Can Anyone Be Anything?

This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday– write for five minutes on a one word prompt.
The prompt today is “define.”
Also linking with Fresh Market Friday and Grace and Truth.

Can anyone be anything

image by DaPuglet, adapted under CC BY-SA 2.0

This is a bit different from my normal posts.  It has been brewing inside me for a while and the Five Minute Friday prompt finally caused it to bubble out.  I took a bit longer than five minutes but, even so, I am only scratching the surface of a complex topic.  Some people may disagree, and that is fine, but let’s show respect to one another.

Who or what defines you?

Who has the right to say who you are or what you can be?

These are important questions that we all have to face.

I work a lot with children and teenagers, and lately I’ve been getting more and more concerned about the answers society is presenting to that question.

It began when I watched the movie Zootropolis (known as Zootopia in some countries) and I actually became quite disturbed about the message it was presenting (and I am mostly a Disney fan.)

The movie tells the story of a rabbit called Judy Hopps, who dreams of being a police officer.  Zootropolis prides itself on being a forward-thinking society where predators and prey can co-exist and animals are not bound by stereotypes from the past that dictate who they are or what they can be.

Even so, the idea of a bunny cop is unprecedented and Judy works hard and fights against prejudice to achieve her goal.

So far, so good.  I’m all for breaking free of stereotypes, following your dreams and refusing to be defined by others’ opinions.

But then what does define you?  Where I struggle with Zootropolis is with the philosophy it presents that “Anyone can be anything.”

It sounds appealing, but really?  Anyone can be anything?

It’s just not true.  I can’t be anything I want to be.  I can’t be an Olympic gymnast or a nuclear physicist or Miss America no matter how much I might want to be.  (Fortunately I have no desire to be any of these things.)

In Zootropolis, we see Finnick the fox, dressed in an elephant costume.  He is in disguise as part of a scam he is pulling off along with Nick Wilde, and to explain his costume to Judy, he says, “When I grow up, I want to be an elephant.”

What bothers me is Judy’s response: “You want to be an elephant when you grow up?  You be an elephant, because this is Zootropolis.  Anyone can be anything.”

The message is hammered home throughout the film.  You define yourself.  You can be who you want to be.  And understandably it’s a popular message, but it’s just not true.  A fox can’t be an elephant.

The reality as I see it is, if God is our Creator, God defines us.  He created us as we are and yes, we have certain limitations.  We can’t choose our genetic makeup, or the family we are born into, or our strengths and weaknesses, or our race, or our height, or, dare I say it, our gender.*

Psalm 139:13 says “You made all the delicate inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.”  If God has created us and made us who we are with our particular combination of attributes and talents and quirks, surely we need to accept that.

Surely true freedom is not found in fighting against who God made us to be in order to define ourselves, but in embracing who God made us to be and living out that identity to the full.

To my mind a society where “anyone can be anything” is not so much a vision of paradise as something scarily similar to the refrain throughout the book of Judges, when Israel was really not a happy place to be: “In those days, Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”  (Judges 21:25 NLT)

*This does not discount gender dysphoria, which I believe is a real issue for some people, and which needs to be handled with compassion and sensitivity.  I found the book “Transgender” by Vaughan Roberts helpful in gaining more understanding of this topic.
(Check it out here: UK, US)
.

 Crystal Twaddell      Grace & Truth : A Weekly Christian Link Up

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14 thoughts on “Can Anyone Be Anything?

  1. So much wisdom in this post, Lesley, thank you for being brave and tackling the truth of only finding who we are in how our Creator sees us, made us… He opens doors, we don’t. He places calls on us, we don’t. I find my identity purely in Him alone 🙂 Hugs and blessings to you sweet friend! #46 on the linkup today at Kate’s!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is really good, Lesley. I agree that we need to understand the very real limitations of our humanity. We are not God and can’t take His place … even in our own lives! And we have the model of Jesus, who accepted the limitations of being a human being and “didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped” as Philippians 2 puts it.

    The transgender issue is a very real and important one in our society. I think as Christians we need to take the route of love and acceptance and trust God to work whatever change He wants to in people’s lives — including our own. We are all works in progress.

    Thanks so much for writing about this; I really appreciate your perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jeannie. Jesus set a great example in accepting the limitations of being human and not clinging to his rights or his own will.
      I think love and acceptance and remembering we are all works in progress are really important. Balancing grace and truth is not easy and we need both, but Jesus said his disciples should be defined by their love.
      Thanks for adding to the conversation!

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  3. I was thinking about how easy it is to fall in the trap of doing what is right in my own eyes. Instead of looking to God and His word and doing what He says. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart in this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Yes, it is easy to fall into that, especially as that’s what the culture around us would say- that we should make our own choices and define ourselves. I think that’s good up to a point but ultimately God is in charge and we have to let him define us.

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  4. Im glad you added the disclaimer at the end. I have many friends who are transgender. I love them as they are. I’ll have to check out that book you mentioned. Thanks for sharing that! I’m over in the 55 spot this week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe we should love and accept everyone as they are and I can’t imagine how hard it must be for people genuinely experiencing gender dysphoria.
      I’m concerned though about children being told they have a choice about gender in the same way they can choose what job to do or what clothes to wear. Personally I don’t believe that is true and I have heard too many stories of children as young as 4, who have never questioned their gender, being confused by being told it is something they can choose.

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  5. Knowing what God has for us makes all that comes my way a challenge but a good one. The challenge is to see God in it and find out what He wants to teach me. This gender issue is one we will face more often. My olderst grand daughter is a freshman and one of her floors is for the girls who are not sure what they are, they want to be called “we”. The last days are fastly approaching.

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  6. Hi Lesley! I think if anyone heard that adage, ‘you can be anything you want’, we’d probably agree with that. Why put iron bars around your future? But as you pointed out, it can be taken too far, and pump up hopes of those who might not really be able to reach their dreams.
    I think of the talent shows that feature people with phenomenal talents, and then also there are the people who sing, but oh boy, it’s terrible. We all have our place, we all have our plan in the Lord. May we find what God is calling us to be, and to be that as powerfully as we are able.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree, Ceil. I hate watching those talent shows where people can’t sing but have been told by their friends and family that they are amazing and come to really believe it. It’s sad that they put so much into chasing a dream that they will never be able to achieve when there will be other things they can do really well. It’s hard sometimes because we can compare ourselves to others and want to do the things they do but God has made each of us unique with our own set of gifts and our own place to fit in.

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