If you spend time with me—or take a peek at my Instagram feed—you’ll quickly see that I am a Disney fan. From the classic fairytale films to the Disneyland theme parks, I enjoy it all. There is just something magical and light hearted that I associate with the Disney franchise…it’s the place where dreams come true!
And it seems like in each and every Disney tale, regardless of the circumstance, there is always this “happily every after” moment. Cinderella and Snow White were rescued by their Prince Charmings; Belle’s love turned the Beast back into a prince; and Ariel and Erik defeated the evil Ursula. Whether these favorite characters were ending their story with true love’s kiss, defeating the bad guy, or locking arms with a new best friend, everything always ends perfectly by the time the credits roll. And for me, and maybe for you too, these “happily ever after” endings have graduated beyond childhood fairytales and into adulthood expectations. I’m discovering that I’ve embedded “happily ever after” into my outlook on love, on the “bad guys”, and on my friendships. And I’m starting to see that that’s not how God intended for us to live.
Is it wrong to believe in “happily ever after”? No! We should fill in the gap with good, believe the best, and plan and hope for our dreams to come true. But “happily ever after” becomes a dangerous roadblock on our becoming journeys when we make “happily ever after” our expectation, rather than choosing to trust God in the midst of the not-so-happily-ever-after moments.
Because life doesn’t always unpack like a fairytale. And that stings. Sometimes that guy you thought was “the one” ends up leaving your heart torn in two. Sometimes it seems like that frenemy just always gets “it”—the right car, the right guy, the right hair, the right career—even when it feels like she doesn’t deserve it. Sometimes that best friend you thought you could count on, the one that would be with you to the very end, betrays you, leaving you confused, hurt and feeling alone.
When the not-so-happily-ever-after moments of life come crashing in, how can we live fearlessly in our relationships?
1. Trust God’s plan. While Jesus never promised that our time on earth would be bad guy free, He did promise that our Heavenly Father has a good plan for us. The great news is that we were created with a unique purpose and are loved so incredibly much that God has an ultimate good ending headed our way. Still not sure? Check out Isaiah 25:8 (NLT): “He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against His land and people. The LORD has spoken!” Need more proof? Check out Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 139. God knows us, He has a plan for us, and He has fashioned us with purpose.
2. Strip relationships of unhealthy expectations. We’re human—we’re going to mess up, make mistakes, not meet expectations, hurt feelings, and maybe even wreck some dreams. But here’s where we can save ourselves a lot of heartache: let’s give each other grace. We don’t live in a Disney fairytale where the endings always end up perfectly—we’re all going to make mistakes. While healthy boundaries and expectations should definitely stay intact, we can all strip off unhealthy expectations—like, for example, filling in the gap with the negative if a friend doesn’t respond to a text message immediately but updates her Facebook status. Just because she’s updating her social media and hasn’t texted back yet doesn’t necessarily mean she’s suddenly upset with you and never wants to speak to you again. Hold tightly to what is true, fill in the gap with good, and choose to pour grace into every conversation, situation, and conflict.
3. Choose to forgive often. I’ve noticed that I have created a “limit” to forgiveness in my own life. When I enter into relationships expecting people to never hurt me, once they hit my “limit of mistakes”, I stop forgiving them. But here’s the reality: I need forgiveness just as much as others need it. God promises to never stop forgiving our sins, so how can I respond differently to others? How can I expect healthy relationships, when forgiveness isn’t given in handfuls?
The greatest “happily ever after” doesn’t exist on this side of Heaven, but we will experience the perfect “happily ever after” when we’re reunited with our Heavenly Father in Heaven. Living fearlessly in our relationships isn’t about finding perfect, un-messy people; but rather, about embracing a perfect God who loves all of us—imperfect, messy people, sinners who need Him. It’s in our understanding of this truth and decision to trust God, that we can love people no matter what they do or don’t do.
Together let’s stand fearlessly in our relationships by trusting God’s plan and extending grace and forgiveness—not because it will lead to our “happily ever after” here on earth, but because loving the people Jesus loves is a part of the journey, a part of becoming who God made us to be—and because we’re imperfect, messy people who need buckets of grace too.