“Love can thaw a frozen heart.”
That is the mantra of Disney’s newest film, Frozen, which is awesome and you should totally see it. This post contains spoilers, so if you don’t want that, then you probably shouldn’t read it.
Quick synopsis: The world of Frozen is one filled with magic, which (according to trolls) can be either a blessing or a curse. Elsa is a princess who has magic powers over all things cold, with the ability to create a peaceful snow-fall in the great hall or freeze fountains on a whim. This is an endless source of joy for her and her younger sister Anna… until she accidentally zaps Anna in the head, briefly killing her. In healing Anna, the elder troll removes all memory of magic, warning them that though the head is easy to repair, the heart is much more difficult.
There are no more impromptu snow-falls, no more indoor ice skating. The castle is closed, the gates are shut, and Elsa withdraws, keeping her powers a secret and fearing to use them even as they grow out of control. Immediately following her coronation, she snaps, (accidentally) sending the kingdom into an endless winter and withdrawing to the wilderness, where she makes a super sweet ice castle.
Anna goes to bring her back and end the winter, but Elsa accidentally blasts her through the heart. The elder troll proclaims that only an act of true love can prevent her from becoming solid ice. “Love can thaw a frozen heart,” he says. “True love’s kiss!” they exclaim! Cue the frantic ride back to the city, Elsa is captured, there’s betrayal, etc. etc., climax! Anna limps through a blizzard, trying to find her true love so that he can kiss her and save her life. Her true love is frantically running through the blizzard trying to do exactly that. And suddenly, just as they catch sight of each other, Anna glimpses something else through the snow: Her sister Elsa is about to be stabbed by the traitor.
Dramatic look back at True Love. Fearful gaze! Then she’s off, running away from T. Love and throwing herself in front of the downward-swinging sword. She turns completely to ice in mid-lunge, and the sword breaks on her frozen hand. A brief period of mourning ensues, but… what’s this? Her heart is thawing, and it’s bringing the rest of her with it! She didn’t need an act of true love performed on her: She didn’t need someone to kiss her, to profess their love for her. She needed to enact true love.
“True love isn’t something that happens to you,” my wife said as we were walking to the car, discussing the movie. That is indeed the message of Frozen, and it’s a far cry from the True Love found in many other Disney films. In Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, the heroines are the passive recipients of true love: They receive a kiss which brings them back to life. In Frozen, that idea is dramatically done away with. Sure, a kiss might have done it, but not because of her reception of the kiss. In Frozen, True Love is an act. It is something which is actively performed, not passively received. And it is that action which saves.
Obviously, because I’m that type of person, I immediately began putting that into the context of salvation and the Christian life. And it turns out that both of Disney’s portrayals of True Love are correct (and necessary).
First, everything is initiated by God. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” and that trend has continued throughout history. God’s spirit upon the formless waters, God’s breath into dusty lungs, and God’s Son lying in a manger. “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden,” Jesus called out on the dusty streets of Israel, and “Come to me,” he still calls out today. And none can come without being called.
But the response is equally necessary. We are not called to merely be loved: We are called to love. We are not called to be passive recipients: We are called to act. After all, Jesus didn’t say, “Greater love has no man, than he who is loved a lot. Like, a lot.” Jesus exclaimed that the true measure of love is demonstrated in action: In a step to the block, or to the fire. And when Paul speaks of spiritual gifts, the capstone to his discussion and the thing that makes all of it worthwhile is not the passive reception of love, but the active and outward expression of it.
Bottom line: Frozen is well worth your time, and not merely for the theological musings it will provoke. It teaches a lesson that is equally applicable to men and women alike: True Love–love that is true, and active, and efficacious– is found in action. It is found in loving. And as Christians, we recognize that in loving,we become more and more like God, who is Love. And that love can thaw a frozen heart.
Mackenzie Mulligan is the author of “Simon, Who Is Called Peter,” which will show you the world of the New Testament through the eyes of Jesus’ most notorious disciple. Learn more, and get a free excerpt, here.