“Show them who you are!” were words shouted by Ramonda (Angela Bassett) to T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) early in the blockbuster movie Black Panther. By themselves, these words appear to be strong words of encouragement that any mother would say to her child if she saw that he or she were in a difficult situation. In the case of T’Challa, he hears these words as he struggles in a physical fight meant to decide whether he will become the next king of Wakanda. However, these words could also be interpreted as a foreshadowing of one of the overall positive affirming messages of the movie.
There were many other memorable moments in the movie (too many to name here) but hearing those words to me hinted at one of the most important themes of the movie: T’Challa’s journey of self-discovery. This fight that he was having with M’Baku wasn’t just a fight with a seemingly more physically capable opponent; it seemed like the fight could also symbolize T’Challa’s internal conflict with his purpose or destiny as King. This makes his mother’s words even more powerful because she reminds him that he already knows who he is. Despite moments of weakness and doubt, T’Challa knows exactly who he is. Perhaps unknowingly, this scene embodies the truth of Psalms 139: 13-14 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” His mother’s shouted words are the reminder of the truth of those words for T’Challa.
Later in the movie, T’Challa’s sister Shuri also reminds him of his strength when she explains to him one of the features of his Black Panther bodysuit. In this important scene, she describes how the suit is designed to use the energy from the blows it may receive to make it more powerful against future attacks. When I heard this description, all I could think was how that futuristic technology was an amazing example of the spiritual principle of being made stronger by adversity.
Psalm 18:32 tells us that “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” Hebrews 11:34 also refers to weakness being turned to strength. Both scriptures are full of truths that the Black Panther’s bodysuit illustrates: if you can withstand the punches of discouragement, doubt and powerlessness, eventually you can choose to be strengthened by even the most traumatic life experiences. It could be that the strength comes from the wisdom of the specific lesson that is learned because of the experience. Or, it could be that the strength comes from knowing that you were able to survive the experience. In either case, future strength comes from surviving past negative experiences. I think out of all the lessons that this amazing movie offers, this is the best one of all! Wakanda Forever!!!
Shewanda Riley is a Dallas, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.” Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.