“The world needs you now, not when you are perfect!” – from the Facebook Wall of Hasina Ifra, my Friend and virtual spiritual guide that I’ve never met who lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. Thank you for inspiring this blog post!
One of my favorite forms of preaching or spiritual discourse is cinematic theology, the critical study of films employing theological insights from faith traditions. A former pastor of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church’s Shrine of the Black Madonna #9 in Atlanta, Cardinal Sondai Nyerere, would often utilize this method is his sermons to expertly and powerfully drive home a message to the congregation (we still miss you, “Son of Thunder”). Given that movies are a dominant art form of our times, it makes perfect sense to me that insightful and relevant preachers would draw upon the life inspiration and moral lessons often embedded within quality films for ministry. Experiencing a good picture show can be an authentic spiritual experience, reminding us of eternal truths and uplifting our souls.
As a father of young children, one of my favorite (practically required) viewings is The Lion King animated movie. Among other themes, a key message in this saga is about learning from the past and finding one’s place in life (I will proceed here with the assumption that you have seen the film). After Mufasa speaks to Simba from the ancestral realm, Rafiki teaches Simba that “the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you either run from it or learn from it” and Simba realizes that he must take his rightful place as king of the Pridelands. Doing so involved a dangerous and painful journey, but in the end Simba ultimately had to “remember” who he was. Once he does, Rafiki utters the poignant acknowledgement as the former prince but now king ascends to his place of destiny, “It is time”.
With the dawning of a new year upon us, I believe this is a useful reminder to ponder. While the narrative above relates a certain linear process of individual development and growth, in a broader sense it is always “time” for us to become who we really are. The Lion King story takes place in a fictional kingdom of anthropomorphic animals in Africa but many of us are Simbas in human life, often ashamed and traumatized by our past thus avoiding being true to ourselves and our purpose. I can testify to having this experience, with many regrets in my life often leading me into places of self-exile and shame similar to Simba’s estrangement from Pride Rock (his rightful home). But every year I practice building the courage and do the inner work to reclaim my inheritance as a child of God, not only for myself but also for what the world needs from me.
Years ago, I chose a particular text to help me navigate my own journey of evolution and personal transformation. Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design by Laurence G. Boldt is a life-changing book first published in 1991 that helped revolutionize the career planning field by offering a new vision of work. For me though, this work has been much more than assistance with choosing the best way to make a living. Through my diligent and intentional application of the both ancient and contemporary truths within, it has become a personal scripture of sorts for me and release from a veil of ignorance about who I was as a human being. It has helped me “remember”. So at the end of each year and in preparation for the next, I have developed my own tradition of making use of the typical holiday downtime to turn inward for spiritual regeneration by rereading the text, but most importantly updating the enclosed written exercises I completed previously to determine what has changed and what has remained true for me since the last year. This has become a powerful method for me to observe my own growth as a man and self-correct or improve in a very methodical way. I highly recommend it for anyone wishing to be their best self.
Getting to consciously know or reconnecting with your life purpose is far more meaningful than making a traditional New Year’s resolution. While pledges to lose weight or stop smoking may go by the wayside come February 1st, a deep experience of the bliss involved with realizing your reason for being alive will not easily leave you. Certainly, we should clean out our closets or improve our diets and such. However, there is no substitute for the inner work of self-actualization. Like Simba, our true destiny is awaiting all of us should we only find the courage or will to move beyond our past and claim it. You healer, you teacher, you farmer, you preacher. You father, you mother, you friend, you leader. It is time!
– Mwalimu Kwabena Osei Nkromo, Chief Evangelist and CEO of the House of Amen Southern Region.