One lasting image from Toy Story 2 is found on the bottom of cowboy doll Woody’s boot. There, you would find the name ‘Andy’ written in permanent marker. Andy writes his name on the feet of most of his toys as a sign/reminder that they are his and he cares for them.
In the movie, Woody stops to ponder the name written on his boot twice. Early in the movie he has lost his cowboy hat. Woody is afraid that Andy won’t want to play with a hatless cowboy doll. Another toy tells him to look under his boot and reminds him that the kid who wrote his name there won’t easily forget him.
Later in the movie, Woody is damaged and stolen. Part of the adventure that follows presents Woody with a great temptation: he has the chance be sold as part of a collection of vintage toys to a museum. There he will be preserved for generations with no risk of being damaged or lost again.
Woody initially decides to go to the museum, but at the last minute remembers what’s on the bottom of his boot and what that means. He remembers that Andy loves him and where he belongs. It is then that Woody shakes off any illusions of wanting to “live forever,” and decides he’ll return home.
This is the more difficult road, the one where Woody chooses to trust the one who loves him. And in many ways, it’s precisely what we are called to by virtue of our Baptism. We are given a permanent – indelible – spiritual mark on our souls (CCC 1272). We know that God knows our name, we are His, and that He cares for us. We may not always understand what God is doing or what God has in store for us, but we can choose to trust in His love for us and that with Him is where we belong.
But like Woody, we can go through the many adventures life brings to us, and we can forget who we are and whose we are. This was the temptation that overcame our first parents when they chose to believe that by grasping at the forbidden fruit, they could live forever (Genesis 3). They believed the words of the serpent rather than the words of God who had given them everything. This was also the temptation that overcame Simon Peter, when in fear he denied Jesus three times (Luke 24:54-62). He chose to listen to his fears rather than cling to his friendship with the Lord. And this is the temptation that sometimes overcomes us when we listen to other voices or our own fears, making our own worst decisions and turning our own backs on God.
Mercifully, God never forgets who we are. He never forgets that we are His. God is patient and He is persistent even when we allow our fears and these other voices to drown His voice out and finds ways to get us to look at our own ‘boots’ so we remember who we are and whose we are. We see that even as He is evicting Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, God makes the first promise of a future Messiah who will set things right (Genesis 3:15). After the Resurrection, Jesus asks Simon Peter “Do you love me?” three times (John 21:15-25) – a fitting opportunity to set Peter’s heart aright after the shame of his threefold denial (Luke 22:62).
We need to remember that He has left us countless reminders for us of who we are and whose we are. We are God’s beloved children (1 John 3:1). We can see that He claims us as His own when we read scripture and hear Him say “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). We hear it from others who try to teach this to us. Sometimes the message is simple, as in Veggietales, which always ends with the same encouragement: “God made you special and He loves you very much.” Sometimes we hear the message from spiritual giants like Pope Benedict XVI who said that “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”
Although we may not be able to look to the bottom of our boot to see a name written in permanent marker, what was true for Woody in Toy Story is exponentially truer for each of us: God loves us, we are His, and He cares for us.
Mike Landry is chaplain to Evergreen Catholic Schools west of Edmonton, and serves as an occasional guest speaker and music minister in communities across Western Canada. Mike and his wife Jennifer live in Stony Plain, Alta. with their five children.