I have always loved fairytales and the promise of a story that despite problems faced would end happily. I think of Cinderella and how we identify with the unfairness of her situation of being forced from a position of “daughter” to that of “servant,” and then how we rejoice when despite all the machinations of her stepmother and stepsisters, Cinderella still reunites with the prince. When I was a little girl, Red Riding Hood was one of my favorite fairytales. I remember when visiting my Grandma, that she and my aunts would help me act out the tale as I portrayed Red Riding Hood while wearing a blanket and carrying something akin to a basket. Fairytales provide a way to see the world as always ending in ‘happily ever after.’ However, what happens when we incorporate a fairytale perspective in our understanding of God and our faith?
Perhaps we might say that the Bible itself offers narratives that follow a fairytale plot. For example, what about the story of Joseph? Joseph is the son who is favored by his father, Jacob, which draws the animosity of his brothers. Besides being gifted a coat of many colors from his father, Joseph also is gifted with having dreams and visions. After being sold by his brothers, Joseph is enslaved in Egypt, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and imprisoned. While in prison he interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and baker, yet his assistance is immediately forgotten, and he remains in jail. It is only when Pharaoh wants his dreams interpreted that Joseph is remembered. After Joseph successfully interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, he is elevated to a position of ruling over Egypt with only Pharaoh above him. It is because of his position that Joseph is then able to save his family from the famine and provides land for his father’s entire family to live on in Egypt. The story of Joseph might seem like a fairytale, but it is not.
Joseph was not helped by a fairy godmother or rescued by a prince. Joseph was living day by day with faith in God, and at God’s timing Joseph was moved to a position of power. Also, unlike fairytales, Joseph was not unencumbered from his oppression for his own sake, but for the purpose of sharing his blessing with his family when they arrived in Egypt for help during a severe famine, and to save the people of Egypt from starvation. Like Joseph, we must actively live in faith in God despite the trying and oppressive circumstances in which we may find ourselves. We are not to just sit idly and do nothing with the expectation that God is our prince charming who will rush in to rescue us and change our circumstances. Waiting upon the Lord does not mean that we do nothing, we are to do our part to live in a Christ-like manner every day. We are to act in love towards our neighbors despite what they have done to us, we are to seek to forgive those who wrong us, and we are to be aware of God’s presence with us. To simply think of God as a prince charming is to greatly diminish and distort who God is.