A blog by Josh Humbert
What can we learn from the 90’s? Are there real lessons for us from a time that gave us “The Macarena“, Steve Urkel, and Jerry Springer? I contend there is wisdom to be gained, if only we look in the right places. This series will dive into the culture of a decade that changed so much.
This may be the one time in my life and writing career where I will use these words with confidence and sincerity: maybe the youtube comments say it better than I can.
I want to discuss one scene from Toy Story 2. It’s Pixar doing what Pixar does. It’s the ballad. It’s where all the “feels” flood over you. It’s the “When She Loved Me” song. And maybe…just maybe…the youtube people say it best.
Jessie the Cowgirl is remembering what is what like when her human, Emily, enjoyed playing with her. What follows is essentially a genuine song of lament, right in the middle of a children’s animated movie. It’s a heart-breaking song that truly caught me off-guard the first time I saw it.
Here is “When She Loved Me”:
Now, Here’s how youtube commenters describe their reaction to the song:
Here’s my personal favorite….
That about sums it up properly, doesn’t it? Sarah McLachlan has crafted an exquisite yet painful song of reflection on a love lost. It is a poignant and perfect scene in a film that childhood nostalgia seriously.
So, where is the wisdom here? Perhaps we must go from pixels and toys to a farmer and crops…
In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus tells the fascinating but bone-chilling story of a “rich man” who had a great season of harvest. The story is meant to display how covetousness (the desire for more, more, more!) lurks inside all of us. The story is also a clear lesson on the results of covetousness.
The rich farmer has land that “was very productive.” It is when he begins to think of what to do with his surplus that we see the ugliness of covetousness AND the outcome of it as well.
He only “thinks to himself,” and he only thinks about himself. No one else factors in to his decision-making. Not family or friends. Not even God. It is solely him and “his crops” and his “barns.” Ultimately, the farmer decides to tear down his old barns, build new ones to store all his excess, and then “take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”
Coveting has completely isolated him from God and any other people who matter. It has made him concerned with years instead of eternity. It has given him the devastating illusion of momentary satisfaction. It results in forgetfulness of what truly matters. Coveting has made him forget God, the scope of eternity, and others.
Then, in one of the most gripping and haunting verses in all of the Bible, God BURSTS into the picture and says to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?”
God calls the man a fool. Or, more precisely, a fool! There is no more worse eulogy that a man can have hit his ears than to hear God Himself say that he is a fool. There can be niceties spoken by men and women at a funeral for you…but if God says, “you fool!” then oh!! how you have wasted your life.
A fool is, by definition, one who isn’t wise. A fool shuns wisdom. He runs from it. So it was with this rich man.
Alas, if only he had the chance to see Toy Story 2 and the wisdom we can gain from this 90’s film.
The wisdom of “When She Loved Me” is staring you right in the face at this very moment. Do you see it yet? It’s so clear in the lyrics of the song, but you don’t even have to dig that far. The wisdom of the song is right THERE…in the title. When she loved me.
The song is about one-way-love. Jessie, the toy, is recalling when Emily, the human loved her. The song is all about the enjoyment Jessie had when Emily played with her. It’s Jessie reflecting on the joy of mattering so much to Emily. But, you will note…Jessie does not return that same love.
It’s when SHE loved ME.
Here is where we leave foolishness and walk in wisdom: our “toys” do not love us back.
For the rich man it was his crop, his barns, his excess, his eating, his drinking, his life of relaxing. He LOVED those things…but NONE of those “toys” can or will ever love him back.
What do you covet? What are you striving so hard for? Can it love you back?
You can love being known and celebrated on social media, but “likes” and “shares” do not love you back. You can love acquiring money, but green paper does not love you back. You can love your grade point average or your job title, or having power, or great success, or fame, or experiences…but your toys don’t love you back.
In fact, they CAN’T love you back.
You may love them, you may give up GOOD things to go get those toys, you may bleed and sweat and sacrifice for your toys…but the song title never will change.
It’s when SHE loved ME.
Coveting is the life-wasting, misery-inducing sickness and we need a remedy. Perhaps the remedy has been staring at us this whole time too….
We see from Luke 12 (and numerous other passages) that coveting makes us forgetful of what truly matters: God, eternity, and others. So we end up wasting our lives in a FOOLISH pursuit of toys that will not and cannot love us back.
How can we fight this fire of forgetful foolishness that so easily burns in our hearts? As the old saying goes: fight fire with fire. Fight the deadly fire of coveting-forgetfulness with a BETTER form of forgetfulness. That is, we seek to have Gospel-forgetfulness in our hearts.
Let me tighten that up for you: you need to let some toys down. You need to leave some toys sad, lonely, and FORGOTTEN. If some of your stuff ends up singing “When somebody loved me, everything was beautiful…” then that is the sign of Godly wisdom taking hold!
Of course, not every single possession you own or want is a “toy” that you must forget. Through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, God will help you see what needs to be addressed. But there are most certainly some things we need to let down.
Your toys need to have a story of you forgetting them.
How does that happen? With more effort on your part? More grit-your-teeth discipline? With you “trying harder”? No, for those will never last.
Our remedy goes much deeper. Call it Gospel-forgetfulness because that is what brings true change and real joy. Forget the toys that don’t love you back and waste your life in foolishness BY remembering the Savior who loves you unconditionally and who brings purpose to every moment.
For in Jesus, we have a Savior who left and “forgot” all the glories and riches He had in heaven to come down and experience pain and suffering with us and for us.
Jesus Christ is the One who bled, and sweat, and sacrificed Himself for you. Jesus Christ is the One who was willing to look like a fool in the eyes of the world by going to a Cross to set you free from the hell that you deserve. Jesus Christ is the One who wants to you have treasures that will last for all eternity. Jesus Christ is the One who truly loves you back with the greatest love you can ever find.
Forget the toys by remembering Christ. Embracing this will allow you to defeat covetousness AND to become a person who is joyfully generous with your time, money, and resources. Instead of always looking for what you can take, you become a person who is thrilled to GIVE. That’s how you go from foolish-for-the-things-of-the-world to fervently walking in eternal purpose and true joy. That’s how you rewrite your eulogy with God.
May it be that the moment after you take your last breath on this earth, you get to hear God Himself declare THIS as the eulogy to your life: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master!”
Thanks for reading. Your comments and insights are always welcomed. If you enjoyed this, please share it. Want more content? Check the archives or listen to me on the Cross-Cutting Culture Podcast on iTunes.
Want more “Wisdom of the 90’s? Dive in here:
The Proclaimers “I Would Walk 500 Miles”
Goo Goo Dolls “Name”
The great Chris Farley.