Quite frankly, it surprises me that our children are still buying into this.
After all, look at what happens to princes and princesses is the other stories they are hearing. Princesses are horribly mistreated. They are cursed, poisoned, hunted, threatened, locked away in towers awaiting their rescuers, guarded by fire-breathing dragons. So often when they finally get their chance, they find their moment somewhat lacking - the prince is a beast or an ogre, the clock strikes midnight, the evil stepmother is right on her tail, she has to make a heart-wrenching choice between love and life as she's known it.
And our princes? Our princes, too, are sometimes cursed. They carry the burden of being rescuers, of being the ones who have to fight the dragons. They are pursued, persecuted. They fall in love with the princess only to have her snatched away from them, so they, the pursued, must do the pursuing all over again. The last petal falls from the flower, the clock strikes midnight. Sometimes, the prince has to kiss the dead princess. How many dead people do you want to kiss?
The stories of princes and princesses in our culture are fantastical, but not fantastic. Yet we continue to tell our children that this is what they can be. This is what they were created for. Oh, our little princess...you are our princess. You are destined to be cursed, poisoned, hunted, threatened, locked away in a tower, guarded by dragons. Oh, how fortunate are you! And our little prince? Oh, our dear little prince. You will spend your life fighting those dragons, and there will always seem to be more. You will finally find your princess only to have her snatched away. You may have something beautiful, but only if you bring life to the dead things, and only if the clock does not strike midnight. You will always be pushing against time. Our handsome, wonderful prince!
It's actually not that far off. This is exactly what our children are up against. This is the curse.
But isn't there anything better?
Look, I get it. Our princes and princesses, they're meant to inherit a kingdom. We want to give them the world. The problem is: we're giving them this world. We're giving them this broken world and telling them, congratulations! It's all yours! Because when they are our princes and princesses, that's all we have to give them. It sounds like a royal fantasy, but in truth, it's so much less. What we need to do is poise our children to inherit the Kingdom of God.
To do that, we have to stop telling stories of princes and princesses and instead, start teaching our little ones the glories of sons and daughters.
You heard me.
Again, I get it. There's a little part of me that was, once upon a time, a princess. That loved to dress up in jewels and gowns and high heels and prance around the living room and listen to my great-grandmother call me her "little queen of Sheba." I smile when I think about those days. But I don't want to be God's queen of Sheba or even His little princess.
What I want is not to be the heir God's Kingdom, although that's nice and all. What I want is so much more. What I want is to sit in His lap. What I want is to hold His hand. What I want is to see the way He sees me, to always remember that look in His eyes when He beholds the sight of me. I want to giggle with Him and hear Him delight in my joy. I want Him to discipline me, to teach me the things I need to know, and I want to remember the lessons I've learned from Him the way I remember learning how to bait a fish hook or how to throw a softball or how to put on make-up or whatever it may be. I want to look on the mantle and see not a coat of arms, but a family photo. That candid shot from that time we....whatever we did.
I want to sneak into His bedroom at night when I'm scared and know He's going to comfort me. I want Him to sneak into my bedroom with a big bowl of ice cream at some forbidden hour and share a little secret, just the two of us. I want to wait expectantly at the door when I know He's coming home, and I want Him to do the same for me. I want to be lifted into His arms with smiles so big it hurts both of our faces, and I want to feel His warmth wrap around me.
Being a princess is nice and all, probably. But what my heart longs for is to be a daughter.
That's what we need to be teaching our kids. Not to be princes and princesses, but to be sons and daughters. The greatest thing our kids can be, in all the world, is loved.
Teach your children to love and to be loved. To delight and to be delightful. Teach them to embrace discipline and to be embraced. Teach them to kneel before the throne, sure, but teach them just the same to climb up into their Father's lap. Teach them, in the middle of the night when it's dark and they're scared, to sneak into the presence of God and know that He's going to comfort them. Teach them what it's like to have a big bowl of secret ice cream, to take pleasure in the simple, silly things God's doing all the time. Teach them...to see the way He sees them, to remember the look in His eyes when He beholds the sight of them. Teach them relationship with the King, not the kingdom. Teach your sons to be His sons; teach your daughters to be His daughters.
There is no greater thing. No greater thing.
This is the only happily ever after.