Life is an adventure, but oftentimes we don’t see it.
Everyone loves a good fairy-tale. The valiant knight rides off on his quest with his trusty white steed, braves many dangers, trials, and traps, and at last faces the dreadful dragon. Yet our brave hero does not despair, but fights off this fearful foe, finishing him off with one mighty blow. In the process, he rescues the lovely princess. She blushingly puts forth her hand, which our knight raises to his lips to kiss, whispering “as you wish”. The pair ride off together into the sunset, to live happily ever after. The little children cheer, and we smile good-naturedly as we close the book and put it back on the shelf.
Regardless of age, I think there is always a little part of us that enjoys fairy-tales. I used to think this was because fairy-tales showed normal life as more exciting, more beautiful, more adventurous than it really is. And perhaps there is truth in that.
But perhaps, just perhaps, there is truth in the opposite.
Perhaps we enjoy fairy-tales because they show normal life as simpler, less confusing, less intense than it really is.
After all, from a certain perspective, storybook quests are rather easy. Have to go retrieve a precious cup from an evil wizard? Of course, the actual fighting isn’t going to be easy, but you already know exactly what you are trying to find, and who your enemy is. And — hint — he probably lives in that big, scary, defying-the-laws-of-physics-with-the-way-the-towers-are-built castle, with the skeletons on the flag.
And fantasy dragons aren’t terribly hard to identify either. Scales? Check. Lots of teeth? Check. Fire-breathing? Check. Huge and terrifying? Double-check. Yes, we definitely have a dragon on our hands, in need of being slain. And though the slaying part may be a bit tricky and arduous, it is still rather straightforward. Special arrow or sword in a soft part, and no more dragon!
The princess is the simplest part of all. See the tall, lovely, blonde girl you just rescued? That’s her! And because you were the one who rescued her, you and her are obviously perfect for each other, and now that you’ve found each other, the rest of your life is so easy and simple that we don’t even have to mention it.
Now, I certainly enjoy fairy-tales. (The princess was always red-headed in my stories.) They are beautiful, sweet, and simple. But that may be exactly why I like them. They are simpler than everyday life.
Because real-life quests aren’t dreadfully clear-cut. No friend or family-member can authoritatively tell us, “Here’s your goal, now all you have to do is makes this grade on these three classes, spend this many hours volunteering at that place, and go to this exact place at this exact time,” and, viola, happily ever after.
And real life dragons aren’t so easy to see. Hatred has no claws. Lust doesn’t breathe fire. Depression has no teeth. Wrong influences don’t have scales. Addiction doesn’t have a winding tale. Envy isn’t big and green. Loneliness doesn’t live in dark mountains. Pride doesn’t sleep on a mountain of gold. At least, not that we can physically see.
And yet all of these are things that we fight, that we struggle against. And you cannot slay them out with one special blow. They re-spawn, and we must fight them over and over again, continually battling the ills of our flesh.
And the princess? Let’s not even get started. Everyone knows relationships aren’t nearly as easy as a Disney movie.
We face more fearsome trials than any Sir Gavin or Sir Lancelot ever knew. We’ve just become de-sensitized to them by their constant presence. We are so surrounded by these enemies and foes that we’ve started ignoring them. Because life can be hard, it can be painful, it can be dark, and it can be frightening.
Yes, we face greater foes and must scale greater mountains. Yet, we also have a greater ally and aid than those heroes ever did. In most tales, the hero is taken in and trained by a wise master, or given a special shield, a magical sword, to help him overcome. Through sage wisdom, the protagonist grows and matures, being readied to complete his task, to truly be the hero. His special equipment allows him to defeat the before-unsurmountable odds, to reach heights he never would have scaled by himself.
Likewise, we have not been left defenseless in this fight.
Now, we aren’t given steel swords, nor modern-day tanks; our weapons aren’t physical. But this shouldn’t surprise us, because neither are our enemies. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness in this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph 6:12) Rulers of darkness, spiritual wickedness in high places, these are our dark lords, wicked wizards, and evil queens that we fight against. But we have been given the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand in the day of darkness and despair, and having done all to stand. To stand victorious, to stand a conqueror! When the dust settles, he wearing the armor of God still remains. We have been greatly protected from the fiery darts of our enemy, we have been girt about with truth, given the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the Gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and greatest of all, the sword of the Spirit. Sharper than Excalibur, brighter than Andúril, the Word of God is powerful, able to cleave between the soul and the spirit, able to separate bone and marrow. We have great protection from the dragons of this world, if we choose to put it on.
But even more than that, we have a greater Teacher, a greater Ally, a greater King. The Source of all wisdom is He who teaches us. The All-powerful One is He who trains us for the battle. The All-knowing One is He who instructs us where to go.
And yet, in many stories, the mentor, the sensei, dies or is gone in some way, leaving the hero to face the world alone only with what he has learned.
And, truly, our King did die. But because He did so, we are not separated from Him, but can rather always dwell in His presence! We are never alone; we abide in Him, and He abides in us. (John 15:4) No matter where we wander, He is still there. Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me…. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (Ps 139:7-12) We have a Mentor who not only shall never leave us, but One who incomprehensibly loves us, delights in us, and wants and know what is the very best for us.
Life is a great adventure, an epic tale. So, courage, dear heart. Hold your ground sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers. You have great dangers to face, great dragons to slay. Walk not around with your eyes closed, thinking what you cannot see can neither hurt you. But look not only at your foes and fears either.
Fix your gaze instead on Him who has overcome the world.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isa 41:10)