If you haven’t heard, Disney Pixar released a new movie this weekend called Inside Out.
Naturally, I went to see it and though the concept is wonderful and the story line is cute, I can’t say it quite compares to their more famous films. (But as I’ve read, ratings disagree – so nevertheless, go see it).
Saying that, I think the idea behind the movie is genius.
The movie tells a story about a young 11-year-old girl named Riley and all of the emotions she has to deal with when her parents move her from Minnesota to San Francisco. The emotions she is feeling are personified within her head and have their own story line as Riley goes through all these changes. We are introduced to Joy, Fear, Sadness, Anger, and Disgust and throughout the movie they all try their best to control how Riley reacts to different situations.
Why do I love the idea behind this movie so much? Because it is so incredibly real and applicable! The deeper meaning within this plot line – just as many of Pixar’s movies have in the past – bring to light so many hugely important truths.
Right about the time Riley and her parents make the big move, Joy (the character that plays joy/happiness in Riley’s head) coincidentally disappears.
Isn’t that how it works though? We make some big transition in our lives or something monumental happens (good or bad), and our feelings of joy and happiness are all of a sudden hard to find. Fear of our new environment, or the anger and disgust we feel about our circumstances, or the sadness we feel about leaving everything we know, all of a sudden seem to be dominant. And many times we tend to let those emotions take control – just as Riley does in the movie.
Even for me right now. I’ve just graduated, recently obtained my nursing license, and have just started my new job. It would seem as though Joy should be the main commander and chief of my emotions. And yet, just this past week I let the fear of being on my own financially take control. I became anxious and worried about whether or not I was going to be able to pay my bills instead of trusting that I had made a smart and well-thought out plan and having faith in the real commander and chief.
While Joy get’s lost inside Riley’s head she is constantly thinking of all of the things she could be reminding Riley of to make her feel happy again. She just knows she can make Riley feel better if she gets back in control. She will remind her of all the memories all the good times they used to have. But sadness keeps getting in the way, and turning her joyous moments into now sad memories of what used to be.
Slowly Joy learns that we can't force ourselves to feel happy all of the time. Our other feelings are very real and have a very real place.
Once she learns that there is a place for sadness in Riley's life, she learns how to work with sadness, how to be patient with sadness, and how to allow Riley to feel sad while also reminding her of the joy that those memories did bring her.
And that's what real Joy is.
Real joy isn't just with us in our happy place or what we feel when we remember a happy moment. Joy is much more complex than that.
Real joy is present and aware of every horrible, awful, stressful, new, and wonderful reality we are faced with, while also hopeful in what is to come.
And that's why joy can't be and isn't just present in our minds, to be confused with all of our other emotions. Real joy is a state of mind, a way of being; it's an awareness that no matter what we are going through we can still have hope in who is really in control of our lives. When we have real joy we allow ourselves to feel angry and sad, afraid and even disgusted with some of the evil in things we see in this world, and respond differently; with a kind of strength, hope, love, courage, self-control, and wisdom, that can only come from having the Holy Spirit inside of us (2 Tim. 1:7).
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4