There is no other you. Have you ever let that truth sink in? You reveal a beam of God’s glory that no one else who ever lived or ever will live reveals. You are indispensable to God’s plan for the universe. You cannot be replaced. You cannot be repeated.
A renewed sense of awe regarding the uniqueness of each human person was my takeaway from the privilege I had last week of sitting in on Dr. Pete Colosi’s class on the philosophy of Saint John Paul II. It’s one of eight courses that the Theology of the Body Institute offers as part of its certification program.
Here’s how I wrote about these universal truths in my book Fill These Hearts:
Don’t we long to be loved as we are, for who we really are, and not just for that which may “please” someone else? Don’t we know deep in our hearts that we are never meant to be compared to another, measured by another, or replaced by someone else? Don’t we long deep in our hearts to be loved in such a way that we are honored and recognized as indispensable, irreplaceable, and unrepeatable? And doesn’t it pain our hearts grievously when others treat us merely as objects that can be disposed of and replaced, when others toy with us?
These universal “truths of the heart” were portrayed with remarkable and surprising insight in, of all films, Toy Story 3. Little Andy from the previous films isn’t so little anymore. In fact, he’s headed off to college and he hasn’t played with his toys for years. When the toys steal Andy’s cell phone to get their old friend just to open the toy chest so they can be seen, you can feel their yearning for love. Andy lifts Rex the dinosaur (voiced again by the “in-con-scchhievable” Wallace Shawn) in order to retrieve his phone and, once the coast is clear, Rex exclaims with unbridled elation: “He touched me! He touched me!” There it is – the cry of the heart to be loved, to be touched … God bless him! Rex was starved for affection (listen to me, I think these characters are real people … well, because in a sense they are: they’re images of us). I knew then this movie had more to offer than mere entertainment.
New to the series is Lotso the bear, the self-appointed tyrant leader of all the toys at Sunnyside Daycare. In the course of the movie, we learn the tragic backstory. Lotso had Daisy’s most beloved toy. But then she lost him, and her parents got her another bear just like him. When Lotso found out he had been replaced, he “snapped,” becoming a “monster inside.”
Part of Lotso’s revenge for having been cast off and replaced is that – if he can’t be loved, he won’t let anybody else be loved either; if he’s replaceable, then everybody else is too. At one point Lotso confronts Andy’s favorite toy, Woody: “You think you’re special, Cowboy? You’re a piece of plastic. You were made to be thrown away.” And then when the Ken doll is afraid he’s going to lose Barbie, Lotso says: “She’s a Barbie doll, Ken. There’s a hundred million just like her!” Ken insists: “Not to me there’s not” – and Barbie sighs knowing that Ken loves her; knowing that Ken sees her as unrepeatable, irreplaceable.
In the story, these toys aren’t toys at all. They feel what we feel; they desire what we desire: love. That’s why they’re so relatable. The whole theme of Toy Story 3 is that being replaced and “thrown away” is the opposite of love. We all know that in our hearts, but sometimes we’re acting out our own “revenge” on others for past hurts, like Lotso. When Lotso seems to be having his way and Woody and his pals are doomed for the incinerator, salvation arrives “from above.” In the end, Lotso pays the price for his madness, while love triumphs in the lives of the other toys. Deep stuff for a “kid’s movie.”
Image: Toy Story 3/Pixar/Disney.
For such a time as this have we been given Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. By taking us beyond the alternatives of prudish repression and damaging indulgence, the Theology of the Body opens the path to the redemption of sexuality and the real healing of our wounds. Learn more by watching my short film, The Cry of the Heart. Watch the trailer below.