Saturday, February 9, 2013

Happily Ever After

This morning I woke up early, got up to brew some coffee, and returned to drink it in bed.  Duane had turned on the TV and flipped around to a movie I remember from somewhere in my childhood.  Daddy Long Legs, the story of a French orphan who is rescued by an anonymous rich American.  She writes letters to her unknown benefactor, calling him Daddy Long Legs because of the shadow he cast when he visited the orphanage years before.  He is the uncle of her roommate, so they meet and fall in love despite the vast age gap.  She does not realize until graduation that the man she loves and the uncle of her friend are the same person.

The original book was good.  The movie was better.  Leslie Caron and Fred Astaire.  What's not to like?

I got caught up in the movie, and as I watched, I began to see the themes of the movie in a new light, themes that reflected unhealthy thought patterns in my own life.

You see I grew up in a world of sanitized fairy tales, fanciful, imaginative fiction, and Hollywood musicals.  Songs.  Romance.  Happy endings for people who are good and kind and patient.  Unhappy endings for people who are evil and cruel and try to take things into their own hands.

Even though I knew all of these stories were outside the realm of reality, somewhere deep inside of my heart, I believed.  I believed in beautiful maidens rescued by handsome princes who saw their hidden beauty.   I found my prince when I was 16, and we married when I was 18.  (That's another story entirely.)  Nevertheless, there are other kinds of princes, and I waited for them patiently.  I approached life passively.

Someone, someday would see my innate potential.
I would be discovered.
Scholarships.  Fame.  Honor.  Book contracts.
Fortunate surprises awaited the good, the kind, and the patient.

Life isn't quite like that.  I'm not saying that it isn't filled with serendipities, lovely unexpected surprises that catch us off guard and fill us with joy.

I'm just saying that most of the time we need to live proactively. We need to work hard. There is no "spoonful of sugar" that makes my house clean itself.  I cannot sprinkle weight loss powder on my food and automatically lose weight and gain six-pack abs.  My bestselling book does not write itself.  I do not decide to go to grad school one day and walk out with a teaching contract the next day.

Even in marriage.  Happy ever after does not come without a few arguments, disagreements, and sleepless nights.

No matter how we define success, it very rarely comes out of nowhere.

Some years ago, God's word to me was "move."  I didn't know what this meant, and then I began a long journey of cautiously moving toward dreams I let go of decades ago.  I still get sidetracked, sometimes because of fear and sometimes because I take a wrong turn. Sometimes I encounter detours that have nothing to do with me.

There are no happy ending guarantees.  Sometimes God has another plan entirely, and I just have to trust that His plans are better than my own.  This is not passive thinking--it is surrender to a God whose ways are beyond my ways, whose thoughts are beyond my thoughts.

Nevertheless, I'm done waiting for my metaphorical prince to rescue me.  If I want to move forward, I must search for and and ask for opportunities.  That doesn't mean that I'm not still trusting God.  It just means that I'm getting ready for whatever God has for me in the future.

Just as it's true that sometimes opportunities that come out of nowhere, it's also true that I need to prepare for those serendipitous moments.  I want to be ready to follow God no matter where He's leading.

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