“Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
— GK Chesterton
It never really does end happily ever after. At least not for middle-life-me: kids in school, husband working long hours, me tumbling into bed late at night in a messy bedroom in a cluttered rental? I feel like my life is anything but a fairy tale. A cautionary tale perhaps, a dysfunctional reality show, yes, but never a fairy tale.
The ends of us are not in wedding bells clanging clanging in the church tower, hands held looking out over a sunsetted sea, a kingdom at rest and at peace. The endings of us aren’t Disney movies and they don’t really feel like Happily-Ever-After.
The endings of us are in hospital beds or in auto crashes. The ends of us are addictions and betrayals. The ends of us are in the hard reality of mortgages, of family splits and in divorces. A part of us dies when things like this happen; when life moves on.
We don’t really believe in fairy tale endings, that the dragon can be slain and the world can be put right again, because we’ve never seen it. We grow too old for our books and understand that life is so much harder than we ever thought it could be.
Life is worry. Life is longing. Life is the Littlest Mermaid who has no voice and walks on bare feet that feel like swords. Life is Rapunzel caught in a tower without hope of freedom. Life is Cinderella on her hands and knees in the fireplace ash.
But I think we all want to believe in dragons and that they can be slain. Even the most hard-hearted of us would like to think, in a tiny little-girl corner of our minds, that dragons are real. They live under the sea or on a distant planet. But that yes, they are in fact real.
And that I, with my tiny sword, can somehow find the vulnerability, the Goliath’s spot, the chink in the armor.
I can slay the dragon.
I can make it end well.
I can change the world.
But I put away my book; I put away my idea. I close the chapter on that “thing that will not go away” in my mind. I decide that I am too small and that the world is too big.
We read fairy tales at the same age we believe we can be astronauts or fire fighters or the President. We believe we can slay dragons at the same time we believe we can be Captain America or Wonder Woman. Somewhere along the way we grow too old for our books and we stop believing.
No. I cannot change the world. I once believed it. Maybe around the same time that I believed in fairy tales did I believe that I could make a difference.
But the thing is, we can slay dragons.
We can change the world.
Things may not go perfectly for each of us and our endings may be in betrayals or divorces or in pain, but while we are living in this Cinderella-ash life, we can change this planet. We can.
Put away your fairy tales if you have to. But don’t you ever stop believing that YOU can affect change. Don’t you ever stop believing that YOU can make a difference. Don’t EVER stop believing that YOU can change the face of the church
of the world.
Because you can.
Fairy tales exist to show us that, not only do dragons exist but that we have the power to slay them. And the fairy tale ending? Maybe it begins when we realize that we have the freedom and the power to make a difference.
When did you stop believing you could change the world? Maybe you didn’t. How did you keep that hope alive?