Dorothy Gale (of the Wizard of Oz) and Master Po (the Kung Fu Panda) have something in common. As different as the two characters are, and as different as the styles and storylines of their films are, they both still end up in the same place. Master Po opens the legendary Dragon Scroll expecting power, but finds instead that it is simply a reflective surface. He learns from this that the power he needs is actually in himself, the one being reflected. Similarly, Dorothy travels the Yellow Brick Road all the way to Oz, only to discover that the famous Wizard is just a regular guy and that all along she had the power in herself to achieve her dream. Different stories, different genres, same point: if you’re looking for answers, look inside.
In the films, Dorothy and Po look inside themselves and find everything they need to achieve their dreams. Dorothy clicks her heels and goes home. Po flexes his pinky and defeats the evil Tai Lung. That’s great—we always like a happy ending. But I’m not in a film. Can this same approach give me a happy ending in real life?
It seems clear enough that looking inside for answers can work sometimes. If I believe in myself and work hard at my goals, I can accomplish things, good things, maybe more and better things than I even think right now. Which is why these stories have power—they connect with something I intuitively know already. This message is supposed to inspire me, but frankly, I find it discouraging.
The thing is, I’ve looked inside already. I’ve seen my reflection, like Po looking at the Dragon Scroll. I know about the man looking back at me. I know what he feels like when he hits the wall at the end of himself. I have a pretty good idea now where that wall is, where the end of his strength lies. Let me tell you: it’s not far. If the only answer I can hope for in all my questions and problems is to simply look inside, then I’ve got to say, that is not encouraging. At all.
I don’t even like looking inside for too long. That place is a mess. I’ve got stacks of pride and selfishness and anger to spare, and the many good intentions I comfort myself with are harder to find once I actually start trying to pin them down. I don’t need another mirror to tell me what I look like, or a wizard to affirm my capability. If my hope only goes as far as my own inner strength and ability, then I have a question: What kind of hope is that? I need better answers, real ones that are bigger than I am. I need strength that is bigger than my weakness. I need hope that is bigger than my circumstances and my sin. I need Jesus.
When I look inside, I find questions. When I look at him, I find answers.