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Saturday, February 6, 2010

On becoming a Princess


“To the woman He said,
‘I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth,
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Yet your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you”
(Genesis 3:16)

                “Mommy!  Mommy!  Sarah’s going to be a princess for Halloween too!  And Jessica’s going to be a princess!  And Abby too!  We’re all princesses for Halloween!!”  My little four-year old Melanie shrieked with delight a couple of years ago when I picked her up from pre-school on Halloween.  “What a surprise!” I laughed.  “Yeah!” cried Melanie jumping up and down for joy.  To Melanie, the discovery that all of her little girlfriends also wanted to be princesses was a true revelation.   On that day, just two weeks after her fourth birthday, my little girl had already landed on a new discovery.   It’s one that she will learn many times in different ways throughout her life.  Melanie learned she shares an affinity with every other little girl in the world: she desires to be a princess.

                Yet the deep longing in a girl’s heart is not only to be a princess, but also to marry a prince.  It’s really for us girls that stories end “happily ever after,” with the marriage of the prince and princess.  We never learn what happens after they get married.  Do they really live happily ever after?  We moms chuckle, knowing the answer.  But we let our little girls keep their joyful trust in the happy endings, remembering how much comfort they brought to us when we were also little girls.  Sometimes as we watch our little girls dress up as princesses and play out the princess stories, we get nostalgic and long to return to those days when we also believed the princess marries the prince and lives happily ever after.

                Sobered with age though we may become, do we women ever grow out of this childhood fascination for the princess story?  As we grow, our obsession with fairy tales turns into romance novels, soap operas, volatile adolescent dating relationships, lonely misery in young adult singlehood, frustration in marriage, temptation outside of marriage, possible divorce, and even in a healthy marriage, a longing for something more.  Our obsession also profits billions for an industry promoting external beauty.

We long for our man’s approval, for his adoration, and for his heroic rescue of us when we find ourselves unable to cope on our own.  Although this theme is often discussed in women’s circles and much has been proposed to address it, rarely do we ever hear anyone admit that our obsession is proclaimed in the very beginning: “your desire will be for your husband” (Gen 3:16).  Even less often do we hear anyone at the pulpit admit that this proclamation is expressed as part of a curse to Eve.  Our desire for our man moves far beyond the beautiful, romantic love between a husband and a wife.  Our desire is enveloped in obsession.

What does God desire for us instead?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength”
(Deut. 6:5)

Loving God – our first command – trumps our curse to “desire our man” because we find our longing fulfilled in the Lord.  For us Christians, loving God is complemented with our love for his Son, our Bridegroom.   If we can desire our Bridegroom more than we desire our earthly man, then we can transcend our curse. 

Easier said than done.  How are we to do this when we can’t see the Bridegroom, feel Him, touch Him or be touched by Him?  Until His great mysterious power penetrates into our own personal life, we will remain in the obsession described “in the beginning.”  The paradox is this: until Christ heals each of us on a deeply personal, individual level, we are incapable of loving Him first. 

So we find ourselves in a waiting game for Christ to make the move.  We are like girlfriends yearning – dying – for our boyfriend to finally propose to us.  Do we give up and make the move ourselves because he seems to be waiting for an eternity?  Do we break up with him because he is obviously not as committed to us as we are to him (or he certainly would have proposed by now)?  Do we hint, beg, plead?

Perhaps pleading is part of it.  Determination, faith, love and even desperation may play their parts too.  Will we keep our oil lamps burning as we wait for our Bridegroom?  Or will we fall asleep and find them empty when he arrives?  Will we press forward to our inheritance like Jacob?  Or, like his brother, will we instead satisfy our tummies with a bowl of soup?  Will we have the faith, courage, and commitment to what God has promised that we are willing to battle the enemies like Joshua and Caleb? Or will we retreat in fear like the others? 

                If Christ was crucified on the cross for his bride, do you imagine that He desires a lazy one?  A fearful one?  One satisfied with short-term satisfaction?  If we can glimpse what he did for us, then perhaps we can also glimpse the partner he is longing for us to become.  When we think of our favorite movie, do we see the hero bravely fighting the forces of evil for a wimpy, lazy, shopaholic hooked on soap operas?

                We return to the paradox, of course, that until Christ romances us, we remain in bondage to that wimpy shopaholic.  But do we want to remain like her?

                Too many of us are willing to remain as we are.  If, however, we long to become the bride Christ longs for us to become, then, in His perfect timing, He will grace us into our path.

                Next comes our courage.  The path forward will not be the easy route.  The Israelites may have been called into a “land flowing with milk and honey,” but the road into it was a thirsty desert, the border crossing was an arduous mountain, and the border-crossing guards were big, mighty, well equipped soldiers ready to kill all who entered.

                Courage in pain is best demonstrated for us women through the birthing process.  We women give life and enter life by birthing it into reality.  Consider pregnancy with its myriad of changes, aches, pains, and demands that we slow down and take it easy.  The birthing process doesn’t get easier: it gets harder and harder, with each new month adding a new caveat of discomfort.  Though sometimes there is a moment of grace in the second trimester, the body is clearly telling the mother that she is no longer living for herself.  Moment by moment, the body is ridding mom of selfishness, prompting her to change her own life for the sake of a new one.  In some magical, mystical manner, pregnancy is preparing mom for the great suffering she will face in the final moment before birth.  Notice that the hardest part of entry into life is that moment when life is the closest of all.  This counters our human way of thinking.  In human terms, the closer we get to Paradise, the more beautiful we expect everything to appear.  Likewise, we are often given to believe at the pulpit that some great struggle we are encountering is a sign that we must be further from the kingdom, and that those who are close to the kingdom, at the “very door” shall we say, are living in bliss and prosperity.

But the Israelites had forty years in the wilderness and enemies to fight; Jesus faced forty days tempted by Satan; and the Tree of Life is guarded by angels with swords.  Even in our own modern day, we see great trials before great breakthroughs.  The Civil Rights Movement endured its most painful moments just before its passage; the freedom of slaves was preceded by the very bloody Civil War; the final days of World War II were among the deadliest of them all.  Consider any of your own personal examples.  Is it not the typical case that the moments before freedom are the most painful of them all?

Yes, pray, plead and beg for the Prince to romance you.  Cry to him to mold you into the bride he desires.  And when he leads you into a valley in the shadow of death, call to him in faith for courage and strength.  Then bravely take your step toward breakthrough.

May the Prince romance you.  May the Holy Spirit anoint you.  May you receive epiphanies that carry you into a surprising intimacy and romance with the Creator.  May you become the princess that God created you to be.  Amen.

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