No Strings Attached

Fairy tales are crazy. It’s honestly amazing how stories written hundreds of years ago still impact future generations. Think about Sleeping Beauty, or The Beauty and the Best, or Snow White. All of these stories are super old, but what kid doesn’t know they exist. Today, I want to talk about fairly tales, specifically one about a talking puppet. That’s right, Pinocchio.

Remember Pinocchio? “Yeah, the puppet who when he lied, his nose grew.” Actually, do you the remember the old Disney movie? The one with Jiminy Cricket, the snazzily dressed bug?  I’ve been thinking about it recently. Looking back on it, that movie is seriously creepy and messed up. Who remembers the dark and twisted human trafficking, the child labor, and the overwhelming depression in that movie?

I didn’t, at least not at first. I thought it was a joyous, fun, classic Disney movie. And then my analytical mind started working against me. And in one of those late night philosophy moments, I recognized that I was Pinocchio. No, I don’t have wooden joints and I certainly don’t yell, “I’m a real boy,” every chance I get.

Wouldn’t that be weird.

But I had strings, pulling me in all different directions. My body was not my own to control. And it was frustrating. I couldn’t do what I wanted to. It was like someone else was pulling the strings. And it hit me, it wasn’t someone, it was something. 

I am a passionate person by nature. I either give 0% or 100% with no middle ground. When I find something I’m passionate about, I lock in and want to do nothing but that thing. Being a Christian, I thought my passions were good, God-given gifts. I thought that because I was passionate about the Gospel, that following wherever that lead was a good idea.

And as usual, I was wrong.

Paul tells us straight up how he feels about those passions in Titus 3:

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be carefulto devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

Titus 3:1-8

Look at verse three. I even bolded it for you. Isn’t it odd that Paul lists our passions as something that we are slave to? And that he says that we are like this before God saved us? And that’s when it hit me: I was a slave to my passions.

Remember when Pinochio get’s led away by Honest John and ends up becoming the star in a puppet show? No, well here’s how Wikipedia puts it:

However, on his way to school, Pinocchio is led astray by Honest John the Fox and his companion, Gideon the Cat, who convince him to join Stromboli’s puppet show, despite Jiminy’s objections. Pinocchio becomes Stromboli’s star attraction as a marionette who can sing and dance without strings while performing with marionettes of Dutch girls, French can-can girls, and Russian Cossacks. However, when Pinocchio wants to go home for the night, Stromboli locks him up in a birdcage. Jiminy arrives to see Pinocchio and is unable to free him. The Blue Fairy then appears and asks Pinocchio why he wasn’t at school. Jiminy urges Pinocchio to tell the truth, but instead he starts telling lies, which causes his nose to grow longer and longer. Pinocchio vows to be good from now on and the Blue Fairy restores his nose back to its original form and sets them free, while warning him that this will be the last time she can help him.

Meanwhile, across town, Honest John and Gideon meet a coachman who promises to pay them big money if they can find foolish little boys for him to take to Pleasure Island. Encountering Pinocchio on his way home, they convince him that he needs to take a vacation there. On the way to Pleasure Island, he befriends Lampwick, a delinquent boy. With no rules or authority to enforce their activity, Pinocchio and the other boys soon enjoy gambling, smoking, getting drunk, and vandalizing, much to Jiminy’s dismay. Later, while trying to get home, Jiminy discovers that the island hides a horrible curse: The boys brought to Pleasure Island literally transform into donkeys (“mak(ing) jackasses of themselves” as the coachman puts it), who are then sold into slave labor. Jiminy runs back to warn Pinocchio, only to find that Lampwick fully transformed into a terrified donkey; Pinocchio manages to escape only partially transformed.

See? I told you this movie was dark. And we call this a kid’s movie. Newsflash: IT’S NOT!

But spiritually, what happened here? Pinocchio gets so caught up in the passions of being alive that he ends up becoming what he never wanted to be: a puppet. He trades strings made out of twine for strings of passions. And they dragged him all the way into the belly of a whale. Sound familiar? Jonah in the bible was so consumed with his fear and hatred of the Ninevites that he ended up in the belly of a big fish.

What am I getting at? Passions are not as holy as we think. Or as I thought. I thought that because I was passionate about the story of the Gospel, that anything whim I felt about the Gospel must be God. And I was very wrong. But now I know how dangerous passions are. Passions are so strong that they can feel like God moving on your life. They can feel like the holy spirit, like everything is heading in the right direction, but at the same time lead you right into a trap.

“So should I get rid of my passions?” No! However, your passions should not control what you do. You should control your passions. And more importantly, God should be the only thing that controls you. As Jesus says in Matthew:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Matthew 6:24

If we follow our passions, and be true to our hearts (I see you Mulan fans), then we will begin to hate God and what he has for us, even if our passions are “Godly.” And then you’ll find yourself in a world of hurt, because Jesus says this a chapter later:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew 7:21-23

See, you can be passionate about missions, sharing the Gospel, praying, leading worship, going to church, being missional, or even reading your bible, but if that does not stem from the passion to be what God has made you to be, you will find yourself cast away, because He did not know you, nor you Him.

So be careful. Do not let your passions lead your heart astray. Be passionate about knowing God for yourself in your personal walk with Him. Be passionate about pursuing God with a sincere heart, and you will watch as all of the strings pulling you in different directions fall to the ground.

I’ve got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret, or make me frown
I had strings
But now I’m free
There are no strings on me

Hi-ho the merry-o
That’s the only way to be
I want the world to know
Nothing ever worries me

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