We grow up on “Happily Ever After.”
The book ends happy. The movie ending makes us sigh with contentment.
The boy and girl get together. The mystery is solved. A hero is born. The up and down conflict resolved. Now the characters can proceed with life and live Happily Ever After.
It was near the beginning years of our marriage, and I was pacing back and forth in the mother’s room at church with a newborn. Life was rosy and bright and we riding into the sunset of Happily Ever After.
The visiting pastor was talking about life and I was half listening. “Have you been tested yet?” he asked. “Gone through hard times? Losses that ache deep and test your soul and strength? Has life lost some of the luster because of something that has happened to you or a loved one?”
I perked up my ears.
“Because if you haven’t yet, it’s coming. No one gets through life unscathed. Without battle wounds and experiencing some hard times.”
Yikes! This didn’t sound like good news. I patted my daughter’s back and paced some more.
“Sometimes we look at others and it appears they have lived a charmed life, but no one has. Dig deeper into their past and perfectly seeming life and you will learn they have experienced hard times. They have lost loved ones, fallen on hard times, found their heart wrenched in two.”
“Many of you know what I am talking about. And others of you who so far have lived a live free of some tragedy. For those in the last category, just know a time will come and life will take the wrong twist and hardship will come.”
I smelled my daughter’s head. Problems seemed far away.
I probably landed in the last category. So far I had battled being picked last for kickball and all other sports, losing my grandfathers, not having enough of the right clothes, occasional pimples, the insecurity and doubt of growing up different from others, bad hair days, never being part of the in-crowd, entering the working world, not achieving my dream of becoming a gymnast or ballerina, being denied access to our church college because I was homeschooled, planning a wedding on a shoestring, dating and early marriage, morning sickness and natural birth, and the common dips and lows of growing up in a sheltered home and surviving to adulthood. There was no one thing I could call my Wall of Jericho.
“I don’t want to scare you,” he continued. “But those in the last category just know that in the future you will be tried. So, don’t be caught unaware and think you are the only one who has ever been caught in the waves of life and battered. Remain calm. Hold to God’s truth and your faith, and know that you will emerge from the other side and join the rest of humanity who knows what you are going through and has survived.”
I snuggled the baby closer to my neck and grabbed her a little harder.
“That’s me,” I thought. “My soul has not yet been wrenched apart.”
And then church was over and people were oohing and ahhing over our daughter.
I never heard another sermon like that again, but once in a while his words resurface and I feel comfort and know that what I am experiencing is only part of this journey of life.
Our life does not stop at that Happily Ever After point like in the movies – when we marry, have a child, get a dream job, finish a vacation, graduate from college, solve a tough problem, retire, or receive the applause.
No. Time keeps marching forward and bills arrive, babies get colic, jobs get lost, divorce occurs, arguments happen, loved ones die, pets get sick, cars break down, flights are delayed, parents age, someone else gets chosen, cancer visits, friends pull away, houses flood, children make bad decisions, economies tank, and dreams slowly die as we wait year after year for them to happen.
On the outside, we may look happy and perfect and all put together, but look closely and most of us have scars and nicks and deep gouges from living because we live in a world where the decisions of others and our self affect the future and the here and now. We live in a world where chance and accidents and bad things happen. We live in a world where sin plays with cause and effect.
Over the years I remembered the pastor’s words many times. When my parents divorce; when my husband is rear ended and develops neck problems that will remain for the rest of his life; when I am rear ended; when a school bus turns in our lane and send my husband, daughter, and I are in the hospital for weeks and we struggle to recover for years; while I spend the last 8 weeks of my step father’s life helping care for him as he dies cell by cell from cancer; when my youngest brother is addicted to drugs for years; when I care for my sister after a motorcycle accident; when my brother dies unexpectedly; when I try for years to get pregnant and don’t; when my dad dies unexpectedly.
And each time I remember the pastor’s words I know I am not alone in my trial or hardship. I know God is there beside me. Helping me. And I also know that I am going through a necessary hard part of life that everyone experiences.
Everyone has nicks and scars if they live very long. We have all experienced pain. Yours may come from different events and situations than mine, but we both have them. Or will in the future.
No, there is no Happily Ever After. Not in this life.
Good times and hard times interweave themselves into our life, making us who we are, forging us into tougher and better people who carry more love and compassion in our hearts. They toughen our faith, expand our love, increase our grace, and soften our judgements. They also make the good times shine a little brighter and be more treasured.
But the good news is that Happily Ever After does exist. In the next life there will be no more tears, disappointments, death, accidents, unfulfilled dreams. or sin. Finally, we will then be living our Happily Ever After.
Join the Discussion: What are some hard times you have gone through? Do you think everyone has difficult things to traverse in their life?
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