As I write this, it’s been less than a month since I saw Disney’s Encanto for the first time, and I still can’t stop listening to the song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” In the middle of a Canadian winter, a bright animated musical trip to the vibrant country of Colombia was just the virtual vacation I needed.

Aside from the catchy music, colorful characters, and beautiful visuals, there is another reason the movie Encanto has stuck with me. It taught me valuable lessons about family and using the gifts that God has given me to bless others.


What the Story Is About

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I will share a quick summary without spoiling too much. Teenage Mirabel Madrigal lives with her multigenerational family in a magical house in Colombia, where each member of the family receives a magical gift (like shapeshifting or super hearing) when they turn five. However, Mirabel didn’t get a gift.

During a family party celebrating her cousin’s new gift, Mirabel discovers that something is threatening the magic in her family, and she decides that she has to save the day, even without a gift of her own.

No more spoilers, but I connected a lot to the characters in this story. Along the way, I saw so many connections to faith as I compared Mirabel’s gifted family and our gifts as a family of faith in Christ. Here are a few:


Part of the Family, No Matter What

The central struggle in Mirabel’s journey is dealing with her feelings about not having a gift. She feels like she has to do something to be valuable in her family—like her membership is conditional on the good things she can do. Similarly, her gifted sisters both feel like their value is dependent on what they can do, while her uncle Bruno (who we don’t talk about) mysteriously disappeared from the family after his gift of seeing the future was consistently problematic.

As a Christian, I know that my status in God’s family is not based on how many amazing things I can do. But despite that fact, I often act the opposite: I feel like I should be doing impressive, world-changing things to deserve being saved.

But then I am reminded that it is by the grace of Jesus, not by works, that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). I will never be good enough by my own strength and accomplishments. But we can have comfort in knowing there is nothing we need to do to earn or deserve his love: when we believe and accept it, he is already running towards us, ready to welcome us home (Luke 15:20). No matter where we come from or when we turn to Jesus, we are accepted as we are into his family as sons and daughters (Romans 8:15).


Use Your Gifts

Mirabel doesn’t feel as helpful or as important as the rest of her amazing family and thinks she will always be “waiting on a miracle,” a chance to prove herself to her family and community. While Mirabel struggles with her lack of gifting, her older sisters both have challenges with feeling inadequate in their gifts. Her oldest sister, Isabella, who has a gift of growing beautiful plants and flowers, suffers under unrealistic standards of perfection that are placed on her by her family, and self-imposed. Her other sister, Luisa, puts too much pressure on herself and feels she would be worthless if she lost the ability to use her gift of strength to help others with heavy lifting.

I noticed that these characters’ struggles parallel my own struggles with comparison: a trap with no good outcome. When we compare ourselves and our giftings, we can end up drowning in pity when we fall short of our unrealistic goals (which reminds me of Luisa). In the opposite way, comparison can make us prideful or blinded to our own shortcomings (which makes me think of Isabela and how she had no idea how mean she was to Mirabel). Yes, we might not be as athletic or as musical as someone else, but that doesn’t mean we are better or worse. God has made us all one-of-a-kind in his kingdom. We are each a part of the body and family of Christ, and we all have valuable parts to play (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

Romans 12:4-8 says that God has given us all different gifts. Not every gift is obvious or flashy, but “different” doesn’t make a gift better than another, or a person more significant than someone else. Me being an introverted writer doesn’t make me any “less Christian” than an extroverted singer. It’s no holier to work as a nurse than to work as a coffee shop barista. No matter what we do, we can faithfully point to God in all of it and do our best with the job he has given us: with the big things and the everyday things (1 Corinthians 10:31). Every role in God’s family is an important one, with opportunities that only you can fill. So if you’re a baker, bake!


Blessed to Be a Blessing

Could you imagine someone receiving a birthday present—something beautiful and useful—and then leaving it in the gift wrapping, storing it in the closet, and keeping it to themselves, only looking at it when they’re alone? Gifts aren’t made to be kept in a box, pristine and untouched. They are made to be shared, and Mirabel’s entire family is a great example of using their gifts together to serve their community.

God has filled our lives to overflowing with his gifts: eternal life through Jesus is the obvious one, but also the beauty of creation, time with friends, and delicious food (I get hungry when I see Mirabel’s mom cooking in Encanto). Yes, we can individually appreciate God’s blessings, but we are not blessed simply “to be blessed.” In Genesis 12:2–3, God calls Abraham to follow him and promises that through Abraham’s family, the whole world will be blessed. Through Jesus, we continue this same call as part of God’s family: to spread his love and blessing throughout the world (Acts 1:8).


More Than Your Gift

Towards the end of the story, Mirabel’s Abuela admits that she made a mistake in how she stewarded her family’s magical gifts. She had been so caught up in preserving the magic and put such a high priority on their gifts that she neglected her family.

As Mirabel and her family learned in the movie, we are more than our gifts. We are not defined by what we can do, whether our talents, skills, intelligence, or abilities. When we place our identities in those things, if those things fail us or we lose them, we are disappointed and left feeling empty and meaningless. But when we put our identity in Jesus, we find a foundation for all the challenges we might face. We don’t need to prove ourselves; we need only to see him as he sees us and be who he made us to be. Extraordinary or “ordinary,” we are all the same in his eyes: children of God, fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139).

More than a fun film with a soundtrack that I’ll be humming for weeks, Encanto reminds me of the place and purpose that I have in God’s family, no matter what (Romans 8:39). Like Mirabel’s family, we are all unique and blessed with different gifts and opportunities (1 Peter 4:10-11). Whether you are gifted in growing vegetables, crocheting, or making people smile, all those things make a difference and shine a light to encourage others. You are important in God’s family, and our gifts work even better—and God’s love shines even brighter—when we work together.