Well, I saw Toy Story 4, and as I suspected it hit close to home leaving me choking back tears. As the end neared, I knew that I would be emotional, I just didn’t realize how much. Good thing my wife knowingly slipped me a napkin. I did manage to cry quietly with dignity, and not scare any of the kids in the theatre, so…mission accomplished!Woody and the Gang, set out to answer a lot of questions with this one, namely, did we really need this movie? Part 3 seemed to wrap up any exsisting need for additional installments, so was this just a quick cash grab? Surely not, Pixar! To their credit, I think this movie was absolutely necessary, and though a “quadriology” is rare, this finally, and fully, completes the story of toys who had previously won the hearts of the world three times over.

All four movies are masterclass in story telling and all have to do with identity and purpose, two essentials for any human being. So, if you still haven’t seen it yet, or you were on the fence, take this as my ringing endorsement to do so, post haste. Also, unless you don’t mind spoilers I would politely excuse yourself at this time, and return once you’ve seen the movie. Enjoy!

Still here?! Okay, let’s proceed…

It’s hard to fully understand my emotions over a kids movie, though if any kids movies are socially expectable to cry in, Pixar films would have to be at the top of the list. I think there’s a few reasons, and I’m gonna go bullet points for brevity; let’s see if you agree…Here’s what I see…

  • In Toy Story 1-3 Woody is the leader, in charge, and taking care of everyone. In Toy Story 4 he has pivoted to a new owner, and new purpose as “just one of the toys” status. What’s a leader to do?
  • In TS4 we see Woody is struggling to see how he fits, and what his purpose is as part of Bonnie’s cast of toys sans leadership role. He felt this jealous, uncertain feeling before when Buzz arrived on the scene in the first installment, but this is different. He no longer has the position he once had.
  • A new character, “Forky” is fashioned together by Bonnie at school and becomes her new beloved companion. Woody immediately sees a chance to put his experience to use and makes Forky’s inclusion into the gang his new mission. Forky, as Buzz before him fails to recognize his true value. Woody helped Buzz face a crisis of identity in TS1, he isn’t THE one and only Buzz Lightyear, but he is Andy’s only Buzz. His value comes from who he belongs to and the joy he brings Andy.
  • Now, Woody steps in to help Forky recognize his value…he’s not trash, but a treasure to his owner Bonnie. Though Forky keeps trying to throw himself away and rejoin the trash, Woody patiently pulls him back out until Forky embraces his identify. Then, coming full circle, Forky, fully knowing his value is able to do the same for a new female forky character at the end of the movie. Wow. Biblical parallels abound. Case in point why the body of Christ needs each other, and the world needs the church.

Ultimately, In the process of showing forky his value, Woody is reminded that his doesn’t come from what he does, but from who he belongs to and the mission that belonging brings. Additionally, as Woody’s identity is further removed from what he has done as leader of the toy story gang, he recognizes that he’ll always belong as a member, but it’s okay to let go and find a new mission. A mission and life that he had previously passed on due to his responsibilities. I feel it. I get it. Man, do I get it!

I don’t know about you, but this all resonates so deeply, and it’s probably why I loved the movie when my kids are a little less thrilled about it. This really is one for the adults that kids can enjoy too, rather than the other way around. I feel like I’ve been living this story in 2019. You can read my/our Balogh story here:

Death Of A Pastor: A Story of Deconstruction and Renewal Part 1

Death Of A Pastor: A Story Of Deconstruction And Renewal Part 2

This years word for our family was margin. Margin for the marginalized. We’ve lived it, and it’s been both fun and frustrating. I’ve struggled as my misplaced identity (aka idol) of work has been slowly extricated from my soul. The Lord has also revealed my older brother attitudes and that each of the two sons in the story of the prodigal story dishonored their father. Just because I stayed doesn’t make me better than my brother who ran, my attitude about it stinks as bad as his pig pen. That parable is really more about the love of the father anyway. God’s been tender, but His grip firm. I think we’re getting there. I hope for different lessons in 2020.

So friends, as an interesting 2019 ends, let us remember what we can learn from Toy Story…we belong to God, it’s His name, and His image we bear. It is this, that gives us our value, not what we do, and not what we have. May we all continue to give Him permission and space to gently pull our face back to His and allow “the things of this earth to grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”