Once upon a time, there was an educated, Gen X, Linkin Park-loving Mother of three daughters, who was given an invitation to see Disney Princesses on Ice.
The Mother was thankful for the opportunity, but immediately conflicted as to whether the show would be good for her children. True, the Mother herself had been an avid fan of the princess movies in her own adolescence, festooning her bedroom with the posters and collectibles even until her college years. She had soaked in the stories, thrilled to the animation, and soothed herself daily with the soundtrack collections. These were all positive memories for her.
Yet that was all before the Post-Princess Movement, before good female role models everywhere began decrying princess tales as anti-feminist and demeaning. The Mother had been fully indoctrinated as to all the ways the princess mentality would deteriorate her young minds’ abilities to love themselves for who they are. Princesses, she had been warned, would cause her girls to measure themselves against an unrealistic example, and lull them into a state of waiting for a man to make their lives truly complete. Herself the victim of a fairy tale derailed, this was the last thing the Mother wanted for her girls.
Alas, the tickets were not cheap, and the friend who had offered them was dear to the Mother’s heart. And so it was that, with this invisible parcel of unspoken fears in tow, the Mother found herself standing in line with thousands of other parents and little dreamers, waiting at the gates of an arena to see what wonders it would reveal.
At first, the Mother was dismayed at what she saw. Everywhere she turned, she beheld overpriced, low-end, meaningless princess paraphernalia. Costumes and candies, flashlights and stuffies, keychains and crowns…every souvenir imaginable was being peddled for purchase. The Mother’s fears seemed to be justified; out here, princesses were nothing more than a sales gimmick, a cheap trick to take the place of real memories.
Once inside, however, the atmosphere began to change. Gentle orchestral music rained from above, and the ice floor was aglow with watercolors and magic. Floating dreams and wishes in bloom filled the void as the lights dimmed and the introductions began.
The Mother prayed quietly for wisdom and watched in awe as each story unfolded. Snow White emerged first, thus befitting her station as the pioneer of the princess (and all animated movies) phenomenon. She ice-danced her grief and loneliness at the passing of her father, invoked the terror of her dark flight from the wicked queen’s rage and envy, and frolicked with the dwarves – all somehow fluid and graceful despite their burgeoning costumes. And then the tricked-out apple, and death, and the kiss of True Love…and away they all glided as the pages turned.
Next came Ariel and her sea-to-surface ambitions. Once again, there was a wicked spell, and a trick, and a near-death…but then the intervention of her father’s love and a dream made warm and real. Then Mulan, and Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella… Story after story came to life brilliantly before the Mother, and she began to see their common themes in parallel relief: the beloved, the evil foil, and the lover who rescues the beloved from conflict and darkness.
And that was when a wonderful thing happened: There, in the midst of the finale, the pieces magically came together in the Mother’s mind. As she watched the princesses all come out in their bridal gowns to celebrate their grand wedding, she realized the truth behind the vision: This was the story of God’s love for her!
She was the beloved, and He (not some mere prince of flesh) was the True Love, ever pursuing and never giving up on saving her from darkness and despair. Someday, they would be together in a great celebration of light and all of the old life’s struggle and dust would be forgotten. Each tale embodied it a little differently, but the arc and the results were always the same.
Suddenly, the Mother’s heart glowed with new-found freedom. No longer must she wrestle with the forces of self-doubt and over-protection. She could enjoy and share with her children all her favorite tales of fancy, adventure, and magic, because their stories – all stories, really – are God’s story. He uses the narratives that enchant us to call us out of our mundane routines and expectations.
The Mother left the arena that day a happier and lighter woman. She couldn’t wait to go home and open up more stories with her girls, showing them that whatever the source material – Disney princesses, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or comic book heroes – the message will always be the same: