I just love a good fairy tale. I don’t know if it’s growing up in Orlando surrounded by princesses or just my nature as a woman.
There’s a moment in the new Beauty and the Beast that isn’t the in cartoon. Don’t worry – it’s not a spoiler, so you can keep reading. After Beast has swept Belle around the sparkling ballroom (and each of us wipes that tear from our eye), they walk out onto a balcony of the castle. Beast looks her and asks a question. I can’t remember the words exactly, but you know from the look in his eyes, he’s asking, “Is there any way you can ever love me?” As I waited with baited breath, expecting her to look back and emphatically say yes, she instead caught me off guard:
“How can anyone be happy if they aren’t free?”
In that moment, I felt God say, “Do you see why I had to set you free?” You see, love is not love if you’re prisoner. Without the freedom to choose to love God, we are merely a hostage.
We all know what happens next. In Beast’s greatest act of love, he sets Belle free, knowing there’s a chance she will never return.
God, in His steadfast love, set us free. Angela Thomas-Pharr puts it so beautifully in her Redeemed Bible Study:
“He did not create us like puppets to be pulled by strings. Being forced to love anyone is no love at all. God created humans with the ability to choose or to reject His love, so that He would be glorified by real love.” – Redeemed, p. 27
Unfortunately, choosing sin also had a slew of other consequences that came with it, including (but not limited to) pain, suffering, illness and eternal separation from God.
We are incapable of saving ourselves. We are incapable to doing enough “good” to earn heaven. We are incapable of following the law. We are incapable of being good mothers, good daughters, good sisters, good wives, good friends, good workers. We are not, nor will we ever be, good enough.
But, unlike Beast, our freedom wasn’t God’s greatest act of love toward us; Jesus was. He knew we couldn’t be good enough. He knew that we would continually choose sin again and again (Romans 3:23), so He sent His one and only Son. Not to condemn us (because we were already condemned), but to save us (John 3:16-18). We are made worthy because of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, once and for all (Romans 5:17-21; Hebrews 10:8-10).
I hope that brings freedom to your soul. You don’t have to work for it, strive for it. I love what the author of Hebrews writes:
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14
We are made perfect, but yet we still walk the process of growing to be more like Jesus. The definition of sanctification is “to separate from profane things and dedicate to God.” It’s process. I fail daily (no exaggeration), but no matter how many times I fail, He keeps meeting where I am, picking me up from the pit of my own sin and offers me grace, forgiveness and the chance to try again.
Oh Jesus! I cannot thank you enough for allowing us to choose to love you and for your faithful, steadfast love that keeps pursuing me, growing me, changing me and giving me grace, even when I run away. And like, Belle, may I find myself returning to you, My True Love.