Higher Movies: Shrek the Third: Vocation, Vocation, Vocation

by Nathan Fischer

More fairy tale figures abound in the third Shrek installment, which hit theaters May 18. This time, everybody's favorite green ogre is on another journey, and trouble just won't let him be. He must find the next heir to the throne of Far Far Away, save the kingdom from the ruthless Prince Charming, and deal with the news that he is about to become a daddy. Of course, he can't do any of this without his trusty sidekicks, Donkey and Puss in Boots.

I have to say, while it was funny (and worth seeing if you're a Shrek fan), it just didn't quite live up to its two predecessors. I'm sure the writers really tried, but Shrek the Third just lacks something. It was still pretty good. It was still pretty funny. It just wasn't quite on par with Shrek or Shrek 2. With that said, it most certainly did have its moments, and I found myself laughing uproariously several times. Who wouldn't laugh as sweet, little Snow White suddenly busts out singing Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, or at a powerful wizard who's lost his touch and turned into a hippy tree hugger?

What I found most intriguing throughout the film, though, was not its humor or story-line, but the way in which the writers approached a topic very near and dear to any Lutheran's heart: vocation. When Shrek is given the opportunity to rule Far Far Away, he turns it down - and at first, you're left wondering why he would do such a thing. After all, as they say later on, "You can be anything you want to be." I think Shrek has the right idea, though - he's an ogre from a swamp who just wants to be a good husband. He knows he probably won't be the greatest king (which you can tell during his hilarious trial period). He needs to find someone who will.

When he does finally find Arthur Pendragon, Arthur also does not appear to be very much on the surface (especially not King material). Throughout the story, though, he grows into the king that Far Far Away needs, and you get the sense that he will do the job quite well. He struggles with it at first and is terrified at the prospect of so much responsibility, but with some "gentle" nudging from Shrek, he comes to see his calling as king.

Shrek also struggles throughout the film with another looming responsibility of his own: fatherhood. Fiona is pregnant, and Shrek is scared that he just won't be a very good dad. He is, after all, just an ogre. Shrek voices a very real concern - what if he doesn't make a good father? It's not that he doesn't want children. He's just afraid of being a lousy dad.

There is something awesome and powerful about all of this, even in a "kid's" movie. Shrek recognizes that he is not fit to be king - but he never shirks off his responsibility as husband. He is humbled by the thought of the gift of children, but he returns to do what must be done. Arthur is also humbled and afraid that he will be a terrible ruler, yet it turns out this is what he was born to do. Despite the seeming mess of the world around them, in the end everything falls into place, and they fulfill the vocations they know they are to have in life.

Shrek especially teaches us that we don't need to shoot for the stars. Being a husband and a father (or a wife and a mother, or a son, daughter, etc.) is good enough. In fact, being in those vocations is one of the greatest gifts of all. You don't need to aim for president, or astronaut, or any of those other things in life. "You can be anything you want to be" applies especially to the holy offices of family, parenthood, and marriage. These are the truly important things in life. Not power. Not money. Not even "being all you can be."

As Christians, we know that these gifts come from God, and that He places us each into our own vocation. He empowers us to lead holy lives in Christ, lives as fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and all those other offices that we hold. If you become president someday, that's great - but it's also great just to be a mom and dad, or brother and sister, or son and daughter. It's also good to be a janitor, regular office worker, auto mechanic, and all those other things that we think are so "normal" and mundane. Those are good things, because Christ has made them good.

Shrek the Third might not have been the funniest of the trilogy, and it might not have had the greatest plot line, but the theme of vocation that runs throughout can be used as a tool for parents to teach their kids (who are sure to love the movie no matter what). It can also be used to remind ourselves that where we are right now (as well as where we will be in the future) in our life in Christ is good and right, even if we're not King of Far Far Away.

Nathan Fischer is a  junior at Concordia University Wisconsin, planning to attend Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN.  He is also a Higher Things Blogger.

Created: May 21st, 2007