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What ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Taught Me About Life & Faith

I have so many movies on my DVR that I “promise to watch sooner than later,” but will likely end up deleting. (Being a parent doesn’t always afford you the opportunity to nestle up on your couch and enjoy a film without interruption.) One movie I tend to watch around the holidays happened to be on TV that made me more determined than ever to work for free me time.

The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 musical that stars Judy Garland and a list of actors who made beloved characters from a classic novel come to life, transporting us from reality (or Dorothy’s home in Kansas) to the Land of Oz — full of munchkins, a pretty witch by the name of Glinda, some mean trees that throw apples, and of course, the Emerald City. (I’m obviously skipping over a ton of stuff.) One of the biggest draws to the film (for me) has been the fantasy of trading everyday life for the land of imagination, even if it was only for an hour and 52 minutes.

Growing up, I enjoyed Dorothy, the love she had for her beloved dog, Toto, and the magical adventure she took with her new friends as they eased on down the road.

Wait, that’s The Wiz. Sorry.

The yellow brick road.

Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, and Jack Haley in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

I cuddled up with my kiddos last night (right before my 1-½-year-old started throwing up … on my side of the bed, of course) to finish watching the movie. I had it playing earlier in the day and couldn’t have the story end (aka delete it from my DVR) without seeing Dorothy make it back home.

I’ve watched this film more times than I’d like to count. I know the ending. That, however, didn’t detract from the few inspirational nuggets I picked up this time around.

Here are a some things The Wizard of Oz taught me about life and faith.

1.) There’s no place like home (family). Dorothy can sing about being “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the blue birds and clouds all she wants. There’s no place like home. It’s easy to look at your current situation or people in your life and take them for granted. But heaven forbid they disappear — or a tornado comes that’s strong enough to transport you to a different dimension — and you’ll find yourself doing everything in your power to make it back to the place and people you love. Oz was such an enchanting place full of mystery and wonder that would leave any of us intrigued for a lifetime.

And yet, it wasn’t enough, because it wasn’t home.

2.) Just because someone professes to have knowledge doesn’t mean he or she has wisdom. Everyone thought the Wizard was great and powerful until he became exposed from behind the curtain. And as it turned out, he was just some humbug who made himself sovereign based on the image he got people to believe. This made me think about the people and public figures I listen to, and whether or not I’m walking in wise counsel that aligns itself on biblical truths. There are many sources of inspiration that are captivating and can easily be digested as “food for the soul.”

… But that doesn’t mean it’s full of nourishment — especially the right nourishment that’s God-breathed that I need for my life.

The bottom line is this: If someone comes in your life who either declares themself as a savior — or someone who has the answer(s) you’re seeking — do your homework.

3.) The road less traveled can be scary, but God will never give you more than you can bear.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” — Psalm 32:8 

“The Lord will guide you always …” — Isaiah 58:11

If I ever left my house and found myself in a foreign place that didn’t resemble Buffalo, yeah, you better believe I’m freaking out. It’s not hard to imagine the what the freak moment Dorothy had exiting her home. (Surprise, you’re now in Technicolor, girl!) Aside from Toto, nothing Dorothy saw — including the cuties from Munchkinland — looked like anything she knew. She was out of her element and naturally afraid.

While it’s easy for viewers to grab some popcorn, sit back, and relax as we enjoy someone else’s adventure, we’ve all been a fish out of water at some point in our lives — often trying to balance how to move forward when everything inside of us wants to cower in fear, or retreat back to the very place we were dying to leave.

You are where you’re supposed to be.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Dorothy never received a “Welcome to Oz” tourist package that included a map to the Emerald City, nor did she have Google Maps to help her arrive to her destination by taking the fastest route possible.

And guess what? She still got there.

I’m a firm believer that God equips us with the tools necessary to endure our battle — including people who will help us on our journey. Dorothy had the confidence and faith she was going to make it home, thanks to her buddies the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion who kept encouraging her (and each other) they were going to achieve their hearts’ desires. No matter the uncertainty and all the roadblocks the Wicked Witch tried to throw their way, they made it through their trials and tribulations and basked in the light on the other side.

4.) “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Gracious, how many times did we hear the Scarecrow, Tin Man, or Corwardly Lion point out their shortcomings — or try to seal their fate with words of self-defeat?

I struggle with my words and watching what I say, because it’s just as easy for me to tear down as it is to lift up. There’s a powerful quote (I believe Frank Outlaw said it) that says:

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

There’s a reason why scripture (Proverbs 18:21) says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue …” and why the book of James devotes itself to taming the tongue. Our words, and what we say, can be the very thing that helps us overcome our battles, or the deterrent that keeps us shackled to the notion that who we are and where we’re at right now are as good as it gets.

… And that can’t be further from the truth.

5.) The enemy has no power over your victory. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” — 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. (This one of my favorite scriptures, BTW.) Watching The Wizard of Oz this time around, I paid close attention to The Wicked Witch and all of her antics to get Dorothy to give up those fierce ruby slippers.

The Wicked Witch tries to intimidate her in front of Glinda. She taints the poppies. She zooms around on her broom as she writes “Surrender Dorothy” in the sky for all to see. She has her flying monkeys ambush Dorothy’s crew and bring the heroine and her dog back to her. The Witched Witch threatens the well-being of Dorothy’s dog. She even uses an hourglass to inform Dorothy she’ll die when the time runs out if the Wicked Witch doesn’t get her shoes.

No matter how hard the Wicked Witch tried to get Dorothy to bend to her will and give up what she wanted, the witch knew she had no power — or authority — to go and get those ruby slippers herself.

Access denied.

The illusion of authority is a powerful thing that so many of us (myself included) fall for time and time again. No matter how terrifying the enemy makes itself, in the end, God has — and will always have — the victory.

“For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” — Deuteronomy 20:4

“… If God is for us,who can be against us?” — Romans 8:31

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” — 1 Corinthians 15:57

These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” — Revelation 17:14

You can come for me all you want, but you’re gonna have to answer to the One who made me first. As Exodus 14:14 says, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Even though the chances of finding myself in some random and mystical land are pretty slim, I will continue embracing the journey God has me on and hope I still find myself skipping (you know, easing on down the road) along the way from time to time. 🙂

images via warner home video
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