Have you ever happened to watch the TV series, “Once Upon a Time”?
For those of you who haven’t, I’ll provide a brief synopsis. In a faraway realm called the Enchanted Forest, the Evil Queen, enraged at Prince Charming and Snow White’s victory, throws a curse on all the fairytale characters, sending them all to our world and causing them to lose all memories of who they really are. For the viewer, then, there are two stories playing at once. The primary story takes place after the curse was already cast. It tells of the day-to-day lives of the townsfolk of Storybrooke, Maine, as a little boy – Henry – tries to convince the main character – Emma – to break the curse and help everyone remember their true selves. But the secondary story lets the viewers in on the backstories of all the fairytale characters back in the Enchanted Forest. While the characters, living in our world, remain oblivious, the viewers learn of their real pasts, struggles, victories, and callings – and see how far they’ve fallen from those roles in their cursed states.
Why am I filling your heads with this little TV fantasy/drama?
Because I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly analogous their story is to our own.
In the words of G. K. Chesterton: “Every man has forgotten who he is. […] We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are.” (1)
Just like the townsfolk of Storybrooke, we have forgotten where we’ve come from, our real purposes, and our true destinies. We have been tricked into thinking that this world, with its demands, promises, and disappointments, is all there is. It’s as if we were living in a dense fog, unable to see the real players in our stories. We reach only for the things directly in front of us, the only things still faintly visible, to satisfy our desires for safety, comfort, happiness. But in that haze, we are deceived. Though we buy the lies in ignorance, our true selves become more and more buried and forgotten. We settle for what we’re given, we allow ourselves to be numbed to a gray world and forget what is black and what is white. But deep inside of us there remains a voice that, though constantly being silenced, still cries out for the deep desire that has not been satisfied, still reminds us that we are in exile.
Just like the fairy tale characters, we need to be reawakened to the world we actually belong to. As C. S. Lewis puts it in his sermon, The Weight of Glory: “…[Y]ou and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.” (2)
So, how can that curse be broken?
It all begins with one thing: remembering. Remember and reawaken that true desire – for a true home, for love, for beauty, truth, and unattainable goodness. For all those things the world has long ago told you to forget about, to admit that it’s nothing but idealism and to settle for a weak replica instead. And remember what, or Who, can in the end truly satisfy that deep desire.
Don’t let that desire die. Don’t settle for a gray world, a gray story. Awaken to your true calling.
“ …having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, […] know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe…” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
- G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (Chicage, IL: Moody Publishers), 2009, p.83
- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, (New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc.), 1980, p.7