My favorite Disney Princess, growing up, was Cinderella. I loved everything about her story, from the singing animal friends, to the fairy godmother, to the sparkly dress, to the ball. But what, or rather who, I loved most, was Prince Charming.
Prince Charming was my hero. Even if he nearly never spoke, I was absolutely in love with him. He was perfect: tall, handsome, rich, could sing, could dance…did I mention he was tall, handsome, and rich?
Jokes aside, I was absolutely in love with him. Why? Because he rescued Cinderella. Because she was miserable, and abused, and had to sleep in a garret full of vermin for crying out loud (cute animal friends though they were, I knew that it technically wasn’t hygienic for a girl to be sleeping somewhere with mice), and then he came along and suddenly she was royalty, she was a princess, complete with the Grace Kelly-style wedding gown and the tiara.
Growing up, I wanted someone who would make me feel like that. I wanted someone who would rescue me from the monsters under my bed or the bullies at the playground. I wanted someone who would listen to me when I cried because my friends had been mean or my teachers were teasing me by calling me a “piggy.” I wanted someone who would tell me I was a princess. And while my mum did all those things…with my Prince Charming, it would be different, somehow.
The name of my Prince Charming was “Dad.” I wanted a Dad. I had a father, but he was a father in the Cinderella sense–he disappeared in the very beginning of the story, leaving behind shadows of memories that could not be completely trusted. See, my parents were separated, and would be annuled when I was thirteen. My dad wasn’t around very much when I was growing up, and when he was…it wasn’t always pretty. Instead of enjoying my drawings, he laughed that I couldn’t color within the lines. Instead of calling me beautiful, he called me “dummy.” Instead of singing to me, he shouted. Oh sure, sometimes he laughed and joked and bought me toys…but when it counted, he couldn’t be Prince Charming.
Eventually, I grew old enough to understand completely what was going on, and around that time stopped liking Cinderella. I found her too weak, too feeble and vulnerable. I couldn’t be those things–I had to be strong, to fight my own battles, to figure out my own way in the world. (I guess it’s no surprise that my next-favorite Disney Princess would be Mulan.) When the boys teased me, or tried to beat me up, I fought back with fists and feet. I flushed my food down the toilet so I wouldn’t have to eat it, making sure no one could call me “fat.” I made very sure to give my friends no reasons to be mean to me. In short, I learned to survive without a Prince Charming. I was determined I would never need him.
…Except I still wanted him, somewhere. Even as I got older, learned to fight with different weapons, learned more and more to make my own way, there were times I wished for someone to sweep in, fit the slipper on my foot, and transport me to a better life where I wouldn’t have to fight anymore, where no one and nothing could touch me. Try as I might to deny it, I wanted Prince Charming and the safety of his Palace Gates.
Or, well, I wanted a dad to be there for me the way the dads of all the other daughters I knew were. Because when you’re young, romance isn’t a big deal. It’s all fun and games, fairytales. What matters is love, and protection. Security and significance.
We’re taught, in my church, that the father is the head of the family for a reason–he provides for them the picture of what it means to have God as a Father. He leads the household, the same way Moses and Joshua led the Hebrews, or the Judges (the good ones, anyway) lead Israel. That’s why being a dad is such a serious responsibility, and that’s why dads need all the help they can get from God Himself. To their wives, they are lover, protector, and head of their household–the Warrior King for the Warrior Queen. To sons, they are the example of what manhood means–a walking, talking operational definition, the Jedi to their Padawans. To daughters, they are to set the standard for future husbands, to give them something to demand from men, and to reinforce the worth of their daughters to demand it.
I never got that from my earthly father, and I guess that is the reason why I spent thirteen years looking for my Prince Charming, until I found Him. Or, rather, I found my King Charming. I found my Dad, the King of Kings, the Father of all Fathers, the literal Best Dad Ever. And while that doesn’t mean that all my war wounds were bandaged up overnight, it did mean that I could start to heal, because I didn’t have to fight my own battles anymore, not even the ones in my own head. I had Someone to protect me now, and, more importantly, someone to set the standard for what it would mean for me to be a woman, and what the man in my life, my eventual Prince Charming, would have to be like in order to deserve me.
So now I have my King Charming, my Heavenly Father, God, to do all the things for me that my father never managed to do. Except here’s the thing with having a King for a Father…you still have to treat Him like royalty. Which means you still have to submit to Him, to learn to obey, to follow His design. Otherwise, you end up back where you started: fighting for nothing, trying to control things beyond your control, running a life you have no idea how to run.
Considering the alternatives, submitting to God makes sense. After all, He knows better. He made me, after all–worked out my design, fleshed out my purpose, put me together, quirks and all. It’s sort of like having Steve Jobs around to personally guide you on how to use an iPhone–you’d be a fool to dispense with his advice and go and do it your own way. Except that was exactly what I was, a fool. Even if I had made the decision to make Jesus Lord and Savior over my life, I wasn’t exactly going to go quietly. Years of fighting my own battles had given me an insanely strong pride and a habit of control.
Most of all, those years had given me a rebel heart.
(Stay tuned for Part 5)