My family has one show we all watch together, “Once Upon a Time.” Whatever your feelings on the show, it is a great picture of good vs. evil, how our hearts and wills are pretty complicated, and “magic” is never the answer to solving problems. This past week had a scene in it that really struck me on how so many of our teens feel about life.
If you have never seen the show the basic premise is that all of the residents of “Fairy Tale Land,” were put under a curse by the “evil queen” and sent to a little town in Maine called Storybrook. At first the curse meant that everyone forgot their true identities and lived in Storybrook just going about their daily business. However, they did not know they were really princesses, Red Riding Hood or the like. This season a portion of the curse was lifted and they have “remembered” themselves. For some reason though, while some can “travel” between the two worlds over all they are “stuck” in Maine. The greatest feud remains between Snow White (Mary Margaret) and her “Evil Stepmother,” the Queen (Regina).
In this week’s episode Regina (the queen) was bent on killing Snow White (Mary Margaret.) She was going to cast a spell, but through a series of events, changes her mind. (In this particular instance “Snow White” deserves the vengeance.) The last scene of the show has “Snow” standing on the porch of “Regina’s” home to beg the generational dispute be ended. Instead, the queen reaches into “Snow’s” chest and pulls out her heart. Holding the glowing beating orb in her hands she points something out to the not so innocent “good guy.” In the center of her heart is a black spot. The queen cackles, as she tells Snow that they are now equals and she has “won.” “This spot will grow until it takes over your heart. Then all you love will shrivel and fade away,” she is told. Snow White’s eyes grow wide, as she knows what she has done to create this space in her heart. Sobbing she begs the queen to kill her. Over and over again she pleads, “Crush it, put me out of my misery.” Instead the queen (Regina) puts the heart back, declaring that Snow White is now evil too, and soon she will lose everything because of it. Snow White is beside herself, as the episode fades away.
The stark symbolism immediately struck me. Yes of course there was the Ezekiel moment talking about our hearts of stone needed to be replaced with a heart of “flesh.” There is the idea of none of us being “righteous” or good enough to deserve Salvation. Even the pristine Snow White of fairy tale makes bad choices. Yet, what stood out to me was the reaction of our “heroine. If there was even one dark spot, she was doomed to a life of evil and shame.
Isn’t that how so many of the teens and families we work with view life? They take a look at their heart and are fully aware of the mess that it is. Then the next natural step is to believe that is all they will ever be. One mistake, and this snow balls because they feel there is no other choice. I feel like I look into the eyes of so many who have simply “given up,” because they feel, “this is just the way it is.” In a moment of weakness they feel like they just “mess everything up.”
Admittedly some of the problems seem too large. There are times when those of us who are walking out life with these students and families feel the pressure to “fix” it. We can see just like the audience of “Once Upon A Time,” that the story is much bigger than what any of us can see. Like the innocent bystander we feel helpless, while at the same time responsible to make it better. However, it is not our role, (or our job) to fix the situation. We can’t take the black spot away anyway. It is not our job to touch a heart.
I wish I could now give you three to five points of how to best help in these times. I wish there was a tried and true formula for helping the “Snow White’s” in our paths. While I have no idea how the story on “Once Upon a Time” will end, I know we can’t “make” anyone listen.
So here is what I do know:
- THERE IS HOPE
Our job IS to keep letting those who think it’s over, know it’s not. All we can do is let them know truly NONE of us are good enough. (That means we aren’t either.) Be vulnerable and share our story. Some days all we have is to let someone know we will pray for them, and offer to pray with them. That means we tell them:
- THERE IS TRUTH
Jesus is the truth. We need to tell them about his love, how extravagant it is, & how it will bring them freedom. The reality is any of us may have to deal with the repercussions or consequences of an action. However, when we admit what we have done, when we ask for forgiveness, he always does. The truth is we can’t do anything to eradicate that spot ourselves. That spot has a name: SIN. However, through His death and resurrection Christ took our place doing what was necessary to make it go away. We can’t. He can. All we can do is show them through our actions and tell them what this means.
None of us are without that “dark” spot. Snow White believed she didn’t have it, she is now crushed by the reality that she does. Having a relationship with Jesus not only washes the spot out, it changes the heart completely. All we can do is allow those in these situations of despair to know there are more than two answers: giving in or death. There is Jesus. Does it mean we never do anything to create a spot in our hearts? Nope- life is complicated and the “right” answer is sometimes unclear. However, as our Snow White learned, being good didn’t make everything better either. A sense of “morality” isn’t any more helpful than giving in to a doomed life. Other times we get selfish and just want to live our own way. Yet- when we have that relationship with him, in those moments when the “Evil Queen” wants to point out our indiscretions, He is there. He steps in, takes the heart and says, “That belongs to me.” He breathes life into it again. He forgives again. He replaces it made whole. The cycle that screams, “Just crush me,” is done away with.
That is one thing we all need to know.
What about you? What do you tell your teens that think they are “too far gone?”