The first time I watched “Tangled” was at a party, and the teen next to me knew the entire movie by heart. What was at first impressive quickly became annoying as she continued to drown out Flynn’s and Rapunzel’s lines.
Despite that unfortunate introduction, I love “Tangled,” and have myself memorized some of Rapunzel’s lines: “Stuck in the same place I’ve always been, and I’ll keep wanderin’ and wanderin’ and wanderin’ and wonderin’ — when will my life begin?”
It would be easy to blame Disney for my life expectations, especially regarding romance, marriage and “happily ever after,” but I know I was also impacted by my natural childhood dreams and hearing my own parents’ and grandparents’ stories. I assumed my life would follow the same path, and people around me seemed to think so, too. When I attended weddings and bridal showers as a teenager, older women would tell me, “It’ll be so fun when you’re the one we’re celebrating” or “Your turn’s coming!”
Now that I’m nearing the end of my 20s, they seem to be saying that less and less.
I feel old saying this, but I think the longer we live, the more we realize life doesn’t go as planned. When I watch my married friends living what I had always expected would also be my story, it’s easy to feel left out or even forgotten. I’m learning that there are two things I can do to find joy in an unexpected (even — let’s just say it — unwanted) life story: remind myself of truth and thank God for what He is doing.
Remember God’s truth, even when you can’t feel it
I was 23 the first time I flew in an airplane, and I was in awe of all the breathtaking views. One of my flights took off in gloomy, rainy weather, but once we pushed through the clouds, we were surrounded by dazzling, unobstructed sunlight.
No matter how thick the clouds are, the sun shines even when we can’t see it. And no matter what we are feeling or facing, we can always hang on to these truths:
1. God is always working in my life.
“And I am sure of this,” the apostle Paul wrote, “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” No matter where we are, what we’re doing, or how far away we are from where we thought we’d be, we can know for sure that God is in control and active. As John Piper says, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
2. God’s plans are for my good.
“The Lord is on my side as my helper,” the psalmist wrote. Paul agreed in Romans 8:28: “And we know” — we know! — “that for those who love God all things work together for good…” Pastor Timothy Keller paraphrased another theologian’s words: “If you’re a Christian, your bad things will turn out for good. Your good things can never be taken away from you. And the best things are yet to come.”
Say “thank you” for what you have now
At the beginning of last year, I put an empty glass jar on my desk. I had found it in a clearance sale after Christmas, and it had the word “grateful” etched into the lid. Throughout the last 12 months, I wrote down little happenings that were evidence of God’s care toward me — little things I was grateful for — on colorful slips of paper.
By the end of the year, I had to push the papers down to fit more in. Even when life is hard, we have so much to thank God for.
No cookie-cutter stories
After Jesus’ resurrection, He reinstated Peter over a seaside breakfast, then told Peter to follow Him. Peter noticed that John was also following them. “Lord, what about this man?” he asked. “If it is my will that that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” Jesus replied. John admitted that this statement caused confusion even back then, but it seems to me that Jesus essentially said that God’s plan for John’s life was none of Peter’s business.
None of us will have the same story. But when we question God about how our circumstances compare to someone else’s, I think His answer to us is similar to His answer to Peter. In C.S. Lewis’ “The Horse and His Boy,” Aslan told Aravis, “No one is told any story but their own.”
I expected a cookie-cutter life, but God isn’t making cookies; He’s writing unique, handcrafted stories. When my life doesn’t follow a Disney storyline, I can remember that God is actively working in my life for my good. And I can be grateful that I don’t have to wait for a “turn” at marriage or anything else before experiencing His blessing.
Copyright 2021 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.