“Love is like a tree, it grows of its own accord, it puts down deep roots into our whole being.”
– Victor Hugo
Ever felt unlovable? Ever felt there was something wrong with you making you isolate yourself from others?
I know those feelings deeply. It feels like a dark cloud I cannot escape. Every passing, nonverbal expression of people seem to tattoo the realities of those thoughts. They hurt and scar like metal etching on our very soul.
We feel like Stitch from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. We cannot control the vile villain inside us. Are we programmed to be this way?
Yet, someone steps in and Stitch begins his becoming…
This is Your Badness Level Clip (Watch)
Yes, I have laughed at the pain of others. It was probably followed with Stitch’s snicker and applause. Each of us know the depth of how awful we can be. Yet, it becomes a reality when someone points it out.
Usually, when we have our “badness level” revealed, we lash out and hide. Lilo reveals Stitch’s badness. Yet, is she having a counseling meeting? No. She says they have to fix it. Not Stitch alone. Lilo uses “we.”
All my life, I was told how bad I was, how I did not measure up, how I needed to keep working on myself. “Stephen, you need to fix this,” was the classic saying, and the burden of books and Bible studies weighed me down into a hopeless task. I tried memorizing Scripture, praying, counseling, and any other way for me to fix this. Yet, I was missing one thing. I was missing my “we.”
Romans 12:9-10 states we are to not just pretend to love others. We need to show genuine affection. Who are we to model with our love? Jesus. Think of Peter and Jesus. Jesus showed Peter the reality of his heart at the last supper. Peter would deny Christ. Yet, did Jesus say he needed to fix this? Instead, Jesus says it will be fixed, and he will restore Peter (Luke 22:31-32; John 21:12-22). The badness level in Peter did not scare Jesus. He had to work with Peter.
When Lilo chose Stitch, she loved him. She saw how bad he could be. Yet, she didn’t toss him away in a ditch because he couldn’t behave right away. Instead, she said to him, “We have to fix this.” She wanted to see Stitch become her true friend.
Stitch Finding His Place (Watch)
Lilo knows in order to help Stitch, she needs to find his place in society. She puts Stitch in multiple situations in order to teach him how to fit into the world around him. One of my favorite lines in this scene is when Stitch kisses the old lady, and they run out of the hotel with Lilo saying, “I’m sure Elvis had his bad days too.”
How many times do we feel like our badness level keeps us from fitting in? I know for me, I felt like a nomad wandering from group to group. I knew a lot of people, but never found my place. This can be a sad reality in the church for many Christians. Yet, I Corinthians 12:12-27 shows us everyone has a place in the body of Christ. It might take some time figuring out, but there is a place for us. Our badness level does not keep us out of the body of Christ. If it did, then the cross would never be enough. We need the body to come along side helping us find our place.
Love does that. Christ had a tax collector, a zealot, and a “foot-in-mouth” as part of his group. Yet, he loved them. He loves us and we love each other. Love finds our place in the body, and rejoices.
“I remember everyone who leave” (Watch)
After Stitch blows up at the beach, Nani and Lilo will be split the next day. Stitch leaves. Yet, Lilo wants him to be a part of her family as their baby. As he crawls out the window, Lilo says, “Ohana means family. Family nobody gets left behind. But, if you want to leave you can. I’ll remember you though. I remember everyone who leaves.”
What love says this? We tend to see people destroy our lives, and we let them go with “Forget you” in our facial expression. Yet, Lilo says she will remember Stitch. Her love caused him to realize he was lost without his Ohana. While others wanted him gone, Lilo showed him where he belongs.
When we have wronged God, his love isn’t just to say, “Forget you.” Instead, his love causes us not even to beat ourselves up. He runs to us. He embraces and kisses us, and he brings us back into his Ohana (Luke 15). Nobody gets left behind or forgotten.
What happens at the end of Lilo and Stitch? Stitch rescues Lilo. She says, “You came back.” His simple response, “Nobody gets left behind.” Does that sound like the Stitch we’ve been seeing since the beginning of the film? No. Love is causing Stitch to become something else. He is transforming. Behavior modification did not change him, but the love of a girl in need of a friend.
I have been Stitch. I can be mean and nasty. Ask most people in my life. Being a writer gives you the power of words. Yet, too many times I have used them to lash out. I always see myself as the villain, the unlovable one, the freak to climb back into the bell tower, the one who needed to kill himself in order to stop hurting people. It was a year ago I was introduced to a group. They brought to the surface the pain of my past, the hurts of others, and how patterns of defense and attack came from those events. As these things came out, they endured lashing out like a traitor backstabbing his friend. I hurt them deeply; like Stitch did to Lilo. I knew they loved me, but I also know that love can be out of duty and as thin as ice cracking on the Great Lakes.
June 26, 2021. My wife was up to something for my 30th birthday (which was the Thursday before). A friend picked me up to hang out and go to lunch. When we walked into the restaurant, there were those guys I had hurt. They were there for me. I was so surprised I did not even know how to react. What made it special on 6/26 each guy got me something with Stitch on it. Even with my messy life, I was still wanted and still brought close.
Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten. This summer, I am celebrating 6 months of progressive victory over depression and suicidal thinking. I am now a month off of my antidepressant. I have been able to forgive and work through the effects of the past not letting those things control me. I have been able to stop hating myself, and be me. This could’ve only happen because these friends chose me, did not let go, knowing that loving me I would begin becoming.
At the end of the movie, Stitch speaks the clearest he ever has (Watch Scene)
Lilo becomes his family. Lilo’s love caused Stitch to become someone he did not start off as. Even as little and broken as they were, Stitch ends up finding his place with them because of one girl’s love.
Jesus is the ultimate example of this. He tells us in Romans 12:9-10 to love each other with genuine affection without pretending. Lilo and Stitch shows us what transformation can happens with real love.
True love melts our icy hearts so it can beat again. True love restores, heals, and starts a process of becoming. People will give up on us, reject us, and try to stop us from shining. Yet, there are some who will not let go, and who will help you see beautiful again. Then, we get to share that love with others.
I am love’s becoming, because someone did not leave me behind or forget me. I would not be where I am at without them. I would not see the gentle and lowly heart of Jesus. Becoming starts with the loving heart of Jesus transforming one, and that heart loving on another. How perfect does a simple Disney movie teach us this?
Jesus told us the mark of a disciple is love. Love does not have anything to do with rules, standards, and images. Love is the “we,” love is seeing how we all are perfectly placed in the body, love is belonging, love is becoming. Those who love like this are like the living letters of Christ jumping off the pages of Scripture. You can fight against them, but they do not let go. They draw you close, because they know only love transforms the beast into a prince, the monster into a human, and the alien into a family member.