The conversation turned to the problem of evil, the power of an enemy who relentlessly pursues those who belong to the One True Living God and the possibility of a certain, specific hope. Basically, we were discussing the probability of a happy ending, despite the middle, ugly part of the story.
Don’t we want, more than anything, to have our happily ever after?
But, what does that mean? What does it look like? What is your definition of happily ever after? Some might say their chance for a happy ending died with a loved one, or with some it rides on a specific goal in the distant future they long to attain. Some believe it is possible by winning the lottery. A job they love or a home of their own. Some still believe it is wrapped up in a finding the right spouse. Some continue to believe it comes in a the color of skin, or the power to change one’s sexual identity. In some places, it’s assumed to be an inalienable right. Many would say it’s for someday, but not now, and some think it looks like an elephant or a donkey. But for we who call ourselves Christian, it can only look like a lamb. Even still, one that was slain to satisfy the yearning for happily ever after, once and for all.
The reality we live in now varies and is impacted by many factors. Where we live, our age, our family history, the exact time and place we are born can certainly dictate whether we experience freedom or persecution for our beliefs and choices, regardless of what they are.
Over time my own “happily ever after” was defined by circumstances. At different stages of my life I looked for it. Maybe I didn’t say it quite the same way, but ultimately I was looking for it. Having grown up not knowing my father was one place I spent some time searching for the elusive answers to my own story. I am certainly grateful I did decide, finally, to connect with and establish a relationship with my dad (by the grace of God) when I was about 36 years old. But, we think if we know our past, somehow it will help us secure the future. Nothing is further from the truth. Yes, we will gain some perspective and self-understanding, but it will not guarantee an outcome. You can find all the answers to your family history. You can seek your ancestry, or your personal history exhaustively. But ultimately, You know what you will have in the end? A lot of paperwork, maybe some new connections, even an adventure or two along the way. But, the fact remains, you won’t have happily ever after.
Here’s another one (or two) for you. I spent over thirty years coaching others in fitness and wellness. I pursued my own physical goals relentlessly. I could give you a bunch of reasons from psychological, emotional, and practical perspectives of why I pursued both my personal and career goals. But you know what I was really doing in these pursuits? Chasing my happily ever after. Guess what? It’s not in a low bodyfat percentage, a small waistline (though I do miss that one), or any number on the scale. It’s not in a roomful or trophies or pictures on the wall of you shaking hands with whoever. It’s not a job, career or side-hustle you love. And ironically, in my experience, the career path I started on was not the path God led me to continue (though he did use it to teach me extensively many lessons).
How about this one — academics? Oh, this is a favorite way I have pursued happily ever after. Maybe when you get that next degree, you will feel accomplished? Maybe just one more certification, one more official publication. How much education erases the past? How much education secures the future? Ask some of those who are carrying debt from their college years, years later. This is a hard one for me, because though I dropped out of high school, I loved learning. I’ve always been an eager learner. I have perpetually curious mind that loves learning new things daily. When I returned to school, older and maybe a tad bit wiser- OK, probably not wiser, but at least ready to follow the academic path long enough to secure an education and degree, I enjoyed my teachers, and professors and during those years gained much lost ground. But, happily ever after? That’s a lot more credits away. And for the record, unattainable through academia.
Oh, here’s one for the brethren. Let’s talk about our perfect church. The one that doesn’t exist. So because of something that happened, a lifetime ago, you don’t want to go to a church, where all those hypocritical people go. You forsake community with other people, because they are flawed. Like. You. Or you think it’s ok to worship from home with your family.
I didn’t grow up in the church, so sometimes I see things differently from those who did.Enthusiastically, Dawn
I am gonna say this and I don’t know who will read these words, but this I believe to be true, and this is why – no matter how I feel on any particular day, or what has happened in the past, or not happened that I think should have. Or because whoever looked at me wrong at church, or said something I didn’t appreciate, or who I think is annoying, yadda-yadda-yadda. Since I became a Christian, I have been committed to being in a local gathering of like-minded believers. That history includes three (four if you include the tiny baptist church I first attended after accepting Christ as my Savior- and trust me I felt like an oddball there at the height of my bodybuilding days, but that’s a post for a different day). I have sisters and brothers in faith from each of these places in time who I am grateful to know. The fact is if you are a bona-fide believer you need the church and the church needs you. It’s the standard Jesus set. We need to get together in our imperfect, humanity, and rub each other the wrong way, and get on with our lives, because that’s how grace works. Grace is how we keep showing up, and staying. Grace is how we can forgive and maybe not forget right away, but let God help us in forgetting the stuff we ought and remembering what matters. Grace is the stuff that holds us together like super glue when we feel like we are falling apart. Trust me, I wouldn’t show up week after week, month after month year after year, if I didn’t know and believe it is God’s good and perfect will. I am a brat like that. But I also am loved by a God who loves and gave himself for me- to create a world-wide-web beyond the internet, of believers from all over the world who wouldn’t give each other the time of day, BUT because Jesus. And, dear friend, that is a mighty big but. This is why we gather. Because Jesus. Ok, I am beating a dead horse here. All this to say, Christian, you belong with other believers. Find your imperfect place among the imperfect people of God, give grace, receive grace and get on with your life. You’re welcome.
I guess what I am trying to say here boils down to this, without Jesus, the lamb who was slain to take on the sin of the world and defeat death by dying on a cross, rising from the dead and ascending to heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of God – the Father, and abides with His people (all the human temples on earth) by His Spirit, nothing matters and there is no chance for a happily ever after. Because happily ever after depends on a God who keeps His promises, not on me, my accomplishments, my failures, the state of the economy, whether you vote democrat or republican or not at all. Happily ever after is knowing that beyond the state of the union, the state of the Kingdom is sure, pure and though unseen the only reality that can provide security for the future and peace in the here and now…regardless of who God allows to lead our country, our nation, or whatever world power reigns. God reigns here and now and forever.
No matter how ugly the story is here on earth for our life, this is not all there is. No matter what we experience this side of eternity, there is a place, beyond what is seen, beyond what you and I can know completely now. If you know and believe this, that Jesus has paid it all, for you, your hope is sure. Even with temporal doubts, Jesus is the one who secures our salvation. He is worthy of our trust. He is patient, gracious and able to meet our doubts, fears with His truth. He is the One who was and is and is to come. Know Him, believe Him. Rest in Him. He is our Happily Ever After.
To Him be all glory, power and victory forever. Amen.