When You Wish Upon a Star

We all have something we wish for, a dream we long to come true. Disney itself was founded on Walt Disney’s dream. Then, in 1940, the famous song “When You Wish upon a Star” was released in Disney’s Pinocchio. It perfectly embodied the ideas that Disney was founded on. Because of that, the song was later adapted into Disney’s logo sequence. Disney’s newest movie, Wish, tells the origin story of this Wishing Star.

In the kingdom of Rosas, the wish you hold in your heart makes you who you are. Years before the story of Wish takes place, King Magnífico founded Rosas. His dreams were ripped away when he was very young, and because of that, he learned magic that allowed him to understand and grant wishes. Those who became citizens of the city would entrust their greatest wish to him, with the chance that he would one day grant their wish. However, after entrusting their wish to him, they would forget what it was.

Seventeen-year-old Asha begins the story mesmerized by Magnífico, just like all the other citizens of Rosas. However, upon meeting him, she begins to question how he “protects” the wishes. The king tells Asha that he only fulfills the wishes that are best for Rosas. All the others are kept from their owners, just in case the wishes could harm the people of Rosas, but Asha believes this is wrong.

In frustration, she tries to explain her plight to her grandfather and her mother, but she is met with disbelief and scolding. Ever a loyal subject, her grandfather tells her that the king has made everything possible for them. It is not their place to question what he does. Asha runs away and wishes on a star, which (to her surprise) falls from the sky with a dazzling light that Asha describes as “joy and hope and possibility all within the most loving light.”

The story suggests that our wish is what is most beautiful about us and makes us who we are. Pursuing it brings fulfillment and goodness to our world because it brings love and light. Some may feel this is a beautiful but naive sentiment. But perhaps “loving light” isn’t merely the stuff of fairy tales.

Wish is right to say that there is a loving light filled with “joy and hope and possibility,” but it is not the light of a wish or a star. It is God’s true, loving light. But just like Asha questioning Magnífico, many people question God’s loving nature.

One needn’t read too deeply into the story to realize that the way Asha sees Magnífico is similar to the way secularists see God and the laws he has laid out for humans. They believe what is wanted most should be accessible, and those who would stop them from fulfilling their desires are awful, controlling, or narcissistic. This is why they see God and his laws as tyrannical. However, this caricature makes God out to be something he isn’t. He understands the people he created even more than they understand themselves, much in the same way that an artist sees more of their creation than the viewer sees. God truly knows what is best for each of us. Even so, he doesn’t stop us from pursuing what isn’t best for us. He gives us the freedom to choose what we want, even if that isn’t him and his way.

Our pride tells us that when what we want isn’t validated, we are being attacked. Pride craves more than just the opportunity to live what we deem to be our “best life,” it wants that life to be validated by everyone around us, believing that if it doesn’t hurt anyone, it should be accepted. But, as C.S. Lewis points out in Mere Christianity, “What I call ‘My wishes’ become merely the desires thrown up by my physical organism or pumped into me by other men’s thoughts or even suggested to me by devils.”1

The sad truth is that sin does hurt people, whether that is clear to the person committing the sin or not. God does not withhold acceptance of sin because he is a bully. God doesn’t accept our sin because he truly loves us and knows how deeply sin hurts us and those around us. There is a distinct contrast between King Magnifico and God: King Magnífico takes away people’s free will to choose what they want to pursue by keeping their wishes from them. So, Magnifico “protects” Rosas by taking away, but God protects us by providing the way (John 14:8) for us to follow, and the light for our path (Psalm 119:105)

The God of Love and Light
If the tyrannical caricature of God isn’t accurate to who he is, then who is he really? Time and again, God is called loving in both the Old Testament and New. Scripture explicitly tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). And after God forgives the wicked Ninevites, the prophet Jonah says that he knows God is a “gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents” (Jonah 4:2).

This love of God is not simply a feeling. God’s love is seen in actions, too. For example, John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And John 3:16 elaborates thus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” To truly love is not merely about self-fulfillment of one’s desires. Rather, love is sacrificial in nature, it is a giving of oneself, even to the point of death, for the betterment of another. God, through his Son, demonstrates this kind of love.

The Bible tells us also that “God is light” and that Christ came into the world as “the true light” (John 1:9). Jesus is the “light of life” (John 8:12). Without light, life cannot be sustained. Plants, animals, and humans require light. Light also guides people out of darkness, and that is exactly what the Israelites were told to expect when the Messiah came: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

Since the early stages of human history, humans have craved and created light to drive out the darkness. This is why the light of the wishing star in Wish is so inspiring and poignant. It reminds us of the deep longing we have for “the most loving light.”

Reflecting God’s Light
In Wish, Asha has a moment where she looks around at the darkness all around her and says: “I was foolish to think I could change anything.” And in some sense, we are indeed foolish to think we can change anything for the good apart from God. But because of who God is, when we reflect him, we are reflecting his love and light into the world. When we communicate with God, pay attention to what Jesus taught and lived, are kind and generous to those in need, and live side-by-side with other believers, we can begin to become better mirrors of Christ to the world. We can live as beacons of light, reflecting God’s goodness, truth, and radiance.

One thing that Wish rightly points out is that when people stand together, they are stronger than the strongest darkness. When we are in communion with other believers, looking toward Jesus (Hebrews 12:2, NKJV) together, we are stronger than sin and darkness. When we walk with him, we find “joy and hope and possibility all within the most loving light.” Sacrificing pride and what we long for is difficult and frightening. At times, we may even fear that we are giving up who we are. But, as CS Lewis says, “It is no good trying to ‘be myself’ without Him.”2

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Rebecca Sachaj

Rebecca Sachaj is enthusiastic about helping fellow believers deepen their relationship with God. After finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing, she pursued further study in Apologetics through The Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics. She plans to obtain her Masters in Apologetics, focusing on the connection between the Christian Imagination and Apologetics. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her two dogs, Strider and Samwise.