"When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, think like a child, and reason like a child. But when I became a man, I put aside childish things..." 1 Cor. 13:11
If you ever owned and loved a toy as a child, Toy Story 3 (just like its two predecessors) will surely move and delight you. This is a movie that can touch anyone who remembers their younger days playing with their favorite toys.
Entertainment Weekly even ran this column in a recent issue, noting the number of men (not to mention the ladies) who have shed a few tears after watching the film this summer:Message to men: Yes, it's okay to cry at 'Toy Story 3'
So what is it that moves so many people to tears? I believe that part of the charm of these films is that they do exactly what we once did in our imagination: they give life, personality, and a backstory to cherished yet inanimate objects.
Do you remember your own favorite toy? What did you love to play with when you were younger? For me, I had a great collection of dinosaur toys. I used to play countless hours with my tyrannosaurus rex, triceratops, and stegosaurus. I recall making a pterodactyl fly off my bed and an apatosaurus thunder through my backyard.
St. Paul probably didn't have a bucket of dinosaur toys when he was a kid, but he, too, reflected nostalgically on his younger days in his Letter to the Corinthians: "When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, think like a child, and reason like a child." (1 Cor. 13:11a). When we were children, life looked a lot different. The world was in front of us and the wind was at our back. However, St. Paul continues: "But when I became a man, I put aside childish things..." (1 Cor. 13:11b).
Maybe that's why Toy Story 3 has caused so many adults to shed a few tears. Perhaps people see themselves as Andy, who in this film, has become a young adult heading off to college - "putting aside childish things."
In the movie, even the toys, especially Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), have a hard time moving on from Andy. The film takes them on an adventure through a day care center - trying desperately to get back home to those glory days of childhood. But life is moving on for everyone.
Perhaps we cry at Toy Story 3 because we regret having to move on. We miss those innocent days when we could create a whole new world with our toys. Or maybe we wish we could inject a little fun, lightheartedness, and laughter into our busy, serious, and workaholic-ridden world. When we leave the theatre after seeing this movie, we wonder if we'll ever see those days again.
Our faith teaches us that, YES... we can have that joy once more:
As teachers of the next generation, we can share the fun and laughter with someone younger than us - a child, an infant, a tween, or a teenager. Perhaps we can even play with some of the same types of toys we once loved...
If we find ourselves working long hours and feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, we must take a retreat and find time to rest (to "keep holy the Sabbath") - to laugh, to play, and to be in the company of good friends.
Should we feel the pressures of the real world closing in on us (from oil spills and sickness to economic hardships and global violence), we can escape for a moment into our imagination. St. Ignatius of Loyola encourages us to use our imagination to pray and to grow closer to God.
If you feel that your eyes watered during Toy Story 3 (or for that matter, while watching Toy Story 1 and 2), then stretch your imagination, take a Sabbath break, and/or laugh and play with those younger than you. Even though St. Paul talks about "putting aside childish things," always remember that Jesus also said, "Unless you become like children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3). So find that inner child - and play, escape, and imagine once more.
Who knew that my favorite dinosaurs could lead to the kingdom. Imagine where your memories might take you, too.