Ever, Ever After

Saturday, June 14, 2008

“I don’t like anything here at all,” said Frodo, “step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air, and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.”

“Yes, that’s so,” said Sam. “and we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say.

“But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in mind. Folks seem to have been just landed in them usually—their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about them as just went on—and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folks inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same—like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in!

“I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?”

“I wonder,” said Frodo. “But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess. What kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.”

“No, sir, of course not… Why to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?”

“No, they never end as tales,” said Frodo. “But the people in them come and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later — or sooner.”

My new favorite movie is Disney's Enchanted, starring Patrick Dempsey and Amy Adams in a sweet story in which a fairy tale meets real life. I am only half-joking when I say that they finally came up with MY Disney princess in Giselle. I love happy endings and lovely people, and I trust in a lot of places I probably shouldn't, living here in "the real world."

Robert, Dempsey's character, keeps trying to convince Giselle that happy endings aren't possible, relying on his own painful life experience as proof. At one point, he explains his desire for his daughter: “I just want her to be strong, y’know? To be able to face the world for what it is. That’s why I don’t encourage the fairy tales, I don’t want to set her up to believe in this ‘Dreams come true’ nonsense.”

In his words, I recognized a desire of my own that Piper face the world for what it is, but not through the lens of cynicism or a system of controlled ideas.

Do I believe in fairy tales? No. But I do believe in a happy ending. I posted a few of my thoughts on that earlier this week. Will I discourage Piper from reading fairy tales? I don’t think so. For all the pain I’ve experienced over the last several years in having so many of my dreams and hopes for happy endings shattered, I still believe that there is value in encouraging my children to dream beyond what is “possible.”

In Oscar Wilde's play, The Importance of Being Earnest, the tutor, Miss Prism, explains to her charge, Cecily, that in her three-volume novel, "the good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction is."

In a world where unfairness is the rule, pain is familiar, and desire is constantly thwarted, it is unrealistic at best to hope for such an ending. This is, I think, one thing that makes Christians look so weird. We're hoping for a happy ending for us and a bad ending for the unrighteous. To some, such logic seems obviously a fiction. "How can you believe that a God who lets bad things happen is true?"

Then there are the Christians who don't hope for that kind of an ending, who preach that we are to accept life the way it is, and head-pat those dreamers who hope for more and tell them to stop believing in fairy tales. "This is what life is! Accept it! God is good! Those stories are just stories and that is the way the world thinks!"

But I think that stories and fairy tales hold something that we don't often see when we're viewing the short term, often-drab existence of our own lives. They draw us up out of ourselves into worlds and universes where everything is the way it is meant to be, where there is a hero and a crowning day and a forever. Sometimes, these worlds help us see ourselves more clearly. Sometimes they help us see our world more clearly. Our human experience is shackled by time, but our stories help us transcend time. The impossible becomes possible, and the unlikely dreams we hold can come true.

Coded into the pages of a fairy tale, threaded into the telling of a myth, lilting in the melody of the ballad, we hear centuries of human hearts crying out for what we were meant to have when God created us in His image. In our happy places, our safe places, in the stories we tell our children, we find an ache and a prayer for Eden that draws us ever onward in search of an ultimate fulfillment that can only come from God Himself.

I want my daughter to discover her dreams. I want her to believe that there is a happy ending and find faith that God Himself will be her treasure there.

Some people think that protecting their children means shielding them from pain at all costs. It means tempering their dreams and bringing reality clearly into view. But I would suggest that the best way of protecting my child is approaching the real things of life honestly, not trying to cloak the truth or hide the ugliness. There is real hope in what the Father has given us in Christ. All creation groans for release from the bondage of sin; I want my children to know this. I want them to know that there is a hero who will make everything all right in the end. I want them to know that He is amazing, that He has swept me off my feet with His love, and that they can know this Creator of the universe who cares when even a sparrow falls to the ground.

I want to surround them with stories of who He is, of what He has done for normal, stupid people who needed rescuing. I want them to see His epic, to understand that our story is really His story and we only play a small part, but this great hero loves us incredibly. I want them to believe in forever, to know that eternity past is possible, to imagine and to hope and to seek a heavenly country and a city whose builder and maker is a God whose voice shook the earth.

When my part in this story of Him is ended, I want my children to know it is His story. I want them to live on, believing that He IS.

God will use anything to awaken our desire for Himself. For me, it started with a dream I had that didn’t come true. My pursuit of that dream took me down a path I never imagined, and brought me face to face with a God who is beyond anything I could ever understand.

Face to face – I catch my breath.

I would never have believed it possible.


Christy said...

As someone who knew you when some of your dreams came crashing down, I found this post to be beautiful, profound, and inspiring. Thank you for sharing something so close to your heart.

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