Wednesday, June 13, 2012

#37: Like Father Like Mother

Tarzan, 1999
watched June 3, 2012

Well, we've come to the end of the Renaissance Era. It's been a wonderful ten weeks of (mostly) great movies and a lot of fun! But more on that later. Must get on with the task at hand.

Some people dispute the inclusion of Tarzan in the Renaissance, but I think thematically the film fits in just fine. In fact, I fear sounding like a broken record by now. For nearly 10 weeks straight we've been dealing with characters searching for deeper fulfillment, meaning, belonging, and love. Tarzan is no exception.

So what sets Tarzan apart from the others, I find, is the tenuous relationship between Tarzan and Kerchak, the clan's leader and the closest thing Tarzan has to a father. While extremely protective of his family, Kerchak is cold and distant, and refuses to recognize Tarzan as one of them. And though he has a loving mother and good friends, Tarzan is discontent without Kerchak's acceptance. In Tarzan's eyes, Kerchak's disapproval only highlights all the ways he doesn't fit in.

Speaking of not fitting in, I wonder if Tarzan ever got upset that he was the only one who had to wear a loincloth. I can just imagine a belligerent 6-year-old Tarzan during a temper tantrum, refusing to put on his loincloth: "But Mom, it's itchy!"


Tarzan hones the more significant differences--his agility, creativity, and intelligence, to prove that he belongs in the only family he has ever known. But his remarkable skills in tree-surfing, fruit-spearing and vine-swinging impress everyone except Kerchak.

This strained relationship between son and pseudo-father hits a nerve with any of us who have felt the rejection, criticism, or just plain ambivalence from our father (or mother, perhaps). And too often, we believe that our Heavenly Father is also like Kerchak: stern, unforgiving, judgmental. As we are prone to do with our own fathers, we try everything to earn the Father's acceptance and love. But of course, when the Father's character is distorted as such, nothing ever seems good enough, and our failure leads to a lonely and unsatisfying life.

Believe it or not, the film does give us a glimpse of the true Father. But it's not through Kerchak. In fact, the clearest picture of the Father is found in a mother.

Kala is the parent who seeks Tarzan out and saves him from sure death. Without hesitation she adopts him as her own. And in the most sacrificial mother's way, Kala allows him to choose a life in the human world, even though it means that she will never see him again. Her unwavering love reminds Tarzan that no matter where life takes him, he will always belong. And ultimately, it's this love that draws Tarzan back to his true family.

When we are lost and left for dead, we have a Father who rescues us and brings us into his family. When we are feeling dejected and rejected, we have a Father whose heart beats with ours. And here is the best news: When we think we've failed, we have a Father whose acceptance and love can never be earned, because it's already ours.

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