I pulled into the gated entry of a home where I’d been invited to attend a bridal shower and felt the familiar tug-of-war begin in my soul.
The home looked like one of the homes you might see on the cover of Architectural Digest. A half dozen or so ornately carved pillars framed a sprawling open porch that boasted more ceiling fans than I had in my entire home. I followed the curve of the brick lined driveway around a Tuscan-style triple-tiered stone fountain with arches of water cascading from every level.
I sighed heavily as I parked my pre-owned minivan with a hail-damaged hood in between two luxury SUV’s. I immediately regretted the decision my husband and I had made to pocket the insurance money rather than repair the damage.
As I exited my car, I caught a glimpse of the fast food wrappers that had accumulated in the floorboard and the stickers on the back window that had now become a permanent sun-baked feature, compliments of my toddler. Sigh. My car looked better suited in the back of the house parked beside the vehicles of the hired help.
What was I doing in this neighborhood?
As I walked up the front steps, I felt uncomfortable and out of place. These are not my people. The mansion stood in stark contrast to my cookie-cutter track house in a master planned starter home community. I was glad my little urchins weren’t with me. They would have assumed the home was a fancy hotel and the fountain was a fancy kiddie pool and probably stripped down to take a swim.
I sighed heavily as I walked up the limestone steps to the front door. If I felt out of place before I entered the home, I knew my discomfort level was going to be off the charts when I walked through the front door. The shower was come-and-go and I briefly considered ringing the doorbell and tossing my present into the foyer and making a quick get-away.
When I walked back into my home later that day, I took one look at the potpourri of mismatched living room furniture, the stained accent rug from sippy cup spills and the collage of toddler hand print smudges on the walls and felt yet another wave of discontentment. My visit to the upscale neighborhood across town had triggered an episode of fairytale letdown and walking into my home only made it worse.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last time I struggled with fairytale letdown. Over the years, I would find myself comparing my prince to other princes, my children to other children, and myself to other women. I pinned my “happily-ever-after” on a sugar-coated version of reality and when reality didn’t measure up to my fairytale expectations, a letdown would occur.
Today, I realize that the fairytale pursuit is a worldly pursuit. In 1 John, the apostle John issues a warning about chasing after worldly desires:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father in not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. —1 John 2:15-17
Interestingly, the Greek word for “eyes” in the passage above is “ophthalmos,” which is where we get our English word “ophthalmology.” The word is defined in the Greek as “vision or envy from the jealous side-glance.” (1) The passage is not implying it is a sin to enjoy worldly things, but rather, it is a sin to worship worldly things.
As I think back on my struggle with fairytale letdown over the years, it was almost always triggered by what began as a simple “jealous side-glance.” True happiness is found when we set our minds on the things that are above (Col. 3:2) and make Christ our ultimate, primary affection.
The next time you find yourself suffering from an episode of fairytale letdown, take a minute to reorder your affections. Happily-ever-after is a choice to look up rather than … look around.
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Vicki Courtney is an author and speaker with a ministry that reaches more than 150,000 people a year through events, books, and online resources. Vicki has done hundreds of radio and newspaper interviews and appeared on CNN, Fox News, and CNN Headline News as a youth culture commentator to address various issues impacting tweens and teens. Vicki’s new Bible study, Ever After, is available now.