Film Friday: Dumbo

When Mrs Jumbo the elephant gives birth in Medici’s circus there is great excitement in the camp, but as the new animal emerges from the straw there is a shock in store…

The baby elephant, soon to be unkindly nicknamed Dumbo, has a wee flaw, or rather, two huge flaws – massive ears. He appears to be a kind of freak. This is not what was expected at all! Of course, for anyone who’s ever heard of Dumbo now, the result is pretty obvious. The elephant with strange-looking ears can fly! As they say in the movie – ‘You’ve seen a house-fly, you’ve seen a dragon-fly, you’ve even seen a horse-fly, but you’ve never seen an elephant fly!’ Till now. Or till that time you saw the 1941 original animated film. Dumbo’s freaky feature became something wonderful, something extraordinary, lovable and unique.

We are all of us freaks in some way or other, that is to say, none of us fit in. We are all different, and designed to be so. We may not like our unique features and we or others may label these as weaknesses. But the Biblical take on life is that we are all designed to be different. And not called to merely cover up and fit in. Time and again, with God’s help, folks’ weaknesses are turned into strengths. I am somewhere on the autistic spectrum, as many of us are, that means I am hopeless in certain situations. I don’t pick things up quickly, I can’t do small talk, and my head is often full of films, God, pop music and the Bible. But these quirks have turned out to be the way that God wants me to be. I often feel like a fish trying to ride a bicycle. But I’ve become a firm believer that these things we may see as design faults, God frequently wants to highlight as design features. That is not say they won’t still often feel like faults, they will. And there will be plenty of times when will feel the pressure to conform. And often it is best to do this. But offered to God – these faults/features can become something else. God is in the business of working through and with weaknesses and failings. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, so says the writer of Psalm 139. You are too. Not like anyone else, wired up in a very specific way. As the writer Adrian Plass once said, ‘Offer your weaknesses to God and see what he might do with them.’

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