In 1991, I sat riveted in my theater seat watching the tragic defeat and death of the Beast in Disney’s original movie and telling myself that surely a happy ending was still coming. In another seat, a little girl sobbed as she watched the character die while Belle’s heart broke. The child had no hope of a happy ending, and even we who expected it experienced a moment of asking, “Is it too late?” The Beast’s future was not the only one at stake; the cursed castle’s humans-turned-to-objects feel completely defeated and hopeless until the magic begins and love’s transforming power lifts the Prince and them to restored life. The curse is broken and evil is defeated.
That child’s tears remind me of a story told by a friend of mine. She was sitting with her young grandson during our church’s Easter musical. The tot paid close attention as Jesus died and was laid in a tomb. Then, as he watched friends of Jesus weeping, he whispered to Grandma, “They don’t know that Jesus is alive.” It’s just a few moments before the scene changes from the Friday burial to the confusion of Sunday’s empty tomb and then the truth of the Resurrection. An angel proclaims, “He is not here; he has risen!”
I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not know the story of Easter. With the simple faith of a child, I’ve always believed that it happened. Easter mornings in our little country church were the highlight of the year. Joyful people dressed in new clothes filled the pews. Easter lilies graced the sanctuary, scenting the air with their fragrance. The organist pulled out all the stops as we sang “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”. After all, the Resurrection of Christ rocked the world and is the only reason why we mortals have hope of eternal life with God. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, the man who would help Joseph wrap his dead body and lay it in the tomb, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I flourished in that church among God’s people and made my statement of faith as a young teenager, saying in part, “In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, he has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to himself.”
After high school graduation, I went off to college where I was separated from my church family. I did not get connected with a local church or group of Christian students. Life happened, as they say. By the time I finished school, my heart had been broken several times. I had wandered off of the path a bit and almost given up on some of my dreams. I was under a spell of discouragement.
Then my Knight in Shining Armor rode in. He offered me patience and understanding, and our friendship quickly became love that led to marriage. We had children and he worked hard to provide for our physical needs and to continue to support me emotionally. But I needed more than that. I needed Transformation.
As sure as the Beast was trapped in the curse for being selfish and mean, I was trapped in a dead-end life of perfectionism, self-centeredness, and anxiety. We were going to church and I still believed what I had accepted as a child, but I was powerless to find peace in my heart, and I allowed my mind to wander wherever it desired. I needed the Risen Lord’s love and power in my life.
In 1993, we were living in North Dakota. I got up the courage to go to our church’s women’s retreat with a group of ladies I barely knew. During the weekend, I got caught up in the love that these women had for Jesus. It wasn’t just religion, it was real relationship. I prayed, not for what I wanted, but for God to take over my life. The Transformation began.
Back in Ohio a few years later, I joined another group of godly women in Bible studies that took me deep into the Bible. I began to understand dying to self and living for Jesus. The happy ending is coming.
Jesus proved that he is able to overcome death and darkness. He promised that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. It’s not a fairy tale.
He Lives! He Lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He Lives! He Lives! Salvation to impart. You ask me how I know he lives. He lives within my heart.