I’ve seen a lot of this lately.
Pictures, videos, the entire premise of entirely too many kids movies. We as a culture have this sort of sinister obsession with bringing “realism” to the fairy tales with which we grew up. Our princesses are beleaguered, overworked mothers. Some of them are undergoing extensive plastic surgery in a desperate attempt to hang on to their youth and beauty. The princes ran off with other girls, or turned out to be gay and ran off with other princes. It’s all very grown-up, all very tongue-in-cheek, and the cynical among us generally get a laugh from these imagined conclusions to the stories of our youth. Ha ha, isn’t it funny? Isn’t it funny because they’re really just like us after it all?
Isn’t it hilarious that the hopes and dreams of their youth, the bright promise that their future held, was squashed forever and they are doomed to the same mediocre, disappointing existence that I’m slogging through right now? Isn’t it funny that every guy who seems to be good and sweet and loving will eventually sour on you, turning indifferent or outright awful and leaving you to some form of abandonment or misery? Isn’t it funny that the modern culture has declared the joys of marriage and parenthood to be a boldfaced lie, and such a life can never offer a real woman any fulfillment or satisfaction?
Hold up. That didn’t come out right.
I am all for reinterpretations of fairy tales. The occasional cynical deconstruction of a “happily ever after” tale doesn’t bother me overmuch. But this idea that happily ever after just doesn’t happen, that it’s this happy illusion doomed to be shattered by the cruelty of everyday life, has me very concerned about how we have come to understand both love and hope.
In our mad dash to make fairy tales more “realistic,” we have made it obvious that we don’t believe anybody in reality can remain truly happy. Problems and brokenness will plague any life, any relationship, to the point that viewing a happy ending as the beginning of a life filled with joy and promise is considered laughable. I find this deeply heartbreaking, and also missing the point of a happy ending.
I don’t believe that happily ever after was ever meant to mean “and they never had any problems from that day forward.” Such an understanding would truly be unrealistic. We do live in a broken world, a world characterized by hardship and pain, and will continue to live in that world until our Lord comes back to redeem all of creation. But a problem-filled life is not always an unhappy one. Sometimes, happiness is working THROUGH the new problems and pain, but realizing that you don’t have to do it alone anymore. Sometimes, it’s getting to be strong while the person you love works through the pain. Sometimes, it’s being carried when you can’t take another step. Happily Ever After is the beginning of a new adventure, an adventure characterized by hope and joy in the midst of struggle. I have to believe that, for a lot of reasons.
I have to believe it because so far, I’m living a pretty sweet happily ever after. You won’t catch me talking a whole lot about the details of my personal life on this blog, but the fact is that I have an AMAZING husband and a wonderful son. I am so wonderfully in love. I know I haven’t been married for terribly long, but we have already had the experience of facing problems together and working through the difficulties of this life as a couple, and I have to say that even in the darkest of times, there is happiness in knowing that God has given me a companion to walk with into eternity.
Most of all, though, I have to believe it because I know the end of my own story. I know that Christ is coming back. I know that He will wipe away all the tears and do away with all pain, all sadness, all hurt and sickness and death. I know that He will remain with me, with all of His people, for all eternity, and we get to spend forever with Him, continuing to learn and grow and explore and enjoy Him and one another. I get to start another new adventure one day, and it will never end. If that isn’t a happily ever after, I don’t know what is.
I understand that not every story has a happy ending. But a lot of stories do. Mine does. I’d like yours to as well. I think everybody should get the chance to have a happy ending. I hope I get to be a part of changing the way we tell our stories, so that maybe other people will believe they should get that chance, too.