This Will All Make Sense When I Am Older

Why a Song from a Disney Princess Movie Is Probably My Favorite Song of the Pandemic

Ben Self / 2.5.21

I know I should be rather ashamed to admit this, but here goes: Despite being a grown man in my mid-thirties with no kids, I have now watched Frozen II multiple times in the past month — along with a 6-episode documentary on the making of Frozen II — and I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

I’m not going to claim that it’s exactly high art, but it’s clearly charming, and better, I would argue, than the first Frozen. It’s just the kind of heartwarming, feel-good, not-remotely-true-to-life entertainment I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to during this age of intense stress and strain. The rest of y’all can load up on critically acclaimed gut-wrenchers if you like; I’m going to stick to animated fluff for now.

That said, it’s nice when movies that are supposedly made for children also offer some meaningful and memorable music, humor, storytelling, or life lessons for the adults too — and all the best ones do, as others have attested. There is good news hiding in all kinds of places. Perhaps for just such a reason, there has been one song from Frozen II that I just haven’t been able to get out of my head recently. In fact, my wife and I keep walking around the house singing it to each other. (Are we just losing our minds? Unclear.) The song is “When I Am Older,” a bubbly little tune Olaf sings to himself when he’s lost and alone in an enchanted wood—and being tormented by strange nature spirits. Here are the first two verses:

This will all make sense when I am older
Someday I will see that this makes sense
One day, when I’m old and wise
I’ll think back and realize
That these were all completely normal events

I’ll have all the answers when I’m older
Like why we’re in this dark, enchanted wood
I know in a couple years
These will seem like childish fears
And so I know this isn’t bad; it’s good […]

Hilarious, right? Olaf is the frickin’ best. The song perfectly captures the uneasiness we have so often felt this past year, as well as our (ultimately doomed) efforts at self-reassurance. Of course, nothing is in fact “normal” or “good” about what’s happening to Olaf in the enchanted wood, but he’s doing his darnedest to convince himself that everything’s just fine. This makes it a perfect little pandemic song, and one of my surprise favorites of the past few months.

It’s also meaningful to me because of the biblical themes it calls to mind. This may be a stretch, but I like to think the song is a wonderful evocation of Paul’s famous promise in 1 Corinthians that everything will make sense, essentially, when we die — or when the Kingdom comes. Here are the relevant excerpts from chapters 13 and 15:

For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. […]

[W]e will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. […] [T]hen the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

That’s the extraordinary hope, you might say, that puts a twist in Fate. It’s the ultimate eucatastrophe—the unexpected happy ending. There’s a famous passage from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov in which the tortured, deeply skeptical, often desperate character of Ivan echoes this hope and extends it further, suggesting even that all of our worldly suffering might somehow be “justified” in the final analysis:

I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidian mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened with men […]

That’s beautiful stuff, isn’t it? Let’s not pretend that such a monumental claim isn’t often hard to believe in. It is. But it’s the hope we carry in us by grace, the hope in One with whom nothing is impossible.

This side of the grave, our various theodicies can be useful for trying to make sense our suffering, but they will never quite satisfy or make up for it. The conundrum of the world’s evil and suffering — and our terrible struggle with it — never goes away. It just is. And the gospel offers us solace and hope in the face of it.

The joke of the Olaf song, of course, is that all these things probably won’t make more sense when you’re older. In fact, the mysteries of life have a tendency to only deepen. Yet the hope of Christianity is that in death, there is new life. That in the twinkling of an eye we will be transformed and all that is behind the veil revealed. It sounds crazy, but I believe it’s true. And there is great rest in that faith — faith that someday everything will indeed make sense. Until then, let’s carry that hopeful song in our hearts.