This past weekend I was preparing for a teaching opportunity with a group of high schoolers at my church. We’re in the middle of a discussion about what we believe and, just as important, why we believe it. We’re wading through things like absolute truth, assumptions, peer pressure, and all sorts of other interesting, heart probing subjects. It’s quite enjoyable to walk through this with these young minds, but at the same time, it’s probed my own heart as well. I see where so many of the beliefs I came to know in my 20’s were simply extensions of things told to me or experience in my teens, and much of THAT was simply an extension of my childhood. It wasn’t until I was around 29 that I really started to dig into my belief “system” and explore what if what I really believed could stand up to the test of life. Many things have changed during the past 5 years, and I am so thankful for that. What would a young person’s life, especially one raised in a belief system that often doesn’t challenge us to personalize our faith, if they dug into their beliefs earlier in life? Is it possible? Is it practical? That’s some of what we’re exploring. It’s exciting, if I didn’t write that already.
I make it a habit to text message my 19 or so youth on Saturday before I teach, both to let them know I hope to see them but also to try to get their mind creatively engaged with a question somewhat related to the lesson. The question from our first week was something like, “what’s something you’ve never tasted and probably never will simply because of its reputation, or because of what you think to be true about it?” That brought a variety of responses, including, of course, sushi (which I just recently tried and enjoyed in a strange sort of way), other seafood dishes, and a few vegetables and parts of cow not normally consumed.
So this week’s question was along the lines of absolute truth, about some things always being true whether we believe them or not, and other things NOT being true simply because we believe them to be so. So I sent the kids this question: “what’s something you used to believe was true but no longer believe to be so?”
You could probably guess the most common answer:
I found the second-most-common answer to be a little intriguing, though, and it prompted me to write tonight.
Specifically, Disney Princesses in a few cases and fairies in a few others, but princesses nonetheless. This intrigues me, because one of the things I’ve learned the most of over the last few years is what it really means, to me as a person, to be a son of God. And what it means for the sisters, cousins, mothers, and daughters I have in the faith to be daughters of God. If we truly believe this fact to be true, we are, in ways more real than most anything in life, truly ARE princes and princesses in a Kingdom far beyond this world.
And yet what’s that belief that goes by the wayside? For girls, princesses seem to be one of them. For guys, believing we have what it takes, that we can step up into the role we’ve been called to. We’ve lost heart. We’ve lost hope. We’ve come to believe that was we used to believe be true, couldn’t possibly be.
So just what IS a princess? The daughter of a king, obviously. But what makes princesses, or fairies, or any other make believe young woman of royalty seem like a complete fairy tale (even that very phrase, “fairy tale,” says something ,doesn’t it?) What values, or characteristics, exemplify a princess?
Royalty. Beauty. Stories ending in “happily ever after” or “rode off into the sunset.”
But what else?
She believes in herself.
She is trusting and trustworthy.
She has a hero who WON’T let her down.
She loves life, and it loves her.
Aren’t all these things that Jesus came to restore to us? When he says he came to give us abundant life, did he mean that we needed to settle for being paupers here on earth even though, according to Jesus and his inspired disciples, we truly are sons and daughters of THE King, the Creator of heaven and earth.
I have a feeling much of this loss of hope comes from the earthly “kings” we’ve set up, those ones that DO let us down, all too often. They may not be doing so purposefully, but they can’t fulfill the role they try to play:
King. Prince. Hero.
How many of us, as fathers or husbands, have wanted (and tried) to swoop in on the white horse and save the day? How many times has our sword clattered, our helmet fell over our eyes, and our horse taken a wrong step so that we’ve fallen flat on our face… right in front of the one we’re trying to save, impress, or sweep off her feet.
It’s no wonder we don’t believe in princesses. We don’t even need parents to TELL us not to believe, like they have to when it comes to Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. We’ve come to believe that what we hope for, that what we were born believing, what all the stories we love teach us to believe, just can’t be true. It’s too much hope, just too much, in something, someone, that will probably just let us down.
I’m not sure where I want to go with this. I have my own daughter right now, who’s already got her first Barbie doll somewhere in a closet, waiting for her to have some day. And I’m sure there will be princess dolls, and movies, and stories, and all that. But do I want her to get her hopes up that there’s a hero who’s going to rescue her from all the things she needs rescued from? Can I do that without trying to BE that hero? Can I point her to Jesus, to the true King, to the one who will ride in on a white horse and take her home one day. How do I do that, in a midst of a life of stress, of deadlines, of business plans, and of personal success, failure, and the cycle of it all.
Can I help her believe?
Without crushing “the dream?”
Is it my role at all?
I want my daughter, and even some of these sisters in the faith who have come to be something of daughters, or at least nieces, to me, to believe. Not in fairy tale princesses from times long ago. But in the princess that IS THEM. The princess who’s heart beats within them, whose Hero is real. The princess who can make a difference, who can love, live, and give her whole heart to things that matter.
Happily Every Ever does exist. Women, young and old, and even young girls may be locked high in a tower, with knights galore strutting their stuff below, unable to do anything about their predicament. But one day the King will return, the Hero will ride in to save the day, and we’ll all ride off into the sunset, forever.