Recently, while others flocked to see the latest Star Wars movie, I got to take our three oldest kids to see the film that we’ve been waiting for: Ferdinand.

Ferdinand, the bull.

(Dear Jedi groupies, I hear the Klingons were fantastic!)

Sadly, I had to leave Ferdinand early because our 2-year-old suddenly proclaimed that he felt sick.  And last I checked, it’s still illegal to yell “vomit!” in a crowded theater.

But I was there for the sad part.

Here it comes.


As the film opens, little Ferdinand grows up on a ranch called Casa del Toro.  He is there with his father (Naf), who is not only the biggest and toughest bull on the block, but also kind and loving toward his sensitive son.

Unfortunately, like all the other bulls, Ferdinand’s father wants nothing more than to make it to “the show” (the bullfights in Madrid).

And eventually, he does.

One day, a matador shows up to choose the fiercest bull to take to the arena. And as young Ferdinand looks on, they load his father on a trailer.

Unfortunately (of course), the trailer returns empty.

As a ranch-hand sprays it out with water, Ferdinand begins to realize: Daddy isn’t coming home.

“I’m not crying; you’re crying!” (*whisper-shouted to a 4-year-old).


While it’s risky to extract deep thoughts from children’s movies (See my prior post on the post-colonial undercurrent in last week’s episode of Paw Patrol), I couldn’t help but note the truth at work here.

For many of us, getting our heart’s desire can be disastrous.

The Bible shows this truth repeatedly.

In Romans 1, the evidence of God’s “wrath” against sinners is not a future-focused fire and brimstone, but a present-tense allowance of the heart’s own longing:

            God gave them over to the desires of their hearts… (vs. 24).

Likewise, in Proverbs (14.12) we are told that

            There is a way that seems right to a man / but in the end, it leads to death.

Still, my favorite example of the “bullfight principle” comes from Numbers 14.

After spying out the Promised Land, only Joshua and Caleb declare their wish to enter in to it. Everyone else proclaims that they would rather perish in the desert than have to face such fearsome enemies.

If only we had died … in this wilderness! (vs. 2)

In the end, God gives everyone their wish.

Joshua and Caleb enter in; the others die in the desert.

O how perilous to get your heart’s desire.


Unfortunately, the reality behind our foolish wants usually seems less obvious in our own lives than in the Bible, or in Casa del Toro.

Be honest:

How many times have you gotten the very thing you longed for, only to be left with an acute case of buyer’s remorse?

If only I could marry him…

If only I could get that fancy house…

If only I could be deployed and see “real action”…

If only I could write a blogpost that would be read by thousands…


In such ways, we become like the old dog (“Bear”) that my family used to own.

Every day he chased the mail truck.

Then, one day, he caught it.

Miraculously, he lived (only because my dad couldn’t find the .22 cartridge that he needed to put him out of his misery). But he never chased the mailman after that.


Another illustration can be seen in an old episode of The Twilight Zone.

In “A Nice Place to Visit,” a thief named Valentine dies in a robbery and then finds himself in “heaven.”

Here, he gets whatever he wants, instantly and endlessly. He visits a casino and wins every bet; he eats his favorite food for every meal.  But he eventually finds this “paradise” monotonous and smothering.

“I’m tired of heaven, take me to ‘the other place,’” he screams.

To which his guardian demon responds:

“Whatever gave you the idea you were in Heaven, Mr. Valentine? This is the other place!”

The Twilight Zone is bad theology.  Even so, one view of final separation from God is to see it as the ultimate example of “getting what you want”—that is, if your wants have been eternally corrupted (See C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce).

“Hell” is when corrupt desire finally achieves its object.

In this state, divine love might feel like a torture—like plunging frost-bitten fingers into an otherwise refreshing bath.


What then is the solution?

As folks like Jonathan Edwards and Augustine knew well, the answer is not “tamping down” of human longings, but rather redirecting them toward more worthy ends.

Enter grace.

Enter The Holy Spirit.

Enter discipleship.

In such ways, God enflames and redirects our loves, so that they may point toward the One who is actually capable of satisfying them.

When this happens, we become like Ferdinand.

We learn to love the smell of “flowers” over bullfights, and more importantly, bull____.