I remember when Mom and Dad loaded us all up in the old station wagon and drove us to the drive-in theatre less than a mile away. Arms full of blankets and pillows, we were ready for one of our favorite activities: watching a Disney movie from our car. (The adventurous ones crawled up on top of the car and watched while lying on blankets spread on the roof.)
I wasn’t even born when the movie Cinderella came out – but I remember the first time I saw it. I fell completely and utterly in love with Prince Charming, and I knew my future husband would be, if not exactly like him, at least be his younger-and even more handsome-brother.
All through my youth I planned on my life following the pattern of the Cinderella movie: find a wonderful man; be swept off your feet into a glamorous life, and live happily ever after.
I really expected that. I thought that was what life was supposed to be, and anything less than that was inconceivable.
After all, my parents stayed married all through our lives, and they both lived to what they might have termed a “ripe old age”, living into their seventies and eighties. All my aunts and uncles lived long lives, together. Why shouldn’t it happen to me?
So when I first married, I often imagined my husband and me, far into the future, holding hands while hobbling down a pathway in our old age, still together, living out the “ever after” part just like all my family had done.
But life happens.
Now, five years after my husband’s death, and six years after our separation, I have learned much.
I realize that my expectation of a “Cinderella” life was unrealistic, and even unfair. How could I expect that marriage would be a “cottage surrounded by perpetual hollyhocks”*, and that I could get through life without experiencing tragedy, or sorrow, or pain?
I now have a great appreciation for what Jenkins Lloyd Jones said:
“Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.
“The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride”
There have been some beautiful vistas in my life – and oh, how I loved those thrilling bursts of speed. But I’ve never enjoyed the cinders, the smoke, the dust, and the painful jolts – and sometimes I’ve wished they weren’t part of life.
But I am finally coming to realize that perhaps the mundane – and yes, even the hard parts of life- might just be my greatest blessing.
If the whole purpose of life is to progress, to improve, and to find joy in the process, as I believe it is, how can I expect to progress if there’s nothing that needs improvement? If life were always easy would I feel a need to stretch, and grow?
Thankfully I now see how challenges are invitations to grow. As hard as they are, I try to look at each challenge as God’s summons to me to put off the dross I sometimes cling to, and to become more and more of who He created me to be.
Yes, I blame Cinderella for my naive expectations of a ‘perfect’ life. But I don’t begrudge the movie. In fact I still love watching it – and I still love to imagine that it’s me swirling around that gleaming ballroom with Prince Charming. And I can now see I missed an important lesson. Cinderella spent a lot of years in the cinders before she ever became a princess. And it was those years of patient work, never despairing but hoping for and believing in a sweet future, that prepared her and made her the person a prince could love.
Maybe, as I continue to submit to His tutoring, I, too, will someday become the person I was meant to be, a woman worthy of the love – and approbation – of the Prince of Peace.
And I’m thinking that at that point, I really will live
happily ever after!
*Jenkins Lloyd Jones