Inside Out & the Redemption of the Heart

"there is a time for Sorrow and a time for Joy..."  Ecclesiastes 3:14

I've always been a Pixar fan, even through the darker years of Planes and Cars 2.  Like some people have a natural 'ear' for music, I've got for good storytelling.  I remember seeing Toy Story when it first came out at a theater in Manhattan, KS that is no longer open anymore.  It was the grandest of grand adventures, and its characters lodged themselves in my heart forever.  Then there was Finding Nemo, which I had to see in the movie theater by myself so as to not lose face with my friends (its not really socially acceptable for a freshmen in college to watch cartoons, right?) and I discovered a story about a father's insatiable pursuit of a lost son (which naturally reminded me of the immortal story of the Prodigal Son).

All that to say I've already watched Pixar's new Inside Out movie twice, and if you haven't seen it yet, prepare your heart to be pushed and pulled in every direction.  Its the story of the emotional adventure of Riley, an 11-year-old whose family goes through a massive life transition as they move from her perfect life in the Midwest to San Francisco.  Inside Out is the story of the emotions Fear, Disgust, Joy, Anger, and Sadness as they go on an adventure to help Riley cope with her new life in San Francisco. 

Aside from the outrageously funny script, and the zany interactions between the Emotions (even giving us brief and hilarious glimpses inside the emotional life of Riley's parents!) there is a sublte, surprising, and disarming profundity to the story that is almost impossible not to identify with.

Perhaps the most emotionally vulnerable part of the movie is where, in the control room of Riley's mind, the Emotions are responsible for how Riley processes the little colored memory balls she accumulates.  Every once in a great while, Riley will go through something so profound which will create a "core memory" which then goes on to power an entire sphere of Riley's personality.  Out in the grey matter of Riley's mind there is Goofy Land, Family Land, Honest Island, etc.  Yet through a series of events, namely a fight between Joy and Sadness, some of Riley's core happy memories threaten to be lost forever.  Joy and Sadness, with the eventual help of Riley's imaginary friend from childhood named Bing Bong (an elephant that squeals like a dolphin and cries candy) go on an adventure through the visible and allegorical inner world of Riley. 

The Bible has much to say about the emotions.  Jesus taught that everything about us comes from the heart.  Proverbs reminds us to "watch over our hearts with all diligence, for from it flows the well of life."  The heart is the center of who we are, in biblical terms, and while it is not limited to the emotions, it certainly includes them.  Joy, the main emotion in Riley's mind, would love the words of Paul, in Philippians 4, reminds Christians they are to "rejoice always."  Jesus would probably affirm Anger, the small grumpy red emotion, that it was okay to be angry at times, but not to let the "sun go down on your anger."  Disgust,  the emotion that teaches Riley how to interact with people (and how to dress so that she can make friends) would be glad to know that even God experiences disgust.  Jesus told a group of people in the book of Revelation that he would spit them out of his mouth if they continued to live lukewarm lives. Finally, Fear would wear proudly as a badge Proverbs 9:10: "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

We don't know much about the inner emotional world of Jesus, but I'd imagine, in addition to the emotions about which all humans deal with from time to time, that He would have one more emotion.  There is one word that is used of Jesus' emotions more than any other word...its the word Compassion.  This is Sadness's great contribution by the end of the film ... you cannot have compassion on hurting people until you are first sad with them and for them.  While Jesus was a man of great joy, he was a man of sorrows who wept for his people and who was emotionally affected by the sorrows of others on a deep, gutteral level.  He had the perfect balance of righteous Anger which turned over money tables in the temple courts and rasied Lazarus from the dead (in the MSG translation "he was deeply troubled" = "a deep anger welled up within him") and scandalous grace that flowed from the compassion of Sadness for his people.  In every way he had the same emotions as we do but he mastered them and submitted them in perfect balance to His Father's will. 

The closer we get to Jesus, the more strengthened we are on the inside (Eph. 3:16), the more we're able to manage the sometimes confusing and troubling emotions we deal with because the Spirit of Him who struggled with every emotion we struggled with and mastered them is alive within those who have allowed him to take the controls.

And even if your core memories are filled with sorrow and the parts of your personality have crumbled, Jesus shows up offering redemption that can turn even the darkest memories into powerhouses of grace, producing a life lived directly from the heart ... a life lived from the inside out.