Once upon a time, I chaperoned a youth conference in which the main speaker delivered a message which I will never forget. After all, it’s hard to block the image of a grown man singing Disney music.
Look at this stuff. Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl—the girl who has everything? Look at this trove. Treasures untold. How many wonders can one cavern hold? Looking around here you’d think, “Sure. She’s got everything.” I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty. I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore. You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty! But who cares? No big deal. I want more…
The whole room burst into laughter at his outburst. It was the perfect opening to a message about entitlement and the self-centered culture teens are living in today.
But you know what? I think the guy missed the mark when it came down to what was really taking place in Ariel’s heart.
Because it wasn’t more stuff she wanted.
What the entire song boils down to is that the trinkets weren’t enough to satisfy the true desires of her heart. The entirety of the ocean couldn’t fulfill the hungry depths of her soul. She wanted something more than what the sea had to offer.
Throughout my life, I’ve heard a lot of people use the story of the little mermaid as an example of what not to do. I’ll admit it’s pretty easy to take Ariel’s story and preach contentment. After all, the seaweed is not always greener in someone else’s lake. And, honestly, it’s a bad idea to sacrifice everything in hopes of winning a guy’s affection.
And yet, in order to use the story for that sort of sermon, you have to take the side of the antagonist. Which means you’ve missed the heart of the story entirely.
Hans Christian Andersen, author of the original fairytale, was known for writing stories of great spiritual meaning. So what if Ariel’s longing for the human world represents something deeper than childish discontent? What if the kingdom beyond the ocean waves was really worth sacrificing everything for?
Consider this quote by C.S. Lewis: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Ariel was made for another world. Deep in her heart, she knew that. It’s why she was so obsessed with gathering remnants of the human world. But eventually her broken trinkets weren’t enough.
I find myself identifying with her in this. The world doesn’t satisfy me in the ways I most long to be satisfied. When I look around at the things I’ve collected, I think, “Who cares? No big deal. I want more.”
I long for a world that lies beyond the surface of this place I call home. A world that holds all the magical things of which I can only dream.
Up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun… wandering free. Wish I could be part of that world.
by Steven James
This world, stunning though it is,
doesn’t satisfy the part of me
that’s the most hungry…
I have a nagging thirst for more
than this world can provide.