The Prince bent, and slid the glass slipper gently onto Cinderella’s foot. It was a perfect fit. And as he stood and took her into his arms, she knew this was only the beginning of their happily ever after.
They were married, and it was so…except for a few things.
Like how Cinderella just couldn’t seem to keep her hands off a scrub brush. It was like a compulsion, and drove the Prince distracted. She’d sneak off from an elegant party to do the floors! Didn’t she understand they had servants to do these things? Didn’t she know he wanted her to be able to enjoy her life now and leave that drudgery behind?
Or how the Prince just wouldn’t stop tagging after Cinderella all the time through the palace. It wasn’t like he didn’t trust her out of his sight. She knew he loved her, and she loved him, but once in a while, she’d really like a little space!
Then there were the family issues. The Prince seemed to feel he had to go along with his parents’ wishes on everything…after all, that’s how they’d ended up with the ball. Of course, that had turned out for the best, but she wished he’d learn to make up his own mind sometimes.
(And let’s not even get started on the issues with her family…especially when they’d invite themselves over to the palace unannounced.)
Plus, it’s a little thing, but could Cinderella just please stop leaving her shoes everywhere? Sure, it was helpful that one time, but seriously, doesn’t the girl know how to use a closet? Oh, right, she hasn’t had one before…
Wait! Stop! That’s not how the story is supposed to go!
And maybe that’s a bit how we feel in real life sometimes…
The first six months or so of Anthony’s and my official courtship, it often did feel rather like a fairy tale. Here was this wonderful, handsome man who for some reason had decided he wanted to be with me, out of all the wonderful girls in the world. More than that, he loved me. We’d sit out on the porch of my family’s house for hours in the evenings, his arm warm around my shoulders, and talk about the past, the present, the future, what we thought about a myriad of issues, while moonlight gilded the rose bushes before us and love-light danced in our hearts. We seemed to think so similarly on so many issues. We wondered what we’d ever find to fight about. I was even a little worried that we’d gone months without ever having a real disagreement. Didn’t every healthy relationship face some conflict?
Well, we’ve gotten healthier since.
The holidays came, and I discovered what I’d heard about the stress when you have to split them between two families was true. We had our first crying-in-the-car (well, that was me), long and hard sitting-to-talk-things-through then. And it was only the beginning. For the next several months leading up to our engagement–and since–though we’ve had plenty of lovely times, we’ve also had plenty of rough spots.
And sometimes I’ve thought, “What are we doing? This is crazy! How can you take two completely different people, who have grown up with different families and lived totally separate lives till now, and expect them to be able to merge into one? Who came up with such an idea?”
Oh, yeah. God.
And for some reason, He thinks it’s a really good one.
Maybe it’s partly that we have different reasons than He does for seeing romance and marriage as beautiful things. We tend to see finding someone to love for the rest of our lives as a way to find fulfillment, to be loved, for our dreams to come true.
And certainly elements of those are there…but they’re not the whole picture. Sometimes life and relationships are just really hard, whether your prince has come yet or not.
But maybe the Lord also sees some deeper, more important reasons why He created marriage and calls it good, even in our fallen, still-being-redeemed state. Like the way even our differences and conflicts can challenge and stretch each other to be more who He created us to be. And the lessons of learning to unconditionally love someone, even when he or she hurts your feelings. And how growing to love and be loved by another imperfect human drives us back to Jesus over and over again, the only One who will never fail us.
And all those things, while not easy, are good. And beautiful.
So time went on. And slowly, the Prince and Cinderella learned to better understand each other, to talk things through and apologize and forgive. He learned it was worth having her shoes lying around to have her around. And she learned to be thankful for his desire to always be close to her…especially when he occasionally let her have a little space just to have a good scrub fest.
And so they did live, not perfectly, but lovingly, growing together, and yes, very often happily…ever after.
Have you had dreams that, when fulfilled, turned out differently from your fairy-tale expectations? What did you learn from that…and how did you find them to still be beautiful? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
(And a bonus question, just for fun: If you could imagine another conflict Cinderella and the Prince–or another fairy-tale couple–might have had, what would it be?)