If your life were a fairy tale, which one would it be?
Cinderella? Beauty and the Beast? The Frog Prince?
Mine would be The Wizard of Oz. Discontented girl runs away to seek her heart’s desire somewhere over the rainbow, gets hopelessly lost and spends the rest of the story trying to get back home.
When I was growing up, the yearly airing of The Wizard of Oz was an event
as momentous as Christmas. My entire family gathered around the console TV (back when televisions were made to look like furniture) and sat breathless from the appearance of the MGM Lion to the closing credits. I remember the colors of the Land of Oz as being almost painfully vivid. My siblings and I could recite every single line, especially our favorite: “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!” We booed the wicked witch, laughed at the munchkins’ silly dancing and shrieked at the flying monkeys. No matter how many times we watched that movie, we never got tired of it.
But there was one thing that always bothered me. Glinda, the good witch, knew all along that the ruby slippers would get Dorothy home. So why didn’t she just tell Dorothy that in the first place?
Of course, it’s a silly question. If Dorothy had known about the shoes back in Munchkinland, she wouldn’t have followed the Yellow Brick Road, found the Emerald City, met the Wizard or defeated the wicked witch. She wouldn’t have met her friends, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion, and helped to change their lives. She wouldn’t have overcome obstacles, endured hardship, or learned the great lesson of her life: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”
In short, if Glinda had told Dorothy about the shoes, there wouldn’t have been a story.
But here’s the other thing that bothered me: Dorothy knew the shoes had incredible power. Yet she never once thought to use that power to help her get home. In fact, the shoes seemed to bring her nothing but trouble; they were the very reason the wicked witch was trying to kill her in the first place (besides the fact that Dorothy killed her sister, but that was totally an accident).
So instead of accessing the power of the shoes, Dorothy tried to save herself through her own efforts. She sought the help of a great and powerful wizard who turned out to be neither. Every single one of her efforts failed. Even killing the wicked witch turned out to be a dead end (no pun intended).
Finally, Dorothy gave up. Only then did Glinda tell her the secret of the shoes. “You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.” The shoes could take her there in two seconds. When the Scarecrow asked, “Why didn’t you tell her before?” Glinda replied, “She wouldn’t have believed me, she had to learn it for herself.”
Ain’t it the truth.
I believe that God speaks to us in the language in which we are most fluent. For me, it’s stories. When I pray, God answers most often with a story. Usually the stories are Bible stories. But one day when I was complaining to Him about all my struggles and broken dreams and unanswered prayers, He gave me this story. Dorothy and the shoes.
And it hit me. I was that discontented girl skipping down that long and winding Yellow Brick Road, searching for my heart’s desire in all the wrong places. Trying to save myself, while all the time the answer was right there in front of me, as plain as my own two feet.
It really is all about the shoes.*
We are all on a journey, catching faint glimpses of that shining city on a hill, always just out of reach. Searching for home, our true home. And yet the journey, while fraught with peril, is not without purpose. There are treasures along the way—friends to discover, wonders to be witnessed, beauty to behold. There are also lessons to be learned, like gratitude for all we have already, and joy in overcoming. This is what James was talking about when he said, “Consider it joy…when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Had Dorothy used the power of the shoes at the beginning of the story, she would have gone home unchanged. The same unhappy girl with the giant hole in her heart. We, too, would be unchanged without the journey: the heartbreaks, the disappointments, the tiny victories. And isn’t the point of living out our stories? That we are different, in the end?
Don’t quit. Don’t veer off the road into that poppy field. Persevere. You got the shoes.
“Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the Yellow Brick Road…”
*You realize I’m not actually talking about shoes, right? That it’s a metaphor for God’s power? Just making sure 🙂