through this cycle multiple times a day and in other situations, I’m working from one to another over a long period of time.
I could write a book about all the theology can be pulled out of The Lion King, but this scene is always so striking to me. I imagine you were moved by it too. If any of this struck a chord with you, please reach out me. I’d love to talk to with you about your experience with this. Seriously, let's have coffee and talk about it.
Maybe the first step is to watch the movie?