This is day 12 of 31 Days of Songs and Stories. For an index of all the posts in the series, click here.
Until now all of the posts in this series have related to Christian music, but I believe God can use all kinds of music to speak to us, so this post is a little different…
A few years ago, I attended a seminar where the speaker talked about the orphan spirit- about how although as Christians we are God’s children, adopted into his family, often we don’t relate to him in that way but instead relate to him as orphans. I left with a lot to reflect on, but as I travelled home I felt God telling me the strangest thing- to watch the movie “Annie”.
It was one of my favourite films when I was a child. I watched it repeatedly, and sang along and wished I was in it, but I hadn’t watched it for a long time. I decided to watch it and I was amazed by what I discovered, so here are some notes I made: (contains spoilers)
The orphans in the movie are all longing for something more. They know their life is not how it should be and they long to have a mother and father of their own. Annie is open about her longings; most of the others try to cover them up, but these feelings are there in all of them. Similarly, whether we admit it or not, we were created for relationship with God, and our hearts are longing for him.
Being an orphan is lonely. “No-one’s there when your dreams at night get creepy, no-one cares if you grow or if you shrink, no-one dries when your eyes get wet and weepy.” “No-one cares for you a smidge, when you’re in an orphanage.” The orphans in the movie have had to become tough. They have to fight their own battles. No-one is going to fight for them- they have to look out for themselves. Authority is seen as bad and not to be trusted (because that is their experience with Miss Hannigan). Without God, we will feel like we are alone- we have to look out for ourselves and we have to defend ourselves. Life becomes all about self-preservation.
Annie hates the orphanage and tries to escape. She is caught, brought back to Miss Hannigan and locked in the paddle closet to await her punishment. But the sinner is saved by grace- Grace Farrell, assistant to the billionnaire Oliver Warbucks! (I wonder if the character was given this name deliberately?) There is no reason why Grace should choose to rescue Annie and take her to Warbucks’ mansion, but she does. We are also deserving of punishment but saved by God’s grace.
From living in an orphanage, Annie is transported to the lap of luxury, but it’s a hard transition to make. When one of Mr Warbucks’ servants asks, “Can I take your sweater, miss?” she warily responds, “Will I get it back?” When she’s asked what she wants to do first, she automatically assumes she has to work and replies, “The windows, then the floors- that way if I drip…” In the same way it can be hard for us to get our heads round the fact that we don’t have to work to earn God’s love. We can never earn it, we will never deserve it and he doesn’t even want us to try. He wants us to accept it as a gift of grace.
After getting to know Annie, Warbucks makes the decision to adopt her. This powerful, wealthy man has everything, apart from someone to share it with. When he first approaches her about this she doesn’t expect it at all- “You want to send me back, right?” She can’t see a reason why he would want her, but he has come to care for her very deeply. Our past experiences can make us struggle with the fact that God loves us and he actually wants to adopt us into his family as his children. It is not something he does grudgingly or out of a sense of obligation; it actually brings him pleasure. (Ephesians 1:5)
Initially Annie refuses the offer of adoption as she believes her birth parents are still alive and will return for her one day. Warbucks shows a true fatherly, unselfish love in seeking Annie’s happiness at his own personal cost. He puts aside his own feelings and throws all his resources into the search for Annie’s parents, even offering a $50,000 reward. God’s love for us is even more unselfish, unconditional and costly.
However, after interviewing several couples they are all found to be impostors. Annie’s parents haven’t been found. She expresses her disappointment to Warbucks- “I didn’t want to be just another orphan. I wanted to be special.” He replies, “You are special. Never stop believing that.” When circumstances go against you and people let you down, it’s easy to base our sense of worth on that, but our true worth comes from how the Father sees us.
Eventually Annie is kidnapped, and here Warbucks shows the depth of his love for her. Nothing is too much to save her and bring her back. All this is before she has accepted him as her father- but his love is unconditional. His only concern is saving her life. We have a God who went to great lengths to save us before we ever responded to his love and accepted him.
Finally Annie is saved, she’s returned to Warbucks’ mansion, the adoption goes ahead and they all live happily ever after. “Together at last, together for ever.” This is how our story ends too- evil is overcome and we can live happily ever after in the Father’s house.
Of course “Annie” isn’t a perfect allegory of the Gospel, nor was it intended to be, but I was surprised by how many links there were, and God certainly used it to speak to me. Go, watch it (you know you want to!) and be blessed.