real fairy tale endings: Romans 3

read Romans 3.  Anyone who loves fairy tales knows what it is to have an insatiable appetite for them.  I used to read them from every culture, translated from every language, and written in every century.  There’s something so … magical about magic.  It taps into something deep inside us.  We’re drawn to it and wonder how to satisfy that deep longing all the time.

When I became a Christian in college, it was because I got sick of being restless.  I wanted peace instead of the insatiable.  I was too old for fairy tales.  I wanted real.  I sensed God was real but I didn’t believe in HIm.  So I asked for faith.  And God in His kindness gave it.  I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and it made more “sense” of the world than anything I’d ever heard.  I read a tiny bit of the Bible each night and it must have blossomed in me.  Because one day I realized I actually believed what I was reading. I discovered that all that magic I’d always hungered for in fairy tales was real and accessible — and lighter and sweeter and more lasting than any human fairy tale.

Here in Romans 3 is the true magic that God offers to each of us, and that He gave to me merely for the asking.  It’s such a perfect summary of the good news that I’m launching straight in.  The chapter starts with a truth about human nature that any reader of fairy tales knows.  All humans are capable of great evil:  “No one is good…  No one knows where to find peace.  No one seeks after God.”   But despite this negative truth, there’s freedom and beauty in here that takes only a moment to unpack.

Because we do “all fall short” of the glory of God.  Our world is full of evil stepmothers and bad fairies and tooth-smiling wolves, and all too often, despite our best intentions, we have seen that evil stepmother and she is us.   So for anyone who knows but can’t conquer her inner wolf, there is joy to be found in the next claim. Paul says “God has shown a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law.  We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.  And this is true for everyone who believes no matter who we are.”  Paul says we get a free passage to the magic of God’s presence because Jesus was the one who struck out on the open road and left his home behind.  Jesus was the one who got hurled from the tower by the wicked witch when he tried to rescue the trapped princess.  Jesus “freed us from the penalty for our sins…. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”

For us imperfect humans then all that remains is to bask in the magic.  For us there is joy, peace and thankfulness.  We can be ushered into the sweetness and light of God’s presence by faith alone.  There’s no room for boasting, because we’ve done nothing to be “accepted” by God.  No more tall tales.  That’s where the magical freedom lies.  For once in our lives, we are in the presence of love that gives all and asks nothing in exchange — except that we accept it thankfully.  Even thankfulness seems to be a gift.  When we realize what’s been given, thankfulness bursts out of us in such abundance that we find ourselves wanting to give Him everything, and we weep because he needs nothing from us at all.

Perhaps we resist believing in God because the pathway to Him sounds too good to be true.  But for once in our lives, why shouldn’t something so wonderful be for us?  Perhaps there really is a place where all our dreams can come true.  Perhaps there really is a place of freedom.  Perhaps there really is a place of acceptance.  Perhaps there really are arms open wide to receive every one of us just as we are without asking us to change first. Perhaps there’s a real fairy godmother whose magic doesn’t end at midnight.  Perhaps there’s a magic coin inside a fish that gives us three wishes that will create rather than destroy us.  Perhaps there is the kind of love that rises in our hearts until the brightest dawn of all breaks with the return of the Son.

Here is the true magic we’ve longed for every day of our lives, but this time it’s real.  Once upon a time there was a lonely girl.  And God came down and loved her.  He loves you, too.

And it’s all just a wish away.

posted by Caroline Coleman in “A Chapter a Day” on March 4, 2013.