I was a junior in high school when the first Incredibles movie came out. Even though it was a “kids” movie I still enjoyed it. Even now 14 years later, I have no shame in going to see Incredibles 2. I did have the decency to take my 4 nieces and nephews the second time I saw it, so I wouldn’t be that guy, but Disney & Pixar’s newest computerized classic reveals shadows of reality. As C.S. Lewis said “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children, is not a good children’s story in the slightest."
Mr. Incredible wants to be, needs to be a super hero. This is painfully obvious numerous times throughout the movie. The only time Mr. Incredible is stimulated, focused, or even interested in conversation is when talking about past hero exploits or planning to bring supers back. Beyond that he is dejected, bored, and acts like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh in tights with muscles. He even places his own desires on his kids by attempting to unite his own frustrations with the greater good of his children. The most glaring display of hero hopelessness is when Elastigirl, his wife Helen, gets the call to be the headline super hero to fight for the cause instead of himself. Mr. Incredible is incredulous that they wouldn’t choose him. In the intimacy of their own bed, after the children have gone to sleep the conversation continues between the couple. Instead of encouraging his wife, the headstrong hero forcibly, painfully, tells his wife that she’ll be great. He can’t even hide his disappointment. When Helen calls after her first successful mission his only saving grace is that she can’t see him through the phone, as he sees her triumphs all over the news. Mr. Incredible’s identity is being threatened by his own wife. After all, he’s not Mr. Mediocre or Mr. So-So, but if he’s not Incredible then he’s just Mr...?
This is what can happen to all of us. When our identity is captured by fickle people, we’re constantly changing outfits, names, and anything else to keep ourselves intact. Mr. Incredible doesn’t know what else to be or do without being a hero. He doesn’t even know how to be happy with or for the person that he is supposed to love the most in the world. He doesn’t realize that at some point all heroes have to hang up the tights. His sense of self was tied up in what he was able to do and what people praised him for, and all of those things fade. We can easily do the same thing. Sometimes it’s being an athlete for the majority of our lives, maybe it’s being a parent and being lost when your kids leave, or possibly even your leadership role in church. These are roads we can take, but not a rock that we can stand on. We naturally gravitate to that which we’re best at and what gains accolades. It is second nature to pursue those things that seem to give us meaning and purpose. Our identity defines us and is the driver of our hopes and actions. In some way we are all driven by our identity, but life looks different for those that aren’t defined by what they do, or what people think.
Throughout the movie we see the other side of the mask. While Mr. Incredible struggles and strains with all his might to hold onto the life his identity has provided, his wife is quietly confident and cool with who she is. Is she Elastigirl or Mrs. Incredible? Helen, wife or mom? Super activist or hero? She’s all of them, and her flexiblity is what keeps her centered. Helen, Elastigirl, is almost reluctant to return to super-ing because she wants to protect her family. Don’t get it twisted she misses and enjoys it, but she hasn’t let it define her. She repeatedly dismisses the bait to become bitter at her husband as others lay out the public perception that she played the background to her hero husband. Mrs. Incredible, though, has a peace and purpose that her husband only comes close to getting at the end of the movie. For Christians it shouldn’t take until the closing credits to realize what we are here for and who truly defines us.
"His sense of self was tied up in what he was able to do and what people praised him for . . . those things fade."
The All Consuming Christ Identiy
Christians can struggle with identity. Falling into the trap of defining ourselves by our skills, job, culture, or things we’re praised for is easy.Those things are good, but they are not God. More specifically they are not Christ in whom we should find our identity as believers. In Paul’s letters to the Colossians he lays it out plainly in the first 4 verses of Chapter 3:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
These words come on the heels of the reality that the Christ who is above all and the Creator that holds all things together, sacrificed his life in our place to bring us into his kingdom as children of God. Those that have believed the Gospel message are now established in a different kingdom with a different reality. The Apostle says some of the most profound words that slide by us like a not realizing the “X” we’re standing on marks the spot for buried treasure. He reminds the Colossian church that Christ is their life! When he appears in glory we will appear with him! We are no longer defined by what we do, instead we are defined by what He has done. We don’t have to worry about what we will become, because we are bound to who He is. This isn’t to say that we should not pursue great things or enjoy momentary pleasures. Quite the opposite, because we know who we are in Christ we are equipped to pursue all our challenges and dreams freely, and for His glory instead of ours. There is no fear in failure. Christ has succeeded. There is no fear of rejection. Christ has made us accepted. There is no fear of man’s opinion. God has called us son or daughter. Everyday we have the choice between defining ourselves by our work, and people’s opinion, or Christ’s work and God’s approval. I don’t know about you, but I’m choosing Christ and his work. Those are what my “Pixar”.