How to Find Happy Endings – Psalm 45
My daughter, my firstborn, slips through the kitchen door. I don’t know if I should blame the summer humidity or another night of troubled sleep, but her long hair looks like a creature from a nightmare world.
“I had another bad dream last night. A dream about me and baby Elsa,” she says.
“What happened?” her younger brother asks.
Half listening, I run the rubber spatula through the eggs. Lily says something about witches and a chase.
“That’s when I woke up so I imagined a happy ending to make myself feel better.”
“Oh?” I say. “What happy ending?”
“Elsa and I found a beautiful castle and a prince. We ran into the castle and turned into princesses, and we were safe. It was the only thing I could think of.”
These last words are spoken on a downward mumble. When I turn around she doesn’t meet my eye, as if she knows what I am thinking: You are almost ten. Haven’t you outgrown these sentimental royal kingdom fantasies?
A few weeks after we moved to this Victorian red-brick farmhouse, my husband built a small tree house in the shape of a castle. I had written a to-do list with a thousand other, more important tasks. Set up a dehumidifier in the old dirt basement. Exchange our Florida license plate for Pennsylvania. Figure out how to keep the cranky clothes dryer from stalling mid-cycle. When I saw the flag flying from the castle’s corner turret, all was forgiven. License plates may be the law, but a royal lion stenciled in blue spray-paint is magic.
If our daughter’s idea of a happy ending is limited to castles and princes, we have only ourselves to blame. While my husband realizes medieval fantasies in treated pine, I read fairytales and buy royal robes for the costume box.
I remember a cone-shaped princess hat particularly well. The veil is tattered and the pink silk is stained, but I felt conflicted when I found it crushed beneath a pile of Jedi Knight accessories. I can’t remember the last time I saw it frame my daughter’s face. I suppose she traded it for a neon tshirt decorated with peace signs. It is a transition I find both right and, somehow, incredibly sad.
While the morning’s scrambled eggs harden on six different plates, I read my Bible. I do not choose Psalm 45, but it has been chosen for me. At first, I smile in surprise. How appropriate, I think. After reading, I am ashamed. How dare I despise my daughter’s fantasy?
The Psalmist sings, “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme.” His vision of a King and bride is neither sentimental nor is it childish. It is simply beautiful.
This is an ancient wedding song, but it speaks of a wedding we have yet to see. It is the past and future of my daughter’s dream. It reveals the roots of her desire and the promise of its fulfillment. The earthly kings of history and fairytale are only shadows of this perfect, righteous Lord. Princesses in their pearls and pointy hats are pale imitations of his bride, the Church.
This King who rides for truth and righteousness is the embodiment of my daughter’s midnight dream. I had thought it right that the pink silk hat be discarded. I consoled myself over the torn veil by assuming we all, mother and daughter, husband and sons, must leave this fantasy behind.
I was wrong.
A costume or a castle is not necessarily a toy to be neglected. It might be a portal. It might be a path. Heading deeper within, we find the fulfillment of a God-given desire. We find the solid realness of what had been a shimmery dream.
Even better, we discover that every nightmare has been defeated. My two sons fight imaginary dragons with plywood shields, but they enact a battle that has already been won. The arrows and sword of the Psalmist’s vision were real, but they took the unexpected form of a cross. The “mighty one” of Psalm 45 achieved victory by shedding his own blood.
And he did it beneath a sign that said King.
I close my Bible. I stand up. I see my daughter through the kitchen window. Her wild hair is dangling over the castle’s edge, and she is shouting something to her brothers below. I want to go to her. To all of them. I want to say I know the name of the prince she found in her dream.
His name is Jesus. He is Christ our King.
Christie Purifoy earned a PhD in English literature from the University of Chicago. She recently traded reading lists and classrooms for a vegetable garden and a henhouse in southeastern Pennsylvania. Now she writes stories at an old desk in the parlor of a Victorian farmhouse called Maplehurst. When the noise of her four young children makes writing impossible, she tends zucchini and tomatoes her children will later refuse to eat. The zucchini-loving chickens are perfectly happy with this arrangement.
The chickens move fast and the baby crawls faster, but Christie is always watching for the beauty, mystery and wonder that lie beneath it all. When she finds it, she shares it at ChristiePurifoy.com.