My wife and I are huge fans of the show Once Upon a Time, and now that this season has wrapped, and there’s no new episodes til September, she’s had us starting over with the Season 1 DVD. Without giving away too much, the premise of the first season is that every fairytale character you’ve ever known is trapped in this town in Maine where they don’t remember who they are and think their hum-drum existence is all that there is. The Evil Queen, now the mayor of this town, knows what’s going on and basically gets to sit back and enjoy everyone else’s misery, and Emma Swan, the protagonist, is apparently fated to lift this curse (although she doesn’t yet believe there even is a curse).
It is an agonizing show to watch at times, as the story flips back and forth between the past and present day which means that watching it, you know who these people really are. To see them settle for much less (like Snow White, who’s basically decided she’ll never find true love in this existence), or to watch them die just as they realize the truth (not giving that one away), definitely tugs at your heartstrings.
Before you think this post is just a review of Once Upon a Time, there’s more to this story than just a TV show. My favourite English professor in college used to assert that cultures everywhere are basically telling the same stories. We put cultural twists on them, but at heart they’re the same. As a Christian, I take this one step further. Not only are we all telling the same stories, but those stories all have their root in the greater Story that God is telling. This is the story that began in Eternity past and which plays itself out in our lives today, and which also has a funny habit of popping up in TV shows like Once Upon a Time.
Think about it. How often in our own lives do we long to be more than who we are? How many of us have drifted off to sleep knowing that there has to be more to life than the daily grind? And have you ever watched a sunset and felt a longing for you don’t know what? Deep down, in the lonely places of our hearts, the parts that once we’ve settled down we make sure never see the light of day (what else are we supposed to do with this longing we can’t control and don’t understand?), we know there’s something more. Something else.
In Ecclesiastes 3:11, we’re told that God “has put eternity into man’s heart.” That itch you just can’t satisfy, that longing you can’t get rid of or numb away, that’s God’s way of reminding us who we used to be. We really were kings and queens once, and though we’re fallen and broken now, we still are. And that is the context of Christianity. We really are under a curse, just like the characters in Once Upon a Time are right now, and just like in that show, our Saviour has come to save us, make us whole, and invite us back into the greater Story.