(Photo by Selma Komisky)
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The Genie, The Lamp, and Setting Your Joy Free
By Candace Payne
“Oi! Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck!”
Those are the first words we hear from the elusive Genie as he emerges from the lamp Aladdin rubbed. And, if you’re anything like me, you immediately fell in love with this bright blue, bubbly, and oh-so-perfectly charming character. The first time I saw the movie Aladdin, I knew I would need to re-watch it several times to fully appreciate all the quotes, one-liners, hidden song lyrics, impressions, and zingers from the Genie. I loved everything about him! What was not to love? The Genie was lovable, comical, and not only that, but willing to grant you three wishes. “Ixnay on the wishing for more wishes,” though. He wasn’t having it! More than a wish granter, we uncover a truly sympathetic and gut-wrenching truth about beloved Genie: he was a slave to whomever held the power of his prison lamp, and bound by the rules therein. I know. It’s probably been a while since you’ve seen it, but Genie tells Aladdin that he won’t 1) kill anyone, 2) make anyone fall in love, and 3) bring anyone back from the dead. However, aside from that? Any other wish seemed fair game for the master of the lamp.
Through the course of the movie, the Genie supplies Aladdin with 75 golden camels, 53 purple peacocks, and when it comes to exotic type mammals?…he’s got a zoo. I’m telling you, it’s a world class menagerie! (Admit it…you just hummed a little bit of the song in your head as you read that, didn’t you?) Who wouldn’t want a Genie in a lamp?
You know, sometimes I think about our happiness being like the Genie. We long for joy to appear whenever we call it or need it most. We know it can’t bring us what we really want…like death to a habit or addiction, the ability to find love or actually feel lovable, or the resurrection of a loved one or a long-suffering dream. Yet, like Genie, sometimes we put on a smile to distract ourselves from what we truly desire – covering those things with song, dance, humor, wit, or possessions and we “grin and bear it” another day. Most of us hope and long for authentic joy. In reality, we more often find ourselves imprisoned rather than set free to experience it. Why is that? I believe the Genie gives us a glimpse into that “why.”
The Genie was imprisoned in the lamp. However, the lamp was not his master. The lamp itself was powerless. We know this is true because Jafar, the evil adviser to The Sultan and one of the most incredible Disney villains ever, has a brief moment where he steals the lamp and becomes Genie’s master. In both situations, the Genie never broke character. Every time he was out of the lamp fulfilling the wishes of his current master, whether it be Aladdin or Jafar, he was still comical, fun-loving, and obedient. I would dare propose that the genuine joy we all long for is waiting to be set free from within a prison lamp we all have unintentionally created.
Think of it this way: many of us feel enslaved to whatever our lives bring. We may feel enslaved to our jobs and work in order to provide for our families. We may feel enslaved to our health when we find ourselves aging or dealing with sickness. We may even feel enslaved to childhood trauma. Many feel enslaved to our gender, race or social class. But, remember, the lamp was powerless without a master. Whatever life has thrown at you that has become a prison, you are still the one who is able to set your joy free.
Ultimately, Aladdin sets the Genie free. And, for once the “phenomenal cosmic powers” were no longer confined to an “itty bitty living space.” Earlier in the film, Genie tells Aladdin, “But, oh, to be free! Not to have to go ‘Poof! What do you need? Poof! What do you need? Poof! What do you need?’ To be my own master. Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world!”
I wonder how often we settle for part-time happiness, song and dance, or smoke and mirrors when there is true joy longing to be released.
As someone who is a Christ follower, I believe that joy–authentic joy–cannot be faked or forced. I believe joy is a byproduct of something much deeper. The Bible tells us that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. So, any time I try to create “joy” or “happiness” apart from the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in my heart, mind and soul…it’s simply a powerless prison lamp binding up His promised abundance.
So, the next time you see a keychain, T-shirt or piece of merch with the beloved Genie, remind yourself you aren’t enslaved to your circumstance or the cards dealt to you in this life. Throw away your prison and set your joy free!