Monday, May 13

Disney vs. Psalm 37:4

Have you ever read fairy tales? No, I mean the original ones. The original fairy tales are not concerned with selling movie tickets or spinning off action figures from a storyline. Many of them are incredibly violent. Even though most of them end well for the protagonists, the strife they endured to get there is exhausting. Then there are the Disney fairy tales:

"And he/she/they lived happily ever after." ~Walt Disney

Happily ever after sounds like the kind of life for me!!!

In the Bible, if we are shortsighted, we will see this promise as a cleaned-up, sanctified version of the Disney ideal:

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

As a teenager, I was always very wary of Psalm 37:4. I had this suspicion: that to truly delight yourself in the Lord might change your heart. It might change the DESIRES of your heart. And I didn't always want my desires to be changed. Like the old lech Woody Allen says, "The heart wants what it wants."

Just this morning, I realized that there is another distinctive between "happily ever after" and getting the desires of your heart. To get what you always wanted is not the same thing as being happy forever. It might not even be the same thing as being happy.

I live in the best house. It is the house I always wanted. It is a 1910 bungalow with beautiful hardwood floors, a roofed front porch, a deck out in the fenced backyard, a sun room attached to the master bedroom, and Craftsman style windows and wood detailing.

It is more than I ever asked or imagined when I visualized myself living in a bungalow since... college? High school? It is a rental, but I've always fantasized about someday buying from the landlady.

So housewise, I got what I always, always wanted. It was the desire of my heart.

It just wasn't happily ever after.

Soon, I will move away from the house of my dreams. I will have a roommate that I love, I will be in a much easier position financially than before. My move will allow my life to have a kind of freedom and empowerment that I do not currently have. And I am grateful for these things. But it is a gain that comes from a loss.

I have lost much in the last year. A lot of what I have lost is directly tied to my own or other people's actions. Job was a righteous man who had everything he ever wanted... the desires of his heart. He lost everything, through no fault of his own. After he had lost everything, he "got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:20-21) 

And what do we have that is really ours, anyway?

The difference between "happily ever after" and the desires of your heart from God is that happily ever after never WAS real.

But unless what we are wanting is only God Himself (and it's hard to know what that looks like), anything we are blessed with doesn't stay. Lazarus died... and lived. And died again. We are blessed to bless others and to bless God back. How many parents in the Bible and Tradition begged God for a child only to give the babe back again? (Samson, Samuel, Mary, John the Baptist...)

To delight yourself in the Lord is to desire the peace, truth, and light of His Kingdom. To desire the Holy Trinity in all their vastness and immanence. To be given the desires of your heart in this way means that you will give them back... but when you have them, they are REAL. They are wafts of air from a reality that is so deep that we cannot now often perceive it. Even as I have been writing this, I got word that a sweet woman I prayed with just yesterday has been healed from a mass that was in her lungs!!! It was there two weeks ago, and now it is NOT THERE. 

Will she eventually die? Of course. But the blessing of all these things is the moment of knowing God walked with you... at the side of a cradle... in my bungalow... through her lungs. 

So I will continue to grow up, to want the Disney "happily ever after" less and less. To delight, to be granted... this is my wish. Or, taking the caution from my teenage self, it is what I wish to wish. 

To hold the blessings loosely, that I might find Him in all things... "and the pure in heart shall see God." To breathe deeply the wafts from the Real, and find myself in Him. 

Ever after.

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