You Are Not Trash

[Spoiler Alert: This article contains some spoilers for the Toy Story series]

In 1995, Pixar Animation Studios exploded onto the scene with their first film, Toy Story, and they have been producing blockbuster computer-animated films ever since. Pixar is known not only for excellent storytelling and memorable characters, but also for refusing to talk down to children. Their films address deep, meaningful issues, and the Toy Story series is no exception.

The Toy Story films are based on the adventures of toys that come to life when humans are not around. They also deal with similar themes: the fear of being unwanted, the joy of being loved, and what gives something value and meaning. The latest installment, Toy Story 4, introduces new characters who each face their own existential crises.

Trash or Treasure?

Forky is created by a little girl, Bonnie, from assorted objects that Woody finds in the trash. Since he is made of trash, Forky assumes that he is trash, leading to many humorous moments of Woody rescuing Forky as Forky repeatedly throws himself into various trash cans. But Forky’s mission of self-destruction ends once Woody explains to him what gives Forky value: Bonnie’s love.

Gabby Gabby is another new character, a talking doll with a defective voice box who has been sitting for years in an antique shop. She thinks that acquiring a working voice box will then make her desirable to a little girl named Harmony, who will then love her and play with her. After Gabby Gabby gets a working voice, however, Harmony still rejects her. Ultimately, Gabby Gabby finds another child who is lost and scared who takes the doll home.

What Gives Value and Meaning?
The major question raised in each Toy Story movie is clear: What gives us value and meaning? The toys believe their value is tied to whether or not a child loves them, and their meaning or purpose is to make a child happy. But what about us? What gives us value and meaning as humans? Is our value based on how useful we are? If we become old or weak or sick do we lose our value and become fit only for the trash? Is our meaning simply to make others happy?

How you answer these questions depends on your worldview. In America, we say that we believe in the equality and value of all persons. But do we live like we believe it? We are all so different: Some are strong and some are weak. Some are healthy and some are sick. Some are beautiful and others…not so much. In what way are we all equal? Christianity provides the answer: we are all equal in value because we are made in the image of a loving God (Genesis 1:27). No matter our age, health, ethnicity, or whatever else, we are valuable because God loves us.

Fears and Disappointments
Look at the fears and disappointments the toys face in the Toy Story series. In the original movie, Woody fears being replaced by the newer, cooler toy, Buzz Lightyear. In Toy Story 2, Jessie is outgrown by her child, forgotten, thus developing great anxiety. In Toy Story 3, we see Woody and the gang also being outgrown by their child, Andy. They face being forgotten as he goes off to college. The main villain, Lotso, carries bitterness and resentment towards all children, after being lost by his child and then replaced by a duplicate toy. These are the same fears that we carry as humans: the fear of being unloved, of being forgotten, of being replaced.

But unlike the toys of Toy Story, we are not defined by the love of other humans, but by the love of our heavenly Father. He will never abandon us. He will not replace us. When we are lost, he will always welcome us back with open arms. We are never so broken or old or uncool that he will not love us. God loves us with an unending love. He loves us not because of how lovable we are, but because of who he is: a loving Father.

Like Forky, you may think you are worthless. Like Gabby Gabby, you may think you are only valuable if you are healthy and whole. Like Woody, you may think you have meaning only if certain people love you. But according to God, you are valuable simply because you are created in his image and likeness. This cannot be lost or erased. We can’t lose God’s love. We don’t have to earn it. God loves us simply because he is love.

No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve been through, you are not trash. You are not replaceable. You will never be forgotten. You are God’s beloved and the most valuable being in all creation.

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Timothy Fox

Timothy Fox has a passion to equip the church to engage the culture. He is a part-time math teacher, full-time husband and father. He has an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University as well as an M.A. in Adolescent Education of Mathematics and a B.S. in Computer Science, both from Stony Brook University. Tim lives on Long Island, NY with his wife and children. He also blogs at