“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
If you’ve got kids and watch television as a family, you probably have a subscription to Disney+. The fact is, like it or not, there isn’t anyone else out there producing as much, as high quality, and as generally family-friendly content as they are. As a family, we tune in often. There aren’t many family movie nights for us that don’t involve one of their shows in one way or another. One of the latest offerings is their remake of the popular 90s series, Doogie Howser, M.D. Instead of a suburban white guy from middle America, though, this one is based on a Hawaiian girl named Lahela. The show is called Doogie Kamealoha, M.D., and this morning I’m thinking about a missed opportunity to be different.
We are a few episodes behind right now, but from what we’ve seen of the series so far, it tries to occupy several different genres all at the same time. It dabbles a bit in the medical drama genre. It spends a fair bit of time in the teenage, coming-of-age lane. It definitely tries to check off a few progressive boxes. But it bills itself most as a family drama. So far, while I haven’t loved every moment of the series, and there have been a few scenes that I wish they hadn’t included, the result has been surprisingly good.
Lahela is brilliant like Shawn Murphy of The Good Doctor, but without the autism. She is surrounded by a number of characters who are variously charming, irritating, and affirming. Her biggest struggle throughout the series is figuring out how to navigate personally and professionally the odd space she inhabits. As a super genius, she is not only out of high school, but all the way through medical school at the age of 16. That means she struggles to relate to any of her same-age peers. Her day-to-day experiences don’t even register on their radar. At the same time, being only 16, she really can’t relate to any of her co-workers. In fact, calling them her peers at work doesn’t make sense because they’re all adults (and, somewhat offensively and unbelievably, all rather adolescent adults in their behavior and attitudes). She wants to be a grown up, but isn’t really ready for it. It would be a difficult world for anyone to try and inhabit.
Helping her manage all of this are her loving and committed parents, two brothers, one older and one younger, and her best friend. Somewhat ironically, given the kinds of narratives shows like this so often push, the writers put her smack dab in the middle of a social context most ideally suited to helping her figure all of the craziness of her life out successfully. Personally, I appreciate that. Credit Disney for knowing their audience. They may be a company wanting to burnish their progressive credentials to keep the woke mobs off their back, but they’re also aware that the vast majority of their viewing audience live in or otherwise support the idea of a traditional, nuclear family. They check boxes when they can, but they keep offering up social settings that reflect a much more traditional outlook.
All told, while I wouldn’t recommend the series for families with younger kids–it definitely addresses some themes those parents probably aren’t ready to address with their little ones–if you’ve got kids who are reaching an age where they are starting to swim in the uncomfortable waters of adolescence, they will resonate with the oversized depiction of some of the very things they are struggling with being played out on the small screen before them. And, as parents, if you’ll watch with them, you will get the opportunity to have conversations with your kids you might not otherwise be able to easily find an on ramp to have.
Speaking of that, it is just such a conversation I had with one of my own boys that prompted my writing this morning. In the fourth episode, Lahela and her mom, Clara, were both struggling with separate personal issues. Lahela was dealing with boy drama while Clara was wrestling with the tension of being an involved mom and also a busy surgeon at the hospital where she is also Lahela’s direct supervisor. Late in the episode the two have a heart to heart and while there was great potential for some genuine life wisdom to be offered, alas, such an outcome was too much to hope for. Clara settled on encouraging Lahela to “follow her heart” and promised to do the same in her own life. If they would just follow their heart, everything would work out okay
Just as the mom and daughter finished their conversation, our middle son looked over at me and said, “Dad, is that true?” Now, in that moment, I had a number of different options before me. I could have given a generic affirmation to the show. I could have parried the question into a new subject. I could have ranted and raved about how utterly unchristian a notion that is. Instead, we had a conversation about what’s true and what’s not. I shared with him the prophet Jeremiah’s observation that the heart is deceitful above all else. If we simply “follow our hearts” in all the decisions we make, the odds are overwhelming that we will follow them in a direction other than God wants us to go. We can convince ourselves of just about anything we most want to do whether or not that wanting reflects God’s character and commands. Our better bet is to trust God’s heart and obey His commands. That will keep us on the right track.
The fact is, though, that this notion of following your heart is one we encounter everywhere we look today. It’s basically the guiding mantra of Disney. Our deepest desires and biggest dreams will all be fulfilled if we will just follow our hearts. The trouble is, again, our hearts are deceitful things. Sometimes our deepest desires are for things that will blow up our lives if we manage to lay our hands on them. Worse, they’ll blow up the lives of the people around us. Following your heart simply isn’t good advice. It isn’t good advice unless you’re fully on track with what Paul says here. The truth is that your best life is not going to be found in meeting your desires. It will be found in living the life of Christ.
The life that is truly life was made available to us by Jesus. He did this by dying in our place on a Roman cross and raising from the dead on the third day. If we want to have this life, it will come when we place our faith in Him; when we spiritually participate in His death-defeating death and life-giving resurrection. And we do this because He loved us. He died for us. There is no greater expression of love than that. Any cultural hogwash about loving being expressed best in helping the people around us realize their desires is little more than that. Our best life is found in Christ. Any thought that we can somehow work ourselves into the life we’ve always wanted negates the sacrifice Jesus made. If we can work there on our own, what need do we have of Him? But we do need Him because all such efforts are a fantasy, and a bad one at that. Let us follow the heart of Christ and we will find what we’ve been missing all along.