I grew-up watching fairytales. And I’m still a sucker for a good old fashioned “chick flick” or love story --- Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Dorothy from the Wiz, Parent Trap, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, Dirty Dancing – just to name a few. I truly believed in happily ever after. I mean, how could I not given the themes of the fairytales and the classic romance movies – the princess always got her prince charming, the parent-less always found a loving home, and the underdog always came out on top. And what about the lyrics to the varying movie soundtracks. You remember, “Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you're young at heart”, or “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you” or how about “A whole new world. A new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us no, or where to go, or say we're only dreaming.” We’ve been conditioned to believe that the happily ever after for every Paramount, Sony and Disney protagonist was destined to be our happily ever after too.
I, like Savannah from Naked and Unashamed (pg. 91), dreamt of that perfect, classic storybook wedding. You know the one. The one just like Prince Charles and Lady Di – The silk taffeta ball gown with a twenty-five-foot train, the grand arrival in a glass carriage, the cascading bouquet of roses, lilies of the valley, gardenias, and orchids. And of course with every perfect marriage came the dream of the perfect children – two girls, two boys, walks in the park with our dog Brownie, always neatly groomed, no tantrums. None ever. The top of their class, a nuclear physicist, lawyer, Wall Street banker and brain surgeon in the making, and their acapella quartet or string ensemble always in demand to sing America the Beautiful or perform Adagio in g minor– you get the picture. Life always and forever, happily ever after. Just like Vivian. And Snow White. And Princess Tiana.
So imagine my disappointment when life took unexpected twists and turns. When my fantasies didn’t match my reality. How in the world was I or the many people I knew, supposed to remain motivated and encouraged when day in and day out dreams were crushed. Visions faded. Fairytales turned into nightmares. The “Cinderella” I knew became depressed because she missed her parents and she eventually ran away because she couldn’t cope with the mistreatment of her step-family, thus ending up in the streets, seeking love in all the wrong places. The “Snow White” that I’m acquainted with was gang raped and pregnant unsure of who the father was. The “Baby aka Frances” that lives in my neighborhood is still trying to help Johnny find himself and start yet another business while she’s a doctor bringing in the money and taking care of the family. In real life people fail, people are hurt and taken advantage of, people lie, cheat and steal, divorce happens, children are abused, jobs are lost and another can’t seem to be found, the bad guys win, children go astray, parents get sick and people die. Happily ever after doesn’t seem to visit my neck of the woods and the soundtrack to my so-called life is more like “fairytales don’t come true. They never happen to you, you’ll only get a broken heart.”
Someone recently sent me a message about their thoughts of my novel, Naked and Unashamed. They shared that they could relate to several of the characters. They thought it was educational as well as entertaining and they couldn’t put it down. They were all in. Until the end that is. And I quote, “How could you sell out like all the other authors out there. Everybody tries to tidy up every story with every character living happily ever after. That’s not real or at least it’s not my reality. I’m looking for some real advice for dealing with my current reality, which currently sucks.”
“My life sucks. What about my happily ever after?” How many of you have ever asked that very question? I know I have. I’ve had my share of heartache and heartbreak and disappointments and setbacks. I’ve lost loved ones and have battled illness, personally and in my family. I’ve lost meaningful friendships and faced racial and gender discrimination. I’ve failed and I’ve hurt and I’ve cried. I’ve been confused and tired and have retreated. I’ve questioned often and I too have wondered if there was such a thing as happily ever after.
So when I was asked, "why go on?"' Why get up and try again when failure and hurt seem to be a constant companion", I had to stop and ponder my response. It would have been easy to give some glib answer like, “When at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Or “Nothing beats a failure but a try.” Or “Hold on, your breakthrough is around the next bend.” I reread the ending to Naked and Unashamed, and then I prayed. I asked God to provide the answer to the question posed and the question I too had asked a time or two myself. “God, what about that happily ever after? How can I encourage and motivate others when things in this life can really suck?” And just like that, the answer was revealed right there in the question. I, like the person who reached out to me, have been searching for our happily ever after in all the wrong places. We’d been looking for worldly gain, satisfaction in others, validation from man, fairness from man, wrongs made right by man, internal confidence, external happiness and earthly bliss. We had been looking for life not to suck. But it does. At least it does here on earth.
When I reread the ending to Naked and Unashamed, I think what the reader missed was the fact that each of the characters, in varying ways, experienced an encounter with Christ and it was through that encounter that their “happily ever afters” emerged. I won’t give the story away (so go get it and read for yourself), but each of the characters still had unresolved issues to deal with. Healing still had to occur for some while uncertainty loomed for others; but what they each left with was the assurance that with Christ, their “happily ever after” was secure.
I think that’s our answer too. We can get motivated to go on only if we’re moving in tandem with Christ. If our focus shifts so that we’re determined to accomplish His work and to fulfill His purposes, then we’ll realize that life is, in fact, worth living. Happily ever after is not tied up in fairytales and prince charmings; rather our happily ever after should be wrapped up in the greatest love story ever told, the story of our salvation and in our Prince of Peace. If we recognize that our joy, our peace and our sense of security can only come from being filled with the Holy Spirit, then we’ll recognize that even in the midst of the storm we can go on. We can be encouraged despite the chaos swirling around us because we’ll understand that life here on earth is temporary. This world is not our home and in a little while, we’ll be united with our heavenly Father, experiencing eternal happily ever after! Happily ever after can be yours today. Won’t you let Him take the wheel?
Bible Texts of the Week: 8 Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- What were some of your childhood fantasies or expectations?
- How might your current reality differ from your previous fantasies or expectations?
- How has media shaped your expectations for your life?
- How do worldly expectations compare to Biblical truths/expectations?
- How might seeing “happily ever after” from God’s perspective change your view of your current circumstances?