There is a scene in The Lion King when the mystic healer Rafiki takes Simba to meet the spirit of his deceased father Mufasa, who before his death had been the beloved King of the Pridelands. Simba, growing up in exile, has lost touch with who he truly is. The spirit of Mufasa says to his son “You have forgotten who you are and have so forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life. Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true King.” Remember who you are. Mufasa was telling his son to remember the kingship invested in him. The king’s brother Scar, who had taken the throne through murderous and deceptive means, has ruled in darkness with intimidation, deceit, and violence. Mufasa tells his son that despite the authority that Scar holds, Simba has the inherent responsibility to challenge him. With those words, Mufasa releases the strength from within Simba to do the right thing.
This beautiful fable speaks to empowerment and dominion. Dominion should never be confused with domination. Domination – like that of Scar – uses tyranny to oppress and diminish the human spirit through fear and intimidation. Dominion, like that of Mufasa and Simba, uses leadership to build people up and empower them to be their most authentic selves that align with goodness and compassion. At the same time, dominion uses power to break the yoke of oppression that weighs down the most vulnerable and most marginalized among us.
At times of uncertainty and upheaval, we may be prone to acting in fear and confusion. This is when we need to find a way to take a step back and trust the voice of wisdom within each of us that can help us find our center again, the voice that reminds us who we are.
Who am I? This question is the starting block from which we push off and begin to reclaim our center. For people of faith, the answer is that we are fundamentally created in the image of God. This is an image of life-giving spirit in love and compassion, not just for some, but for all people. All major faith traditions hold this truth. As many spiritual leaders have repeated: “My religion is love.”
As Christian people of God’s global family, we can look at the teachings of Jesus to help us understand our identity as, like Simba, heir to the kingdom. One of those teachings is the Beatitudes, which describe those who inherit the kingdom of God as people who are poor in spirit, meek, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. Then later in Matthew’s accounting of the Gospel, Jesus says that we are to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner. It is in the living of this life that we can truly become awakened to who we have always been.
Each of us has tremendous ability and divine agency within us to choose what is right – what is good. But the darkness around us can sometimes seem a lot like Scar – relentless in its death-dealing schemes and its claim to false dominion. Under that kind of tyranny, sometimes we, like Simba, forget that we have the right to challenge and bring about change. Jesus reminded us of this capacity when he once said that not only would we do things that he did, but even greater things. Do we believe that?
Claiming or reclaiming the inherent divine power within us is essential if we are to truly be agents of change in this moment in history. We must spend more time with ourselves – our True Selves that were created by God for goodness, for justice, and for compassion. We would do well to spend time disconnecting from that which is filled with deception, and more time connecting to the deep inner Mufasa that speaks the truth of God about not only who we are, but who we need to be. If we can reconnect with the still, small voice within that desires only peace, justice, and truth, we can change the world. When we make peace within ourselves, the world will make peace with us.
In the end, Simba finally returns to Pride Rock and assumes his rightful reign as King, but not because he plays Scar’s game of lies and manipulation. He does not demand the love of the people through fear and intimidation as Scar has tried to do. Instead, the kingdom’s subjects accept Simba as ruler for his compassion, his vision of truth, and his courage. All these things are realized within him because he is guided by the direction of his spirit father’s mandate to remember who he is. Each of us has a Simba within us. Each of us can remember who we truly are and be guided by that truth.