At The Movies: The Real Hidden Treasure In Moana’s Journey

As a father of two daughters under the age of 10, I’ve seen my fair share of Disney Princess movies. Moana became one of my favorites after I started to see elements of God’s redemptive story hidden in Moana’s journey. The movie serves as a reminder that we’re called to help revive the hearts of people and lead them into the fullness of life that Jesus came to give all people. 

Moana is a brave young leader committed to doing what she knows is right, even when the people she loves tell her to ignore her calling. 

Here’s how it plays out in the film:

As a child, Moana experiences the ocean calling her to set out on an important quest, but her father, the king, forbids people to voyage out into the deep waters because of a bad experience he had in his youth. Moana, as the next leader of an island people, knows she must do something about a growing darkness, tainting their land and the waters. The coconuts are rotting, and the fish are gone. Their existence is threatened because, years before, Maui, our other protagonist, stole the “heart” of Te Fiti, as a gift for humankind, hoping he could earn their adoration. Ever since the theft, darkness has been spreading throughout the world and it can only be reversed if the “heart” (a green jewel) is restored. 

Enter Moana’s calling: Her grandmother is confident that Moana is meant to journey across the sea, find Maui, and convince him to restore the heart of Te Fiti, a once-beautiful island, full of life. After her heart was stolen, that life faded into darkness and decay. Now, the island of Te Fiti is protected by a lava monster that destroys anything that comes near. 

Spoiler Alert: at the climax of the movie, Moana realizes that the lava monster is actually Te Fiti and that it’s not about defeating the lava monster, but about helping to restore Te Fiti’s heart and re-awaken the life that is hidden within the lava monster. Armed with this awareness, Moana restores Te Fiti’s heart, saves the world, returns to her island to a hero’s welcome, and leads her people into a life of exploration across the ocean. Roll credits.

Do you see the incredible story of Jesus wrapped up in Moana’s journey? Not yet? Let me make the connection. One of the most profound truths in the Bible is found in Jesus’ declaration in John 10:9-10 (NIV): 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and life to the full.”

Jesus basically just gave us his job description. He came to give us fullness of life, and at the same time, to remind us to watch out for the destruction and devastation that the enemy wants to unleash on the world. The work of the enemy grows and spreads when a person’s heart is covered in lies and deadens from the brokenness of the world. Our journey begins when we recognize our God-given identity as his masterpiece and trust in God’s goodness. 

“Our journey begins when we recognize our God-given identity as his masterpiece and trust in God’s goodness.”

We’re all invited to be a part of this vital mission, but it’s not an easy job. When someone’s heart is disillusioned, they often act in defensive ways (like the lava monster) —lashing out in anger to hurt the people who care about them most. We are called to see their pain and to remind them that they were created by a loving God who wants to restore their heart and what’s been stolen.

As Moana realizes that her job is to help bring restoration to Te Fiti, she sings a simple song:

“I have crossed the horizon to find you
I know your name
They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you

This is not who you are
You know who you are”

How far are we willing to go to find the lost and hurting, and to help restore them? Are we willing to depend on the power of God, so that he can be revealed to those hurting around us? 

Like with Moana, this truly takes an act of faith. Maybe it’s believing for a miracle when we don’t see anything changing. Maybe it’s choosing to love an angry person, sacrificially. If we’re going to help others find God, each of us will need to cross the horizons of our comfort zones and partner with him to push back the darkness. God has invited each of us to join him in this incredible calling. Where will his invitation take you?