The scene is a dreary rainy day in Nottingham. The mood is blue and sad, and the voice of the minstrel, Alan-a-Dale, who happens to be a rooster in this Disney version of Robin Hood, is heard as he sings about the hardships and woes of the people being taxed by Prince John. Everyone seems to be in prison: the tiny mice, the rabbit widow’s family, the lame blacksmith, and even Friar Tuck. Such hardship would seem overwhelming for children to watch, but my littles did not despair. They still had hope, because they were certain Robin Hood would come to the rescue.
Certain stories have a way of developing this kind of expectation. When you read The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, you have to believe that Cap and Almazo are going to get through with their sleigh. There was just no other hope if they could not find the man with the wheat the town needed.
Let us think about Charlotte’s Web. How is Wilbur the runty piglet going to save himself from the smokehouse? Circumstances are impossible, but then Charlotte, the calm and articulate spider, shows up and with her words woven into her webs, she saves the life of that “radiant”, “terrific”, and “humble” little pig.
Then there is Ivanhoe, the brave knight that must rescue fair Rebecca the Jew from the Templar that has taken her prisoner. In all these stories ideas are being sown. There is a habit of hope being developed and cultivated that the readers will take with them into their own lives.
But as we speak these words into lives and hearts, we must know that there is a dissident song playing in the culture of our modern world. It is the chorus of voices echoing the words of the arch-nemesis Syndrome in the Pixar movie Incredibles, “…I learned an important lesson. You can’t count on anyone, especially your heroes!” They want to tell us the “truth” as they see it. They want us to be saved from the stark facts of reality, for if not, they are certain we will have to learn this lesson the hard way.
We live in a cynical age, and the disenchantment of the average person has turned into a determination not to be taken in by anyone or anything. The only true hope and only mantra that sells is, “Save yourself.”
Be your own hero! Don’t wait around for some knight to come swooping in on his white horse and rescue you. If our world is going to be fixed, we are going to have to fix it ourselves.
There is truth in avoiding the mindset of a victim, but not being a victim is different than being the hero of one’s own story. Sometimes all our personal efforts cannot change our circumstances and our only chance is to be rescued. There is a certain type of bravery that looks into hardship and suffering and sings defiantly into the darkness.
What develops the kind of courage that can rest in a lion’s den, walk into a burning fiery furnace, or sing in a locked prison cell? Hope is developed by trust; trust in Someone greater than ourselves, and faith in a power that is beyond our own. G. E. Troutbeck said in 1905:
“It is the recognition of excellence that keeps our thoughts safe and pure, amid the many temptations to pessimism and cynicism that beset us in times of rapid change like our own, when old landmarks tend to disappear and leave us wandering in a wilderness of new and strange surroundings.”G. E. Troutbeck
We must not give up on heroes. As George Elliot penned, “The first need of the human heart is something to love, the second something to reverence.”
Sometimes in life we will need to hope for a long time, we will have to look far beyond our present circumstances before our expectations are realized. These truths make me think of the first scenes in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. One hundred years is a long time to wait, especially when it has always been winter and never Christmas.
The ground was covered with snow, branches were barren, and most of the conditions still pointed to the power of eternal winter, but there were signs of change. The warm breeze on the air and the melting icicles were symbols of hope, signs to the observant that the eternal winter cast upon Narnia was about to thaw. But even before the thaw began, before meeting Father Christmas, it was hope of a hero that made Mr. Beaver speak the words:
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
These were the words that I texted my daughter at college early one morning before we both faced a rather difficult day. Why? Because we both found ourselves in situations far beyond our abilities and we needed hope while waiting. We needed truth to help us cheerfully endure the difficult. Like Peter, Susie, Edmond, and Lucy, it was not given to us to slay the White Witch. What was given to us was to be on the right side when the King of the wood returned.
Stories can be the training ground for hope. Whether in books or movies, stories have a way of educating and disciplining ‘our emotions and our sentiments’ as well as our intellectual powers. They teach us to trust. They give us the gift of seeing beyond.
From these stories and many more our family is learning to hope. These stirrings of our hope do not make us trust in created heroes, but to trust in the True Hero. We were brought to these places of make-believe so that we might know Him better here. Through them we are learning that when we can do nothing to free ourselves, we still do not have to be victims. Our souls do not have to be bound, for they are free as long as we know our Hero is coming!
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”Titus 2:13