Friday, July 1, 2016

Happily Ever After

One of the greatest difficulties we have with the trials and troubles of this life is the myth of 'happily ever after.' It's the ending to all our greatest fairy tales, the closing caption to a thousand movies. We know our happily ever after is coming, at least in terms of eternity, but most of us want to rush it and make it possible here.

And we use our Bible stories to convince us that it's possible.

Take, for example, the story of Job. Job was a guy who experienced truly the worst that this fallen world could offer him. He was completely devastated over and over and over again, and after he proves his faithfulness one final time, God restores his fortune, replaces his children (and then some), and we imagine that Job then goes sailing off into the sunset without another care in the world.

In fact, it might be just Job that makes us think this is possible because the more I think about it, the more clear it becomes that this is not the story of any other character in the Bible. Every other story we have is of trial and heartache and struggle and not quite making it and failing and falling and finally dying when you just can't do it any more. But we all want a Job ending. We all want riches and blessing and peace and sons and daughters and livestock (maybe not livestock). We all want happily ever after, and if even a guy like Job can have it, then isn't that what God promises us? 

Isn't it possible that one day, life will just click...will just turn over...and there will be no more heartache, no more pain, no more trouble?


I mean, it's possible, yes. Anything is possible. But it's just not how the stories really go. It's not how things actually work. Not for Cinderella. Not for Snow White. Not for Beauty and the Beast. Not even...for Job. 

See, we've got happily ever after wrong, at least as it's possible here in the flesh. Happily ever after doesn't mean that bad things don't still happen. It doesn't mean there aren't dark days. It doesn't mean we somehow get a pass on all the fallenness of this broken world and get to live with butterflies and rainbows until we die and go to heaven. Happily ever after doesn't mean smooth sailing.

It's just a steady ship.

We have to stop thinking that perfect is out there, that it's just one knight in shining armor, one noble steed, one faithful step away. It's not. Perfect is an illusion. Happily ever after doesn't mean a life without sadness. Without regret. Without grief. Without pain. Not here. Not this side of heaven, not east of Eden. 

But we can get this happily that draws us back into itself. That becomes our home base, that becomes the place where our hearts come to rest. We can get this happily that becomes like gravity, always pulling us back down to blessing when life seems to be getting out of hand. Job had all his riches restored, all his land, all his possessions, all his livestock, all his offspring restored back to him in fantastic measure. 

But it still rained. Harsh winds still blew. He probably stubbed his toe a few times after that, caught a few colds, lost a few sheep, harvested some small crops, fought with his children, worried about them, wondered about them. There were probably nights that Job was restless and couldn't quite fall asleep, nights when he laid awake thinking about all the heartache that he knew. And yet, I think that in times like these, Job always came back to blessing.

He always came back to the goodness of God. He always came back to abundance. He always came back to the intimate knowledge of what it's like that very first moment you see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the way the light's warmth just wraps around you when you finally come out of it. He always came back to how amazing this God of his is. So even with a throbbing toe, an aching head, a thinned herd, a fallow field, a difficult child, a sleepless night, a restless heart, Job came back to this place called blessed, and that was his real happily ever after. 

This is what we have to wrap our hearts around - that happily ever after, so far as we can have it, isn't some hedge of protection that keeps all the bad things away. It's a fundamental shift of the heart that changes the forces of gravity, that finds a way to keep pulling us back into blessing again and again and again. So that on our sleepless nights, on our tough days, in our hard moments, we aren't stuck sitting in the dust scratching our weary flesh with broken bits of pottery, but we are rejoicing in our fields, feasting with our families, and staring up at the stars in the sky knowing...knowing that God is incredible, that grace is amazing, and that this, even this, is our happily ever after. 

This side of heaven, of course. 

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