Sea of Lights
Anyone who knows me well knows that if you engage me in conversation, the chances are high that eventually I will bring up the movie called Tangled. It's no big secret that Tangled is one of my favorite movies (if not my favorite altogether.) The first time I had the pleasure of watching the show was during its theatrical debut in the winter of 2010. Two of my friends joined me for the evening and we went to see it at the Cinema 9 in Alexandria, MN. It is worth noting that we were the only teenage males in the viewing audience that evening. Expecting typical Disney fluff and comedy, I settled into my seat and prepared to disengage my mind for the next hour and a half. What followed was an experience that I have not forgotten to this day: the movie shot straight to my heart. Even now, whenever I watch Tangled (which I do with some frequency,) I have a hard time not getting choked up at a number of scenes. Why? Well, that's a question I hope to answer. Both for you my reading audience, and for myself as well. These thoughts that rummage their way through my mind deserve to be put on paper.
Tangled is a unique movie in many respects. The film took six years to develop, write, and animate. As everyone knows, the story of Rapunzel involves a girl with seventy feet of hair and this proved to be a daunting task for the animators at Walt Disney Studios. Nearly five years were spent writing program after program to tackle the animation of Rapunzel's hair, with the final program being finished in the spring of 2010 - shortly before the entire film went to post-production. To make matters more complicated, the original pair of directors and trio of lead actors jumped ship halfway through the six years of production, requiring a new team to be put together for the production to move forward. Nathan Greno and Byron Howard stepped in to fill the role of directing. The two of them had been with Disney for some time but had only directed one movie as a duo prior to Tangled. Stakes continued to raise as Greno and Howard brought in three actors (Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, and Donna Murphy) to play the roles of Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, and Mother Gothel, respectively. The decision may not strike us as odd, save for the fact that the combined experience of all three actors in voice acting totaled less than a dozen movies. To put the icing on their own cake, Greno and Howard diced up the story and accompanying score (masterfully done by Alan Menken and Glen Slater) to suit the vision they had for the story and then proceeded to change the name of the film just before publicity began… decisions which did not sit well with a number of people. Nevertheless, the show made it to the box office but not before tallying up a budget of nearly two-hundred sixty million dollars, making it the most expensive animated film ever done and the second most expensive film of all time (unadjusted for inflation.) To put it in perspective, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy as done by Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema cost approximately two-hundred eighty million to produce. Undoubtedly, a few nails were being bitten as the curtain went up at the box office and unveiled Tangled. The film was met with immediate success as critics and audiences alike gave the movie their heart felt approval. The box office income rang in at five-hundred ninety million, securing it a comfortable seat in the top one-hundred movies of all time. Even today, two years later, Tangled is one of the top films bought on iTunes. Is there a secret behind this movie's success and continued longevity? Perhaps, hidden in this loose adaptation of an old fairy tale, there is something real with which the human heart resonates. Perhaps there is a far greater story being told.
The story of Tangled is shown through the eyes of a young woman with seventy feet of magic hair. If that doesn't make you want to rush out and watch the movie right now, I don't know what will. The first two minutes of the film provide a brief explanation as to her hair. As every good story does, Tangled begins once upon a time in a far away land where a single liquid drop of sun has fallen to earth and sprouted as a magic golden flower. The magic of this flower heals injuries, cures sickness, and can even turn back the effects of time itself upon an individual's body. A woman, Mother Gothel, finds this flower and proceeds to conceal it; hoarding its healing power to keep herself young for time immemorial. Now, in this far away land a kingdom is born and this kingdom has a king, as all kingdoms do. This king and his wife the queen are expecting a child, but the queen falls sick as the time nears for the child to be born. The nature of this sickness can be assumed - the king and queen have no other children for the duration of the film, which spans eighteen years. With no cure being available for the queen, the king hopes for a miracle and orders that a search be made for the magic golden flower. Evidently, Mother Gothel was unable to conceal the flower from every eye. The flower is found and brought to the king who steeps the petals to make a golden flower tea for his wife. The healing power of the sun-plant enables the queen to give birth to a healthy baby girl: Rapunzel. Now, despite the fact that both her parents have brown hair, Rapunzel is quite blonde… try explaining that to Gregor Mendel, or anyone for that matter. Unbeknownst to her parents, the healing power of the sun-flower has become imbued into Rapunzel's hair, lending it it's golden color. To celebrate the birth of their daughter, the king and queen ignited a flying lantern and sent it into the night sky; and for that one moment, everything was perfect… but then that moment ended. Mother Gothel, deprived of the sun-flower, sneaks into the castle by night and begins to the sing the same incantation that stirred the magic of the flower. As Rapunzel's hair begins to glow with the same magic, Gothel cuts off a single lock of it only to discover that once the hair is cut it turns brown and removes any after effect of its power. With the fear of death upon her, Gothel does the unthinkable: she steals the king's daughter and withdraws with her to a hidden tower deep within the forest. Now, regardless of how any of us may feel about magic hair and sun-plants, this is where a deeper story begins to be told.
Lesson 1: The Enemy Kidnaps Us
Just like Rapunzel, we as Christians are children of the king and were born into a perfect inheritance. But just like Gothel, the enemy of our soul seeks to kidnap us. Deprived of securing our permanent residence in hell, the enemy will seek to separate us from our Father in a more subtle manner. By taking advantage of anything that will give ground to him, the enemy desires to conquer us from the inside out. Sin that we tolerate in our lives will not go unnoticed by the enemy, for he prowls like a roaring lion, seeking its prey. (1 Peter 5:8) Should the enemy find suitable prey, rest assured he will strike. Now, even as a baby, Rapunzel undoubtedly knew that something was wrong when Gothel abducted her from her home. But Gothel knew a child could be persuaded to believe a lie, and that is exactly what she fed her from infancy. Without a doubt, we all know what it's like to quietly approve of something that we know is wrong. Saul held the coats of murderers, even though he would not lift a stone. (Acts 7:58;8:1) It is in this silent approval that we can begin to believe a lie. The desire to sin comes to all of us. Even Jesus felt such temptation (Hebrews 4:15) but was still blameless. Desire is much like a bird; if it lands on your head it's not your fault, but if it builds a nest, who allowed it to do so? It is when we begin to entertain desire that the lie begins to spawn. (James 1:14-16) The death that is birthed from a sin is a spiritual death, which separates us from our Father. This is how the enemy kidnaps us. Should a carrion bird take up residence in a nest within our head, there are more lies to follow.
Lesson 2: The Enemy Lies to Us About Jesus
Mother Gothel imprisons Rapunzel in a tall tower deep within a hidden vale in the forest. But Rapunzel wants to go outside, as all children do. So what does Gothel tell her? "The outside world is a dangerous place; full of horrible selfish people. You must stay here where you're safe." What outside world was she talking about? The world from which Rapunzel was taken! The world in which she was a princess: a daughter of the king. The world in which she was loved unconditionally and not used for the power of her hair. Is the world dangerous? Yes. Thanks to liars like Mother Gothel, it is dangerous. The enemy is no different than Gothel; he will lie through his teeth to get us to believe that Jesus is horrible, selfish, sadistic, and is only interested in us the way that a carpenter is interested in a hammer. Why did Satan desire to attack Job? To see if he could convince him to curse God. Our relationship with our Father will always be questioned by the devil. Just as Satan attempted to create doubt in Jesus' mind in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11)
Lesson 3: The Enemy Lies to Us About God's Voice
The story jumps ahead eighteen to years to the eve of Rapunzel's eighteenth birthday. For her entire life, Rapunzel has been trying to make the most of her confined living arrangements and (unbeknownst to her) abduction. Many of us will do the same in the midst of spiritual bondage. However, every year on her birthday, the king and queen (her true parents, remember,) release thousands of flying lanterns into the sky in the hope that someday she will return to them. Rapunzel is uncertain of the true nature of these "floating lights" which she can only see from a distance, but something about them resonates with her. Deep within she somehow knows that these are meant for her, but she isn't certain. She has charted stars and proven that the "floating lights" certainly do not fall into that category, which leaves her with only two options: to continue to observe the lights from her window, or to seek them out and discover their true meaning. She opts for the latter. Discovering her desire to seek out the lights, Mother Gothel first shrugs them off as stars. Rapunzel quotes her scientific research and proves her "mother" wrong. Gothel is undaunted. Anyone who has attempted to debate with sin or a demon knows that logic is anything but present in the conversation. Gothel is quite adamant that the lights are stars and refuses to let Rapunzel speak any other way. The enemy is no different. Jesus longs for intimacy with us and will continually try to speak with us, sending out his lights into our lives to turn our eyes to Him. It is important that we discern the difference between our thoughts and ambitions and God's voice and messages (the difference between the stars and the floating lights.) When God is calling us towards Himself, away from sin, our flesh, our past, etc. the enemy is often not far behind, telling us that it isn't really God; discrediting the heartbeat of heaven for a simple emotion or fancy. The same is true for when God is calling us to a deeper level of intimacy or higher level of service - the enemy undoubtedly makes twisted use of the word "moderation" when such requests are made of us.
Lesson 4: The Enemy Stirs Up Fear of "Life Outside"
Gothel fails (as the enemy should) to persuade Rapunzel that the lanterns are stars and then proceeds to a different tactic. After having lived in bondage for eighteen years, Rapunzel is quite uncertain of what life on the outside is even like. Books that tell about life are a poor substitute for actually living, and Gothel undoubtedly knew what books came in to that tower and made sure there was nothing too threatening to her status quo. Rapunzel's comparative naivety plays right in to Gothel's hands and she works that end as much as she can. Summed up in a clever little ditty, "Mother Knows Best," Gothel proceeds to paint a grim picture of life beyond the round walls of the bondage tower - poison ivy, quicksand, the plague, large bugs, men with pointy teeth, the works. Granted, every item on the list of horrors Gothel provides does in fact exist but they are hardly an accurate portrayal of life as a whole. As mentioned earlier, Rapunzel has a family and inheritance in the world beyond the tower. Does that mean life will be nothing but sunshine and roses outside of the tower? Of course not! But a life of purpose carried out with the love of a father is worth a few risks. The enemy desires to create a constant state of fear in our minds and hearts that life without them would be fraught with peril and no means of escape! But we must remember that "he who desires peace must prepare for war." (Vegetius) Will there be troubles, trials, and hardships? Yes. But Jesus will not abandon us through any of them and will always provide a way of escape. (John 16:33;Hebrews 13:5b;1 Corinthians 10:13)
Rapunzel feels that her chances of seeing the floating lights have been thoroughly dashed, until a chance encounter with a thief (Flynn Rider) prompts her to sneak out of her tower and its hidden vale with Flynn acting as her guide. Flynn's theft was of a crown - Rapunzel's crown to be exact. The sudden appearance of a man in her tower prompts Rapunzel to beat him unconscious with her frying pan. As Flynn nurses his coma, Rapunzel finds the crown that he stole. Not realizing what it is, she simply stashes it away. After tying her guest to a chair with her own hair, Rapunzel waits until Flynn comes out of unconsciousness and then brokers a deal with him: you take me to see the lights, return me home, and then I will give you your crown. Unable to come up with a better deal, Flynn agrees. Mother Gothel is absent from the situation for the time being as she is going on a lengthy errand. The initial rush of freedom that is felt by Rapunzel quickly gives way to a nearly bipolar debate on whether or not she should go back to her tower so as not to risk leaving her "mother" and breaking her heart. Flynn provides the sage advice that she has "just got to do it." But the fear of life outside and the lies that she has been fed since infancy refuse to let Rapunzel go so easily. Nevertheless, her desire to seek out the floating lights outweighs her fear and the unlikely duo press on. Luncheon at a local diner quickly turns raucous as the goths that are the regulars there realize that Flynn Rider is a wanted thief, and the reward for his capture could make any one of them financially solvent. Rapunzel intervenes by explaining that she needs him to take her to see the floating lights - a sight she has been dreaming to see for her whole life. She pleads with the ruffians: "Find your humanity! Haven't any of you ever had a dream?" All of the local thugs quickly become vaudeville visigoths as they all sing of their respective dreams.
Side note: It's worth realizing that it was her father's call to her that gave Rapunzel her dream. Every one of us has a calling on our lives that God has placed deep within us. It is this fundamental yearning that gave all of the ruffians and Rapunzel their common ground and united them for the rest of the film. We shouldn't strive to live someone else's dream. Rather we should all unite and encourage each other in the unique individual callings that God has on our lives.
With local law enforcement knocking on the back door of the diner, Flynn and Rapunzel take a hidden passage down to an abandoned mining facility where the river also happens to be dammed by a rather rickety breakwater. The palace guards pursue the two of them and proceed to attempt an arrest. In the fracas that follows, the breakwater breaks and sends the entire river down upon the dry river bed. Rapunzel and Flynn take shelter in a mine shaft, only to realize that there is no apparent way out and the water is rushing in quickly. Flynn attempts to break out, only to fail and cut his hand in the process. Drowning being the inevitable outcome of the situation. With death knocking, Flynn tells Rapunzel that his name is in fact Eugene - a fact he had hidden from everyone else he had ever known. Rapunzel responds by telling him that she has magic hair that glows when she sings. Flynn is incredulous until Rapunzel realizes that if her hair glows in the dark water, they may be able to find a way out. The incantation sung, her hair begins to glow. Flynn is shocked. Quickly recovering himself, Flynn proceeds to discover an opening in a pile of rock that leads to daylight. The two of them manage to break through the pile just in time and burst out of the mine shaft to safety.
That night, as the two of them sit by a campfire, Rapunzel reveals that her hair does more than just glow. Flynn is perplexed until she wraps her hair around his injured hand and heals him. Flynn is shocked once more. In an attempt to make the mood a little lighter he asks how long her hair has been "doing that." Rapunzel then confides that it's been forever and it seems to be permanent - so long as her hair is not cut. Quickly realizing that Rapunzel has been confined to a tower for eighteen years just so her "mother" could make use of her magic hair, Flynn's attitude towards her changes a great deal. He confides in her regarding his past, quickly reminding her that she cannot tell anyone what he's said for fear of ruining his illusory reputation. As the two of them share a quiet laugh together, Flynn begins to realize that they may both have feelings for each other. A thought he quickly avoids by going to get some more fire wood. Rapunzel stays by the fire, only to be accosted by Mother Gothel.
Lesson 5: The Enemy Feeds Us Lies About Other People
Rapunzel refuses to return to the tower with Gothel, trying to make her see that what she has been doing has been beneficial and the relationship that she has formed with Flynn is a good thing. Gothel responds in a hideous manner. She produces the crown that Flynn stole, telling Rapunzel that if Flynn was "such a dream boat, go ahead and put him to the test." Gothel makes the accusation that as soon as the crown is in Flynn's hand, he would leave Rapunzel high and dry - a statement made more ironic by the fact that Mother Gothel proceeds to leave after saying: "If he's lying, don't come crying." The enemy hates unity, especially unity amongst believers. If the enemy can slip in a lie about another person through one means or another, he will. (James 4:1;11-12) The enemy also knows that healthy relationships amongst believers can put him on thin ice. Perhaps the subtlest way that the enemy works against relationships is by slipping in speculation which breeds accusation. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters: "Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actually words, while at the same time judging all his mother's utterances with the fullest and most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention." A simple question can turn in to a violent insult if one party feels the other has some hidden motive.
Lesson 6: The Enemy Remains Hidden Until We are Vulnerable
The lies that Gothel planted in Rapunzel's mind regarding Flynn remain there even after Gothel disappears. She bides her time, recalling that all good things come to those who wait. While she could have forced Rapunzel to return with her to the tower, she had a far more devious plan in mind. Recruiting two other crooks: the Stabbington Brothers, Gothel draws her plan and sits back to wait for the right moment to put it into action. To be continued…
Rapunzel and Flynn proceed towards the kingdom's heart the following day. What follows next is a beautiful montage of events in which the two of them continue to grow closer to one another as they explore everything that the day and events thereof had to offer. The culmination of the day comes as Flynn and Rapunzel go out in a small boat to await the lighting of the lanterns. It is here that we catch a short glimpse of Rapunzel's parents as they go out to release the first lantern into the night sky - a subject I will revisit. As the lanterns begin to rise from the city square and fill the night sky, Rapunzel is caught in the rapture of the moment - living out the dream she has had since childhood: to see the lanterns in person. Flynn produces two small lanterns that he and Rapunzel send in to the sky scape of light. Rapunzel responds by giving Flynn his satchel which contains the abducted crown. She confesses that she would have given it to him earlier, but she was afraid. Then, one lie looses its grip upon her as she says: "the funny thing is… I'm not scared anymore." As the beauty of the moment wraps its arms around Flynn in Rapunzel in their boat, they both realize that they have come to love the other. As they join hands and tell each other of their love, there is that one moment, once again, where everything is perfect… and then that moment is forced to end. The two criminals that Gothel recruited, the Stabbington Brothers, are watching the couple from the shore that meets the forest. Flynn realizes this, knowing that they have been after the stolen crown, and seeks to rectify the situation. Pulling their small boat on to shore, Flynn takes the satchel containing the crown and tells Rapunzel not to worry, but there is something he needs to do. She nods and agrees but the lies of Mother Gothel are still ringing in her mind. Her fear begins to awaken once more. Flynn meets the Stabbington Brothers and gives them the crown, only to realize that they have learned of Rapunzel's hair and seek to kidnap her instead. The Brothers send an unconscious Flynn floating back towards the city, tied to the wheel of a ship to make it seem as though he is piloting it. The two of them then proceed to find Rapunzel, pointing out Flynn's apparent betrayal and telling her that he swapped the crown for her. All the fear and lies that Mother Gothel had fed into Rapunzel spark in to instant flame and she attempts to run for her life. Almost immediately, her hair catches on a tree and she believes she is caught - until she hears her "mother's" voice from where the Brothers where. Stepping back to the shore, Rapunzel sees Gothel standing above the unconscious Stabbington Brothers. All that Rapunzel has left is the lie that her "mother" has saved her, and she returns with her to the tower.
Lesson 6: Continued
Gothel waited until everything seemed too good to be true for Rapunzel, and then put her plan into action. The Stabbington Brothers, believing that Rapunzel's hair would make them fabulously wealthy, were mere pawns in Gothel's game. Everything played out exactly as she planned: Flynn looked like nothing short of a lying con-artist, and she looked like a heroine. Rapunzel returned to the tower, plagued by shame, confusion, and heartache. Gothel informs Rapunzel that "the world is cold, selfish, and cruel. If it finds even the slightest ray of sunshine… it destroys it." The cunning illusion complete, when it is in fact Gothel who is destroying Rapunzel. Our enemy plays the same game. If he can remain hidden, he will. Until we believe him to be gone for good, and then suddenly he appears again. He will whispers lies to make us believe that freedom can never really be found, and giving in to him is the only way to live. Better to journey than to arrive. But without a destiny, how can one travel with hope?
Side note: Gothel's manipulation of the Stabbington Brothers is common. Spiritual bondage, irrational fear, depression, hidden sin, etc. will almost always prompt the one in bondage to manipulate other people into catering to them, which makes their condition worse. Those of us with hidden sin will often lie to cover up what we're doing, deceiving those around us. Such actions are not intrinsic to us, rather it is sin working through us to manipulate others. (Romans 7:20)
Lesson 7: Don't Live Life Trying to Ignore Your Bondage
The fact is, the story of Tangled could have ended at the scene of the lights. Rapunzel and Flynn had each other, and they could have lived happily ever after. She would never have known that she was in fact a princess, and Gothel would have always been out there trying to find her; but existence would have been possible. She could have simply tried to run away from Gothel for the rest of her life, attempting to live life to the fullest but always knowing that her tormenter was still there. Unfortunately, I feel that many people try to live this way. How many of us have fear in our lives, but we try to conjure up courageous feelings anyway? How many of us are plagued by depression, but we put on a good face for everyone around us? How many of us have voices inside our head, tormenting us with thoughts we don't how to handle and we don't tell anyone? We can certainly make a valiant effort at living a fulfilling life apart from our problems that are still there. Some of us even attain some level of freedom, as Rapunzel did, only to have it taken away from us by a familiar lie that we fall back upon. How many of us try to put our house in order only to have old lies and the enemy come back with reinforcements to take over once more? (Matthew 12:43-45) Freedom can be found, but not by running away.
Back at the tower, Rapunzel is haunted by the heartbreak she has just experienced. Everything from her few moments of freedom has been taken from her. Save for a small piece of cloth with a symbol on it. The symbol of the sun - her father's insignia. Holding that small cloth and looking around the room she begins to notice something; for years she has painted the walls in the tower and everywhere she painted she painted the shape of the sun. Suddenly, everything comes together in her mind and she realizes what has happened. Her father's insignia was what she saw above her cradle, as well as her parent's faces. For years, her longing to see the floating lights was because she knew they were for her - though she didn't know why. For years, her father's symbol was present in her mind, though she did know it as such. Suddenly, she understood her true identity. Rapunzel confronts Gothel, demanding the truth from her. Gothel responds by lying that "everything is as it should be." Rapunzel refuses to believe that lie once more and declares her resolution to be free.
Side note: It's important to realize that it was after Rapunzel realized her true identity that Gothel's lies began to quickly melt away. If a believer truly understands who they are in Christ, the enemy has very few arrows in the quiver to make them doubt the truth.
Flynn Rider has realized what happened to Rapunzel after his altercation with the Stabbington Brothers. Riding to her tower he calls for her to let down her hair so that he may climb it the window. Her hair is thrown down and he makes his way in to the tower - only to see that she has been put in chains. His momentary shock is all the time Gothel needs to drive a knife into his side. Mortally injured, he writhes upon the ground in pain as his chest bleeds out. Gothel brushes off his death with a sadistic comment: "Now look what you've done, Rapunzel." Leaving him to die in the tower, Gothel proceeds to drag Rapunzel towards the staircase that will lead them out. Rapunzel pleads with Gothel to let her heal Flynn, telling her that she will remain with Gothel forever if she will let her heal him. The bargain is struck, but Flynn tells Rapunzel not to do it, but she cannot bear to let him die. As she kneels over his bleeding side, Flynn leans forward and does the unthinkable: he cuts off her magic hair with a piece of broken glass - sacrificing himself to set her free. Rapunzel's shock is quickly matched by Mother Gothel, who realizes that her game is over. The magic power of the hair gone, Gothel's body begins to deteriorate at an exponential pace. As the realization of her death is upon her, Gothel staggers across the floor only to trip and fall out of the tower window. As her scream echoes through the vale her body finally dissolves into the dust - her life being sustained by nothing other than Rapunzel's hair. Her tormentor gone, Rapunzel is suddenly free forever from the tower that held her. But Flynn has given his life so that she may go free. Cradling his head in her arms, Rapunzel sheds her tears of sorrow. One tear lands upon Flynn's face, carrying with it the power of the sun that Rapunzel once had in her hair. The tear heals and resurrects Flynn.
Lesson 8: It Took, and Takes, Death to Be Set Free
Rapunzel could not try to live her life ignoring Gothel, or running away from her. No, it took the removal of the link between them to set her free. We are all born in to a fallen world and inherit the nature of the first Adam. This spiritual death into which we are born maintains its hold upon us until we die - die to sin. It is written: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,”and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,you will be saved. (Romans 10:9) Making Jesus the lord of our life requires that we die to our former selves. (Romans 6:3;8) It is this death that sets us free. (Romans 6:6) We cannot produce this death in ourselves, we need Holy Spirit to do so in us. We are dependent upon God to take us into His death and set us free. Just as Flynn sacrificed himself to set Rapunzel free, Jesus Christ sacrificed himself so that we might be set free. (John 20:31) Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, disarming the devil and defeating death by His resurrection. Also, just as Rapunzel could not bring herself to sever her hair and Flynn had to do so, Jesus Christ must sever the link we have to sin - we cannot do it ourselves. When Jesus severs our link to sin and bondage, we are free, and we always need to remember that who the Son sets free is free indeed. (John 8:36) But unlike the story of Tangled, Jesus did not need us to be resurrected. He only needed the Father.
With Rapunzel and Flynn now knowing who she really is, the two of them return to the city and go to the castle. Rapunzel is reunited with her parents in a touching reunion, and the entire kingdom rejoices for the return of the lost princess. As Flynn said: "She was a princess worth waiting for." It is here that we find the culmination of the most profound lesson in the entire movie.
Lesson 9: Our Father Does Not Give Up on Us
The first couple of times I watched Tangled there was one thing that failed to click with me - the importance of Rapunzel's father. Then suddenly, one day, it clicked. The entire kingdom celebrated when Rapunzel was first born, and all of heaven celebrates when a new child enters the kingdom of God. When Rapunzel was kidnapped, her father did not abandon hope or try to move on with life. No, he sent out his signal to her; wherever she was in the world, he believed and hoped that she would see his lanterns and return home. God is the same. Whenever we wander, turn our back on Him, rebel against His love, or trifle with his long-suffering, He does not abandon hope or move on to the next one. If you remember nothing else from this essay, remember this: your Father will not abandon You. For eighteen years Rapunzel's father sent out his lanterns. Every year his sorrow mounted, every year the situation seemed more bleak, every year there were undoubtedly people in the kingdom who felt that it was a hopeless endeavor. But her father did not think so. For eighteen years he waited for his child to return. Jesus never gives up on us. Even if we have been held captive for our whole lives, He is still there waiting for us. The same arms that He stretched out on the cross He will wrap around us. The question is, will we let him?
The patience of Jesus Christ is in no way more evident than in His imminent return. He is coming back for His bride, even after she has betrayed Him time and time again. He loves us too much to let sin stand between us and Him. He will return and put an end to the injustice. He will return and take His bride. He will cast her iniquity into the depths of the abyss and all heaven and earth shall rejoice at the marriage feast of the Lamb.
Did Nathan Greno and Byron Howard intend to tell the story of the undying love of Christ? That's difficult to say. But I will say this: eternity is written upon the hearts of men, and we all long for the intimacy than can only be found in Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that the story of Tangled resonates with people because there is the truth clearly woven through it. We all long to have our hearts turned towards heaven, and the story of Tangled paints a story with which we all resonate even if we don't understand why. Perhaps the story of Tangled is simply one lantern in the sea of light that God ignites in all of our hearts.