There is a story little girls grow up with. The one where a handsome young Prince defeats every obstacle to save the Princess in distress. This is the stuff of fairy tales and a lot of older Disney movies. Now those movies have evolved into something where the Princess is strong, not helpless, and where she is in control as opposed to things just happening to her. She even does some of the saving now. Overall, this is a good shift of the classic narrative structure, because it shows the stronger side of femininity for little girls and lets them know they shouldn’t look for ultimate fulfillment in men. We can’t place our hope in another character in the story, but it must be placed in the creator of the story itself.
The story of the Prince saving the Princess and living happily ever after is reflective of a longing inside of us. We want this to be our story. We want the happily ever after. So we search for it in a man, in a relationship, and in a marriage. But when we bank on finding ultimate happiness in a boyfriend, fiancee, or husband we place them on a pedestal and put burdens on them they were never meant to bear. I didn’t realize I had put my husband on a pedestal until five years of marriage when he came crashing down. I was deeply hurt and he became a broken statue on the floor. I found out the depth of his sin, as well as my own, and reality could not measure up to the fairy tale. I felt like I had lost my happily ever after. I wrongly assumed my husband would fill that longing for my happily ever after, and I also wrongly viewed him, and his role, as more akin to Christ himself. My husband is called to be like Christ, but he is not Christ. I didn’t have this straight when I married him.
Paul Miller, in his book, A Loving Life, talks about the happily ever after we long for:
“The promise – marriage happily ever after – dominates the popular mind of our age. It is a good but unrealistic dream. When God is removed from the dream, the story turns out badly. Christianity without Jesus just doesn’t work. The Disney dream raises unrealistic expectations and then dashes them on the rocks of human frailty.”
I had to come to a place where my dreams were dashed, but replaced with a better one. The dream God has for me is to use my marriage to mold and shape me into a little version of Christ; to make me fit for heaven. He has declared me fit for heaven based on the righteousness of Christ, but I’m still becoming that which I am. C.S. Lewis references this shaping process in Mere Christianity:
“He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as himself. He is beginning to inject his kind of life and thought into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin….We have not yet the slightest notion of the tremendous thing he means to make of us.”
This is the painful and long process for those who wholeheartedly follow after Christ. As Lewis says we are going from a tin man to a living thing; going from inanimate to animate. We are becoming more real and more ourselves when we submit to this process, because we are finally becoming who God designed us to be: something that looks a little closer to him.
The longing for this happily ever after is no coincidence. God made us to long for and desire fulfillment, satisfaction, happiness, and wholeness. But we tend to look to created things to fill those longings, instead of the one who created us. Again, in Mere Christianity, Lewis references this longing:
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world…Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”
Our husbands, boyfriends, and fiancees suggest the real thing. The one who is behind and above the fairy tale is the real thing, and he made us to find wholeness in him. God has a happily ever after for us in his story. He surprises us first by revealing his Son as the Prince come to save his people, but it doesn’t end there. He is coming back; and finally and completely making all that is broken whole again, including us. This is true happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment. It is something we can’t manufacture or conjure up on our own, and it can’t be filled by any other person except the person of Jesus Christ. Our longing for a saving Prince has already been fulfilled, and our longing for happily ever after is found in heaven.