Encanto – Earning vs Receiving

Let’s kick this series off with one of the biggest questions from the film, Encanto: “Do you have to earn gifts that are freely given?” Remember, this post will have spoilers.

The movie begins with a song all about the various gifts the family members have received since the Miracle that created their Encanto. I recapped them last week if you need a refresher. Mirabel identifies her Abuela as the one who “runs the show.” Abuela sets the tone for the whole family and who everyone looks to for guidance. During the song, Abuela adds in these lyrics:

We swear to always

Help those around us

And earn the miracle

That somehow found us

The town keeps growing

The world keeps turning

But work and dedication will keep the miracle burning

And each new generation must keep the miracle burning

Encanto, “The Family Madrigal Lyrics

In the movie, we come to realize the sacrifice that Mirabel’s Abuelo made to save his family. At the cost of his life, Abuelo Pedro slowed down the invaders so that Abuela, their three babies, and the villagers could escape. Out of the river he stood in, a glowing candle appeared at Abuela’s feet. She accepts the candle and the Encanto begins to grow, along with the magical house the family will live in.

So let’s be clear. It was from an act of sacrifice this miracle appeared. It was earned, perhaps one could use the language “bought,” with the cost of Abuelo’s life. Does this sound familiar to our Easter ears? The new life Abuela received came at a price, just as the new life we receive from Christ came at a price.

Here’s where things get messy, and why we have a movie to begin with. Abuela doesn’t go down the path of Scripture, which reinforces our understanding that our redemption, our miracle, isn’t something we can earn. It was and continues to be freely given (see Romans 11:6 and Ephesians 2:8-9)

Abuela, in her efforts to honor Abuelo, insists that the miracle must continue to be earned. The family must keep proving themselves worthy of the miracle. This means no mistakes are permitted, there isn’t room for complaining or differing opinions. She has painted a facade of perfection and expects everyone to stay within the lines of their gifts and roles.

We can point to a number of places where the pressure of perfection is beginning to make the characters crack. While we will talk more specifically about the effects of perfection in a later post, this is a good place to begin looking at the theme.

  • Tia Pepa’s high anxiety levels and inability to control her gift for any length of time.
  • Luisa’s apparent weakness as illustrated by donkeys feeling heavy
  • Isabela’s willingness to marry someone for the sake of the family
  • Camilo erratically shape shifts
  • Bruno’s disappearance yet Dolores still can hear him

Mirabel sees the cracks physically appear in the Casita, the family’s home. As the viewer, it becomes quickly apparent that the cracks in the Casita are representative of the cracks between the characters and with their relationships. It becomes Mirabel’s mission to expose those cracks so that healing can happen. Unfortunately, it takes the whole house coming down before Abuela is able to see that she was the cause of the damaged relationships.

The sacrifice of Abuelo is huge. Abuela carries the weight of his loss the heaviest and it is from a place of love that she acts. However, her obsession with keeping the miracle alive caused her to prioritize the gift over the people. At the end of the movie, listen to how her view has been changed:

And I’m sorry I held on too tight

Just so afraid I’d lose you too

The miracle is not some magic that you’ve got

The miracle is you, not some gift, just you

The miracle is you

All of you, all of you

Encanto “All of You” lyrics

Ok, life application. Hopefully it’s been made clear that when someone freely gives you something, you shouldn’t need to retroactively earn it. This is most especially true in our faith, where Jesus’ gift of Himself isn’t something we could ever earn. It also has implications on our every day gift-giving experiences. When we choose to give, it should be without strings attached or expectations of reciprocity. And when we receive, we should be humbly thankful instead of keeping score.

Next week, more talk about perfectionism, why we push it on ourselves and others, and why it’s not great for relationships.