Sunday, April 15, 2012

Once Upon a Time: Holding a Grudge

Bitterness runs deep, and for a long time.

Check out this scene from the ABC drama Once Upon A Time (OUAT):

This story has created a world which mirrors our human dilemma in a powerful way:

In our story, we were created to live in relationship to the living God - but we have an enemy who enticed us to do things our way, breaking that relationship. Now most of us live oblivious to the fact that there is something so much greater to live for than simply functioning.

In OUAT, the story parallels our situation. There was once a world where characters lived "happily ever after". But the evil queen (Regina in the above clip) found a way to break the spell and sentence all the characters to being trapped in a city where they have no memory of that world. And, like the real world, everything is messed up.

Everything is messed up, including the capacity to forgive. In the scene above, Snow (yes, Snow White) is in prison unjustly accused of murder, and she wonders what she did to warrant the viciousness shown by Regina. We learn as the episode progresses (SPOILER ALERT!) that, way back in the pre-cursed existence, Snow was unable to keep a secret for Regina. Snow was just a little girl of around 10 and was tricked into revealing the secret. But it didn't matter; it ruined Regina's life and so she has been holding a grudge ever since. This grudge has shaped pretty much everything she's done since then, and is now culminating in revenge. Revenge that, as you could see in the clip, has Regina giddy.

Revenge is a major theme in so many stories. There is an ABC drama airing currently by that name. The desire for it comes from a deep feeling of being hurt. It blossoms into bitterness and ultimately into rage. It is such a human reaction that Jesus commented on it frequently. For example, he said,
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:38-39)
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44-45)
Yes, the natural tendency is to hold grudges. And wait for that day when we will have a chance to get even. But Jesus calls his followers to a higher standard. We are to leave vengeance in the hands of the One who is in control of the whole universe. He will make sure that justice prevails, so we don't have to. We are called to love our enemies and leave the rest in God's hands.

Easy? Heck, no. That's why it requires the supernatural power of Christ in our hearts. But it is so, so freeing. Because you know what grudges do. They eat up your insides and dominate your thinking, while the object of the grudge lives their life oblivious as to how much they are hated. (Remember, in the scene above Snow asks what she ever did to deserve this.) So who gets hurt? The grudge-holder. What sense does it make to let a cancer eat away at your life because of what someone else did to you? If you let that happen, they have hurt you twice.

I'm anxious to see how this storyline in OUAT turns out. I suspect the revenge will fail and so Regina will be left with the bitterness of her grudge. I know that, more often than not, that's what happens in real life. For us, whatever it is that is eating away at us, it's time to let go. God will take care of it. And we'll be a heck of a lot happier.

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