Once Upon a…Now?

Have you ever felt like there is more? Like this world is lacking something? Like that beautiful sunset has something amazing behind it or that love really was meant to last forever?

I think we are supposed to feel this way. We’re supposed to feel like something is off. Like this world is not really our home. Because it’s not. If you are a follower of Jesus, then this is not your home. Not really.

You may have seen glimpses of it in fairy tales or movies like The Matrix. These stories get us thinking. We step back and think, “Is life really what it seems?” I love the Disney series “Once Upon a Time.” The first season opens with the heroine (who thinks she’s a regular person) getting dragged to a town called Storybrook by a boy who claims he’s her son. As the season unfolds, she and other characters start to “wake up” and realize that they are really characters from fairy tales (Snow White, Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.) who have been trapped in this town in Maine because a witch cast an evil curse. Everyone in the town is a character in a story, but they have been living this boring little life in this small town for years, thinking they are just “regular people.” The characters speak about “magic” and its effects, and good and bad struggle openly in each episode.

“Once Upon a Time” and other stories like this always leave me with a wistfulness similar to nostalgia. Almost like these stories are talking about me.

Actually, don’t think I’m crazy, but…I believe they are. Fairy tales and other world adventures are more than mere reflections of reality. They are pointing to the real story.

Recently I stumbled across a verse in Philippians that made me catch my breath. In chapter one, verse 27 it says, “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven…”

Citizens of Heaven. That’s it.

We are also characters from an amazing story, stuck temporarily in a place that is not our home. We are “citizens of heaven” living here in this decaying, evil world. This is not the end of the story. We are more important and more eternal than we realize. We are stuff of story books. We are princes and queens and heroes. We just live in a place where our identities get confused and our powers are not apparent.

So, how do I live now that I realize my citizenship is really there? I’m just passing through this place. These heartaches and temptations and disappointments and migraines are not the real story. There is more. There is an adventure grander than any I could imagine. It is coming after this life is over. It will make all the pain and loneliness here worth it. It will complete all the hopes and dreams that started in my little girl brain years ago.

So,…dream…gaze at the sunset…love with your whole heart. It will all be resolved. It will all be healed. And the ending is happier than you could ever imagine.

Love, Lauren

Do you really know how to love?

If someone asked you to make a list of the people who you really, truly love, how many names would you come up with?

Ok, now answer this question: How many of those people would you still love if they betrayed you? Or hurt someone you loved? Or caused you to lose your job? How many of them would you still love if they publicly rejected you? If they tried to turn everyone against you? If they became absolutely unlovable?

Most people would take a few names off the list. Some might even throw the whole list away. Not many people would continue to show love to someone who hurt them like that. It wouldn’t seem logical to consider those people worthy of our time.

Most people have a maximum amount of abuse they will take before considering the other person unlovable. The average human would feel it’s more than reasonable to turn their back on someone once they’ve reached this point. I admit I sometimes feel completely justified in treating these people less kindly, or at least giving them the cold shoulder. Most of us definitely wouldn’t go out of our way to be nice to them. Nobody would look down on us for defriending them on Facebook or even for telling everyone how much they hurt us.

Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about how God views things so differently. When my husband really hurts my feelings, I want to ignore him all day. (Not that chill type of ignoring; more like the really obvious, slamming doors kind of ignoring!) During our worst fights I’ve even struggled with wanting to take the kids and leave.

But God has been teaching me something lately about love. I’m not really living his love until I’m loving the unlovable.* It’s easy to love people who are nice to you and cute little babies (except when they wake you up at 4 am). Jesus loved beyond our earthly, shallow love. He loved us at our worst, and his love was action, not just words.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus Christ didn’t tell us to get our crap together and maybe after we were living like “good Christians” He’d consider sacrificing for us. He gave His life for us without strings attached. He knew all the bad things you and I would do in our lives (cuz He’s God, He knows everything!) and He still made that choice. That’s love.

In his book, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt, Jentezen Franklin writes, “You have to love like you’ve never been hurt. You have to refuse to be bitter. You have to refuse to get angry. You have to refuse to get even. When you love in this way, God will raise you up and use even the worst that has been done to you for His glory.”

This is real love. Love that chooses to be kind, forgive, serve, stay married, show up, etc. Even when that person doesn’t deserve it. Especially if that person doesn’t deserve it.

So I’ve realized that before now I wasn’t really loving my husband. I was only showing love when I thought he deserved it. God wants to transform our marriage and use it to bring joy to us and others. In order for that to happen I’ve got to love like Jesus. He’s the one who taught me how to really love.

*(Note: I’m not saying you should endure abuse. There are times you have to love people from a safe space and pray they get help they need. If you are in a relationship where you are afraid of what someone will do next—physically or mentally—get out, get to a safe place, and find some safe people! I’ve been there before, and God does not want you staying in danger like that.)