Brave is the enjoyable tale of Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), a fiesty young Scottish princess who defies convention, hoping to chart a new course in life, independent of her family and the expectations that come with royal living.
One of these expectations that is that Merida must marry one of the firstborn sons of three other Scottish clans. Her father, King Fergus of Clan DunBroch (voiced by Billy Connolly), arranges the Highland Games - so that the winner of these competitions can take the hand of his daughter.
Of course, being independent-minded, Merida is not only dissatisfied with the choices, but downright mad at the fact that she has so little choice in this arranged marriage ritual.
In an act of defiance, Merida sneaks into the competition and, since she is also a firstborn, plays for her own hand. Already a skilled archer, she easily wins the Games.
While her father is somewhat tickled by the warrior-like daughter he has raised, Merida's mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) is furious. After her little trick at the Highland Games, she drags her daughter away for a scolding - telling Merida how she embarrassed the family and make a mockery of tradition. Being just as angry, Merdia lashes back at the queen, tears the family tapestry, and runs off into the wilderness.
Aside from the castles and royal bloodline, Merida's family is not unlike many of our own. Expectations and time-honored traditions are often met head-on with independence and untested ideas. Emotions run high when family members run counter to either side of these arguments, whether intentional or not.
And like the royal household of Clan DunBroch, as we get more frustrated with one another, we dig in deeper: one side solid and unwavering in their devotion to tradition, the other side ablaze with the unquenchable need to break free.
Brave, however, gives us a wonderful parable to caution all sides before things get out of hand.
Following the will-o-the-wisp on her escape from the castle, Merida discovers a witch hidden in the forest - from whom she asks for some spell to change her mother. All she wants to do is make her mother see things her way, and she hopes the witch has an easy remedy for this family disturbance.
SPOILER ALERT: In short order, the witch gives her a cake that does indeed change her, but not in the way that Merdia had expected; Elinor transforms into a bear, the very creature that has vexed the DunBroch Clan for years. Merida immediately regrets her decision, and helps her mother escape the castle before Fergus finds out and accidentally kills his wife in the process.
On the run, Merida and Elinor, despite the horrible circumstances, get the chance to spend time together - and learn more about each other with each challenge that confronts them. In the process, they also start to see the world through the others' eyes. Merdia begins to trust tradition, Elinor begins to respect independence.
NO MORE SPOILERS: It's amazing what a little time together can do for us. In our quick-paced society, where we have but a moment to spare to connect with one another, we rarely get time to really get to know those around us, including our family and friends. Our relationships become very surface-oriented because we have little time or energy to go deeper.
Even at the worst of times and up against a deadline, Queen Elinor and Merida get to carve out a wonderful opportunity to spend time as mother and daughter.
What would happen if we had the same chance with the family, friends, and strangers in our own lives? What if we could put aside our mountains of tasks and expectations for a moment, and spend some quality time with the person we say only a few words to each day, or even the family members closest to us who are actually so far from our everyday reality? What if we could shut out the noise and distraction so that our world could just be filled with one other person for a few hours? Imagine what we would discover.
In the Scriptures, the ancient story of Ruth comes to mind. In this Hebrew tale, Naomi, an Israelite woman, must make a lonely journey across the desert to her homeland after her husband and sons have died in a foreign land. But Ruth, her foreign daughter-in-law, insists that she must accompany her on the journey, too. Even after Naomi protests, Ruth chooses to stand by her side.
"Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you, mother," Ruth says. "For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16). Like Merida and Elinor, Ruth and her mother-in-law will go from being foreign acquaintances to a real family.
But time together is the key factor here. How little time do we spend, even with those closest to us? We are often so caught up in our daily tasks, our independent spirit, or our devotion to our own traditions, that we lose sight of the people around us.
Let us walk a mile in another's shoes, simply by walking a few miles with them on their journey of life. Let us carve out some time to get to know people beyond the simple pleasantries. It's amazing the spells that can broken by taking a few moments with another human being.
If we find ourselves too busy to do this, let us re-examine our priorities. When the stuff of life and our reliance on our own perspective is greater than the connections we have to the people God has placed into our lives, something is off. This is the path that Merida and Elinor were on at the beginning of this film - and it got them into serious trouble. Let's learn a lesson from this Pixar parable and curtail our own blindness before things get really bad.
Finally, let us pray for the end to all divisions in families and among friends and neighbors, whether locally or globally.
There is too much division in our world, and not enough spending time with each other. Just imagine the possibilies and hope that can emerge from a world when we walk in each other's shoes for a moment or two.
Let us keep that image of the Kingdom in prayer as we move forward in our own ways at mending the brokenness closest to us.