April 20, 2014

Where's the "Happily Ever After?"

“You’ll be alright. We’re together now; everything’s going to be fine, you’ll see.” - Belle

The movie that saturated my childhood.

I spent countless afternoons dressed up in one of my mom’s vintage yellow dresses with a purple sash (for an extra dash of glamour) thrown around my neck. Belle Barbie doll in tow, I played for hours pretending to be Belle, longing to be Belle.

I wanted to be brave and beautiful just like her. I wanted to wear a pretty ball gown dress and sing pretty songs. I wanted to save someone, fall in love, live in a castle. I wanted this fairy tale with its romantic “happily ever after” to be my own.

And in some ways, my dreams came true.

I was brave enough to move to a third world country and have our baby here. (Which I found out doesn't require bravery as babies are born here every day.) My grandma has called me “Beauty” as long as I can remember. (And if a grandma calls you beautiful, that makes it true.) 

Every once in awhile I splurge on pretty dresses from the Target clearance section. (I miss you, Target.) I used to sing in front of church with my mom. (Until I reached an age where it wasn’t cute to sing off key anymore.) 

I save my daughter from owies with kisses. (Who knew Mommy kisses are like magical fairy dust?!) And I fell in love with a wonderful man and we live together in a castle (a.k.a. apartment with modern plumbing.)

All the major fairy tale elements are there.

The castle.

The Princess in her Sunday best.

But even so, sometimes it feels like the “happily ever after” is missing. 

Sometimes, the fairy tale elements get horribly lost in the daily grind; buried in loads of stinky laundry, stacks of dirty dishes, endless grocery lists, gobs of drool, and masses of squishy diapers.

And I am not always brave. The sweatpants I am in some days until noon are not always beautiful. The apartment we live in is not always sparkling. The King and Queen do not always communicate in complete harmony. And taking care of Baby Princess sometimes makes the Queen feel like she is going crazy. (Which she informs the King of when he arrives home from long days of hard work outside the castle walls.)

Here's a "bloggie" for ya. 
The Queen after getting her wisdom teeth out last week.
Am I still beautiful, Grandma?

The Princess is officially on the move.

And I am guessing there are others out there who feel the same way. Others who have dreams and desires for their lives, wishes they hope to come true. Who doesn't want their life to be a fairy tale? Who doesn't dream of having everything end up nice and tidy right before the credits start rolling?

The problem is that when we hear “fairy tale,” we are quick to associate “prince,” “princess,” “castle,” “riches,” “happily ever after.” But what we forget are the ferocious dragons, the epic battles, the long journeys, and the grueling hardships that all come beforehand. We forget that all stories, even fairy tales, have conflict.

What if Belle never had to learn to love someone so unlovable? What if Snow White never had to overcome the evil deeds of her wicked step mother? What if Ariel never had to sacrifice her voice to grow a nice pair of legs?

The tough truth is, we are living in a fairy tale, but right now we are deep in the "conflict.” Evil is trying to take over. It is delivering hardships we are all too familiar with: death, sickness, pain, loneliness, jealousy, greed, lust, poverty, injustice.

I know this, because this past Saturday we mourned with friends as they buried their three-year-old daughter. And mothers shouldn't have to bury their children.

I know this, because our friend who has suffered so much in the past year just found out he has leukemia. And I wonder why can't he seem to catch a break?

I know this, because a poor beggar wandered into church, and the people he sat next to got up and moved to a different pew. Poverty and those not in it can be so ugly at times.

I know this, because looking for a job from thousands of miles away is test of patience, trust, and obedience.

I know this, and I'm guessing you do too. Because you probably have hardships in your own life and see them in the lives of others around you. 

But that’s where hope comes in. 

Even when our hardships are so big that hope isn't a warm fuzzy feeling anymore, we still have the knowledge that hope is there. 

We know that someday the fighting will be over. Someday we will have a world without evil. Someday we will finally have our “happily ever after.”

Sometimes we get to see glimmers of hope in our completely broken world: encouraging friendships, incredible generosity, healing, a sponsored child, Christ-centered marriages, baby giggles, repentance, forgiveness, an empty tomb.

The Princess in a jacket and bonnet that her Great-Great Grandma made.

But the end of our story is not about having a perfect life here on earth: the perfect spouse, a dream job, successful kids, enough money to pay the bills and go on exotic vacations, a house that doesn't crumble, a car that doesn't pollute the earth (a.k.a a bike.) Those are all great things, but they don’t come close to the excitement and perfection that is to come.

So in the meantime, we have to be patient. We have to wait. We have to do battle and slay dragons and endure hardships. We have to be the good that fights the evil. We have to long for the end of the story, to pray Thy kingdom come. 

Because no matter how terrible the pain gets, the “happily ever after” is on its way. Our Prince is coming again. And He’s going to save us. 

He already has.

“You’ll be alright. We’re together now; everything’s going to be fine, you’ll see.”

Grace and Peace,