This week we had a rare family trip to the cinema to see Disney’s new version of The Little Mermaid. Our daughters are both adults now, but back in 1990, one of them got the previous version of The Little Mermaid - Disney’s cartoon adaptation on VHS tape.
It was played over and over almost daily until we all knew the script and most of the song lyrics. The girls wanted to be like Ariel.
Even back then, as I watched it with them, I was deeply moved at certain points in the story.
The original story - The Little Mermaid (Danish: Den lille havfrue) is a much darker fairy tale, written by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, first published in 1837 as part of a collection of fairy tales for children.
As usual, Disney studios lightens up a much darker story in order to sell the story to modern kids and their parents.
Absent or dead parents are a common feature of Disney films and, sure enough, Ariel’s mother has died before the story even starts.
Ever since Bambi’s mum got shot in 1942, it has been extremely dangerous to be in the role of a parent in a Disney movie.
But it wasn’t the absent parent that moved me in The Little Mermaid, it was something much closer to home.
Sitting in the darkness of the cinema this week, I was enjoying watching the film with the girls, but also slightly analysing why I find the story so moving.
Ariel is told she can’t do things. The things she is passionate about, and exploring her own place in the world, are constantly trampled on and denied. She doesn’t fit in and she’s made to feel bad for being a bit different.
But she knows there’s another world with a potentially better life, a place where she could fit in better, and perhaps find her purpose in life, and maybe even make the world a better place.
But those around her want her to stop chasing her dreams and just fit in. This crushes her spirit and robs her of life.
But she decides to pursue her dreams and test her capabilities in the face of stiff opposition and with little support.
I’m moved by the story because the negative voices of my past told me I couldn’t do certain things too. I was so frustrated with people telling me I couldn’t do certain things that it made me determined to do them.
Even in my teenage years, someone told me I’d never own a car or a house because I left school without any qualifications.
So I bought a car and a house.
Someone told me I could never work in full time ministry in the church.
So I did.
For 35 years.
Someone told me I couldn’t create an International Charity that helps the poor.
So I did - providing over 228,000 meals for street children over 11 years.
Someone told me I couldn’t build a primary school in Rwanda.
So I did. It became one of the top performing schools in the nation.
Someone told me I couldn’t build an orphanage for 16 orphans.
So I did.
Someone told me I couldn’t run a child sponsorship scheme in Africa.
So I did - providing education for over 400 children, in 3 countries for over 20 years.
Someone told me I couldn’t write and publish a book.
So I wrote and published 27 books.
You get the picture.
So on Thursday, when the mermaid’s tears of frustration fell, I shed a tear too.
And everything in me was willing her to press on, in spite of the overwhelming opposition, because you can do it, if you believe you can.
‘Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin' free, wish I could be
Part of that world.’
If you have faith like the little mermaid, you can achieve your dreams. And it’s not always about marrying a Prince. It’s whatever you see in your vision.
Today is the day to channel your inner mermaid, and make the road by walking, walking out of your past and into your future.