King Julian’s Prayer

This morning I woke up thinking about my daughter. She is six years old. I am on a work trip away from home and when my mind is at ease it goes where my thoughts are the most untroubled, plain and joyful. In the fogginess of morning drifting into consciousness I felt a smile on my face as I thought of her.

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The thought was specific, especially for someone like me who rarely remembers my dreams. I imagined her repeating a line from one of her favorite movies, “Madagascar 3”. There is a scene where King Julian, king of the lemurs, falls madly in love with Sonja, a circus bear from Russia. After a brief romance, Julian passionately recounts his love for Sonja and inadvertently conveys a profound truth about life. He says, “Sonja, I don’t want to be king anymore. I was so caught up in who you was and who I was, but all that really matters is what we smell like together.” Now my quotation lacks the hilarious accent and inflection that Madeline gives it when she goes around quoting this line. My first thought this morning was of her saying this and my response which is always deep laughter. It was a good way to start the day.

Julian’s words are funny, both in the movie and when my daughter repeats them. They are also powerful and convicting. You know the truth is, that line is a beautiful prayer.

Sonja, I don’t want to be king anymore. I was so caught up in who you was and who I was, but all that really matters is what we smell like together.

I often catch myself wanting to be king. I want to be in charge of my life. I want to run things and manipulate the world around me so that I can be powerful or comfortable or relevant. In my mind I am often the center of the world. That’s why I get upset when I am mistreated or situations fail to work out the way I plan.

 But being king is exhausting. Ultimately, being king will kill me. This is where Julian’s line becomes a prayer for me. “Lord, I don’t want to be king anymore.” What an excellent thing to say to my Father in Heaven. He is the King. He is in control. As I pray that line from Madagascar 3, I feel the burden of building my own fiefdom melt away from my soul. I feel this amazing freedom to let go. I realize that I am not built to manipulate my world and that power, comfort and relevance are not objectives that bring me life. Instead they bring a slow, painful death. I don’t want to be king.

 Like Julian, I am also so caught up in who I am. In many ways I am enamored with myself. I view most situations from my perspective rarely stepping back to perceive circumstances from the King’s point of view. But like being king, being caught up in myself is deadly too. Actually it is a boring way to live. I am so limited in my view and my ability to see what is real.

The next part of Julian’s spiel is my favorite. I have a hyperactive olfactory sense. I smell things a mile away and it drives my wife crazy. Julian says, “All that really matters is what we smell like together.” The truth is I stink. The Scriptures say that my sin and rebellion is like a horrendous stench rising up to heaven. On my own I cannot please God or offer him anything.

The beautiful thing about the Gospel is that my detestable, putrid smell is washed over by the incredibly sweet aroma of Jesus’ sacrifice. The smell that rises from the cross where Jesus died in my place is pleasing to God. When my life is absorbed by Jesus’ life “what we smell like together” has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Jesus. He is the faithful one. He is the only one who lived rightly and pleased God. In the end all that really matters “is what we smell like together.”

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6 thoughts on “King Julian’s Prayer

  1. Paul Okpokowuruk says:

    Now I want to go and watch Madagascar 3. I really, really like “what we smell like together”! Thank you Gabe.

  2. Rollin Grams says:

    Excellent thoughts–and I can remember Madeline saying these lines in an almost perfect imitation of King Julian! Thanks to you both!

  3. Gabe. A lovely blog. I’m a friend of your dad. We went to ECU together and I’m visiting him and your mom in October. I’m looking forward to catching up with them after 40 years! I hope to have the chance to meet you some day. We can exchange stories about Africa where I lived almost 4 years and traveled to often while based in New York. I never saw Madagascar 3 as my kids were too old to be interested when it was released but maybe I’ll catch it on cable some day. I’ll be looking for the scene that inspired your blog. Mike.

  4. Nico says:

    Africa sure brings out the best in all of us!

    Together as brothers and sisters in His grace we are a pleasant fragrance to Him. Happy travels!

  5. immah says:

    thats soo Sweet

  6. immah says:

    thats soo swt am a huge fun of Madagascar but never knew the inner meaning thnkx alot

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