Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Happily Ever After?

I enjoyed fairy tales when I was young. I don't think I'm alone on that because those same stories continue to be passed on from generation to generation -- even turned into TV shows and feature films. Why so popular? Because in the end they all live happily ever after. But experience teaches us that's not how real life works. Throughout our lives we will continue to struggle with various problems: sorrow and heartbreak, financial struggles, relationship problems, sickness and, finally, death. Whatever we may have thought as kids, fairy tales don't come true.

Or do they?

When I was a senior in high school, there was a popular book entitled, Is there Life after High School? Though I never read it, I did ponder the question. I thought life after high school would be golden, filled with loads of good stuff, you know, happily ever after stuff. I'd have no more homework, no more class schedules, no more curfews.

But I discovered life after high school was work, and rush-hour traffic, and uncertainties. Then came college and a whole new set of hurdles to jump. Each time I've crossed a threshold from one phase to another, I've found the new phase was never quite as golden as I thought it would be. Finishing college, taking my first job, watching my bride walk down the aisle, sitting in the birthing suite and hearing the doctor say the baby is on his way -- those new phases are full of promise and joy, but they aren't happily ever after.

I expect the same thing will be true in the remaining phases of my life, as in when my son goes off to college next fall and -- if God is willing -- I see retirement, and the closing years of my life. Each phase will have plenty of troubles, trials, tears and frustrations of its own.

So, the fairy-tale ending is not realistic, at least not for this life. But what if we step back and look at the broader picture? What happens after death?

In a week and a half we'll be into another Advent season, and then Christmas. We'll talk about a young virgin girl named Mary, and Joseph, her betrothed. It was during this betrothal separation that Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant, and learned in an angelic dream the baby was none other than God's own Son.

Centuries ago, betrothals were different than our contemporary engagements. A betrothal was a binding, legal commitment. It was more like a wedding than an engagement. The husband and wife remained apart, living with their parents until the wedding feast. During that period of separation, the husband established his career and prepared a home for his bride. Finally, when everything was ready, he came for her. They celebrated a lavish marriage feast, and he took her to live with him in their new home.

The night before Jesus died, He made a fairy-tale promise that picked up this betrothal language. "In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also" (John 14:2-3).

This betrothal language dovetails very nicely into the fairy tales I enjoyed as a child. God the Father is our Heavenly King. Jesus Christ is His Son, our Prince Charming. All of us as believers are the Cinderellas He raises from the dust to live with Him in His Kingdom.

On Judgment Day Jesus will return to take us home, and then, with glorified bodies, we will live happily ever after in our Heavenly Father's house.

So, when you think about it, your life really is a fairy tale; we just won't get to that "happily ever after" part until Jesus returns to take us home. I think Paul had that fairy-tale ending in mind when he wrote, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18).

A fairy-tale ending, that's not quite what we expect from this life, is it? You can tell us what you think by clicking here!

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