Sunday, October 4, 2009

Believing in Fairy Tales

Inside each of us is an ongoing battle between the part of us that wants to believe in miracles and happy endings and the part of us that fights not to believe for fear of disappointment. I hear people saying that being grown up means that we have to put away our affinity for fairy tales and that believing in miracles is akin to believing in Santa Claus. But I disagree. Maybe fairy tales look too good to be true, but I think they have several story elements that apply to a Christian perspective.

Fairy tales are about all sorts of people. We have stories about royalty or knights errant, but we also have stories about regular people who end up involved in something extraordinary. Fairy tale heroes and heroines also have a variety of missions. Some of them want to find love, some of them want to get out of some sort of trouble, and some of them want to help someone else. They're searching for some sort of fulfillment, and in the modern understanding of the fairy tale, we expect that by the end they're going to find something good, even if it wasn't exactly what they had in mind when they began.

Fairy tales often involve magic or have the protagonist benefiting from a prophecy, really good luck, or a series of serendipitous encounters. When we read these sorts of things, we think, "Yeah, right." But let's take a step back and reconsider. I believe that there is a good and loving God who is watching over my life and constantly helping me. I have already experienced miracles, and over the course of my life, I expect to see many more. These miracles are of all different types, things great and small, and I may not have even noticed all of the divine help I've received on my life's journey. But as a Christian, I know it's been there, whether I could see it or not. I don't need a fairy godmother, a magic sword, or a wand because I have God. Miracles do happen, even in everyday life. They're just not necessarily the miracles we expect.

It's also important to remember that even though fairy tales have happy endings, the whole story isn't happy. There are journeys to be made and struggles to face and enemies to overcome. When things in our lives get rough, that's often when we remind ourselves that life isn't like a fairy tale and we start to get jaded and lose hope. But haven't those same struggles and doubts been experienced by many a fairy tale protagonist? Of course life is difficult. That's what makes the payoff of the happy ending so appealing. I recall once hearing a quote that went along the lines of, "If you don't have a happy ending, then it isn't the end." That's what I believe as a Christian. My life is full of all sorts of mini-stories. Some of them have happy endings and some of them don't. I believe that a happy ending is always possible, but I realized that people are flawed and things get messed up and that God isn't going to intervene every time. But God has guaranteed me a happy ending to my life, because He knows that's what's most important. In the end, I will get to live forever with people I love, always rejoicing and never suffering. That's way better than prince charming. I literally am going to live happily ever after.

I've discovered that my life really is a lot like a fairy tale, after all. I can expect a happy ending, even if there are painful struggles in the middle. I can expect divine help when I need it most, and I can expect to become a richer, more capable, and more beautiful person by the end of the story. Miracles will happen, but not always the ones I want at the times I want. I may lose a few challenges along the way, but in the end I will win. It's guaranteed. Just like a fairy tale.

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