We just got home from watching The Greatest Showman (Click title to see trailer). I’m just going to say it. I loved the movie. So many life-infusing themes woven into one story . . . besides the fact that they made my writer’s heart happy, they uplifted me at the deepest levels.
There are so many different themes that resonated with me, but the one that hummed the deepest parts of me was P. T. Barnum’s journey to understand the essence of his identity.
I’ll begin by saying this is Hollywood’s rendition of P. T. Barnum’s rise to fame. That said . . .
Phineas T. Barnum comes from a poor background. He holds certain beliefs based on things that happened when he was a boy.
Specific events in our lives shape us. They shape the way we think, the filter through we see our circumstances, the world around us . . . The way we process life-defining circumstances creates within us beliefs which become a part of that filter through which we see the world.
When we adapt false beliefs into our filter, the consequences can be life-changing.
P. T. Barnum’s dark moment occurs early in his life. He becomes two things at that point. He learns how to spin life in a positive way, and this ability nurtures him in his growing up years. He also adopts a determination to best those who oppressed him.
In his striving to become what he thought he should be, Phineas began to lose the essence of who he was.
He forgot the beauty of dreaming and loving and instead chased after the prestige of more.
Three life lessons from his life (as portrayed in The Greatest Showman) stood out to me:
1. When our priorities are driven by our craving for more, our priorities become distorted. We all have empty places within us. Some of these are borne from those dark wounding events in our younger lives. They often drive us to attain what may not be best for us, all in an attempt to satisfy the hunger that can only God can satiate.
When we forget our God Is the only One who can fill those empty places . . .
when we chase after the wind, so to speak . . .
we view our lives through a wrong perspective.
And this . . . this is what can destroy us and create a cavern out of the hole that once existed within us.
2. When we focus on the wrong things, the important things in our lives (read relationships) are damaged. When we chase after the wrong things to fill our empty places—when we forget the good God has already gifted to us in an effort to get more,—we find we’re chasing after the wrong thing.
P. T. Barnum forgot the good relationships to chase after something more. In the process, he nearly destroyed all that really was good in his life.
It took this near loss of all he held dear to help him see what was most important.
3. When we accept who we are—who God created us to be—that’s when we can be content. When we attempt to create an identity for ourselves that contradicts who God created us to be, or that is less than what God created us to be, we defraud ourselves.
The hardest seasons of life often burn away the false identities we cling to and reveal the beauty of who God created us to be.
Just as P. T. Barnum (in the movie) came to embrace who he really was, may we each come to accept the person God created us to be. May we live in the essence of our identities.
What about you? If you have seen this movie, what is your favorite theme? How have you discovered the essence of your identity?