There was a Disney movie that came out in 2001 called Princess Diaries, staring Anne Hathaway. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s probably because you didn’t have elementary aged sisters and/or a crush on Anne Hathaway in 2001. I may or may not have had one or both of those things… The premise of the movie is that Hathaway plays a teenager named Mia who discovers she is the heir to the thrown of Genovia. The movie chronicles her transformation from a slobbish, unmotivated, apprehensive, and awkward teen-aged girl, into a beautiful, confident, elegant, gifted princess who is ready to step into her role as princess of Genovia.
There is a young man (of course) who right from the beginning saw beauty and value in Mia. He helped her draw it out as she chose to accept her role as princess. Whether you've seen this particular movie before or not…you know the story. It’s seen in countless fairy tales—Beauty and the Beast, The Frog Prince, Cinderella—there is a character who is broken, trapped, and flawed, but a hero comes to heal, free and transform them. The monstrous beast and slimy frog, are transformed into kind and gentle princes. Cinderella, a poor servant girl is transformed into a beautiful princess. The awkward teen Mia learns to see her value through another’s eyes, becoming a lovely princess. In every fairy tale there is a catalyst for transformation, and almost always, that catalyst is the love of someone else. The Beast could not be transformed without Belle confessing her love. The frog could not be transformed without the kiss of a princess. Cinderella could not become a princess until the prince slipped the glass slipper onto the foot of his true love. Mia had to learn her value by accepting another’s love.
Notice that in none of these tales does anyone have the power to transform themselves. In a very grim (…Brother’s Grimm, in fact…) version of Cinderella, the evil step sisters hack off their heels and toes in order to fit their NBA sized feet into the glass slipper. Despite their pain and hard work, they couldn't earn the princes’ favor…it had to be given to them.
I think these fairy tales speak of a truth all people know intrinsically. Love transforms…and love cannot be earned. Jesus Christ looks into the brokenness of each of our lives…and offers to transform us with a love far greater than that of any fairy tale. Like a prince on a royal steed, he gallops in to rescue us from the dark dungeon of our sin. He pays the penalty and dies the death we deserve, but conquers death like a dragon slayed once for all. All we must do is accept his love and allow it to transform us.
What if the beast decided that the free gift of Belle’s love couldn't transform him? What if he bought a crate of Gillette razors, and a few hundred canisters of shaving cream so he could shave off his fur every day in an attempt to transform himself? What if Cinderella decided she’d try to work her way to royalty rather than accept the love of the prince? There is no happily ever after to those fairy tales, because there is no real transformation. So why do we attempt to transform ourselves? Let’s embrace the love of Christ that transforms and brings new life. Our Heavenly kingdom awaits, and it’s a true happily ever after.