On a recent trip back home, I had the opportunity to catch Kung Fu Panda 3, ahead of its release in New Zealand. It was an opportunity that my husband TJ and I just couldn’t pass up. We’d loved the heart and the hilarious comedy of Kung Fu Panda and its sequel, and had been waiting in eager anticipation for what seemed like ages for this latest instalment.
TJ and I were brimming with excitement as we made our way to our favourite haunt, bought the tickets and snacks, settled into our seats with the 3-D glasses, and got ready for a great show.
And it was. The 3-D effects were mind-blowing, with the action sequences almost literally coming out of the screen. The madcap humour and all our favourite characters were back, yes, even some whom we’d been missing. The plot was audacious, the challenge for Po nigh impossible, and the ending – well, as you can probably imagine.
But there remained a niggling question as we walked out of the theatre: “How did – that – happen?”
And because we must invariably reveal some plot details as we proceed further, *SPOILER ALERT* for all who read on.
Granted, I was slightly disappointed with the movie. It wasn’t the logic gaps in the time lapse between when the good guys and the bad guy reached Po, or in the uncanny ability for characters to suddenly all get to certain locations, the first 2 movies had these too. It might have been the drop in pacing and development of the story and characters. But what I really struggled to make sense of was how “easy” it seemed for Po to achieve mastery of what had seemed impossible to him just moments before, and shortly after win the fight and save the day.
Yes. I’m referring to the part where Po narrowly escapes being turned into yet another green amulet collectible of the bad guy through the combined efforts of his friends and family in the realm of the living. All of them are suddenly able to channel qi, or life force or vital energy, when none of them could just before, and each of their qi was transferred to Po in the realm of the spirits, saving him. It also turns him into a master of qi all of a sudden, enabling him to defeat the bad guy and return to the realm of the living.
Wow. Sounds really unbelievable. And just a little bit preposterous. I carried this baffling conundrum all the way with me into the Easter service at church the next day. There was a special item that explored the question of self and “Who am I?”, a question that has been contemplated by theologians, philosophers, and ordinary people all over, down through the ages.
Something clicked; I started paying closer attention. This was the same question at the centre of Kung Fu Panda 3! The movie was a journey of self-discovery for Po and the others, where it was never about trying to make themselves into someone else, but about discovering the truth about who they really were, and excelling in that truth.
And as I pondered and watched the special item, somewhere between the collapse of self and the beautiful lyrics of that Resurrection Sunday song Hope of Glory, I saw the light that cracked open the movie for me.
Every one of us is, to one extent or another, on a path of self-discovery. As we grow up and go through life, we find out things about ourselves, about what we like or don’t like, what we’re good at and not so good at, and most of all, about what we’re like. Most of what we find out about ourselves can often be disappointing. We try harder; but the harder we try, the more disappointed we become.
But when we let Jesus into our life, and we get a revelation of our true identity in Christ today, that revelation is so powerful, its effects cascade into all other areas of our life: it can heal our bodies, break the chains of wrong thinking and beliefs that have kept us limited, and give us victory over sin, addiction, and destructive behaviours. Figuratively, it can transform us from a totally untrained novice of qi to a master of masters, and lead us to defeat even the most powerful of enemies, as well as return to life.
This revelation may come through things we’ve known deep within ourselves all along, or things we’ve heard through anointed messages, or things people have told us about having Jesus in us. At the point of revelation, all these things suddenly come together and make sense as a whole picture of truth, not unlike what happened with Po and the individual parts imprinted on him by his family and friends coming together to free him as a whole.
And at that moment we come to realise: Who we are is not who we were. Our mistakes and messes of the past, our challenges of the present, and our fears of the future don’t need to define us today. When we are in Christ, it is Jesus and His life that defines us today. His righteousness is our righteousness. His health is our health. His wisdom is our wisdom. His favour is our favour. His holiness and perfection is our holiness and perfection. His position is our position. His abundance is our abundance.
Do you know what else I found out? The earliest written character for qi consisted of 3 wavy horizontal lines, as seen in Shang dynasty (c.1600-1046 BC) oracle bone script (source: Wikipedia). That speaks to me simply of how God made us, with 3 parts: spirit, soul, and body. Just like God Himself is 3 persons in One: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A coincidence? Not likely. God made us in His image.
While man today can try to control and channel his spirit energy to hasten healing and increase strength momentarily, it is only when our spirit is joined with the Holy Spirit – God’s own Spirit – in Christ, that we enter into life – real Life that quickens our mortal bodies, Life that will never perish. And that’s something we can all get excited about.
Now, I should add a disclaimer that this probably wasn’t the message that the movie producers were trying to convey, and perhaps also an apology to all who are still aghast that I was having Kung Fu Panda 3 on my mind whilst at an Easter service in church.
But I believe that God has no issues with us enjoying a good movie, and that He can still give us revelations of Himself out of worldly entertainment.
Because when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.