Love can save even the darkest souls.
– Snow, Ep 14 Season 6, Once Upon a Time
It’s episodes like these that I know why I watch Once Upon a Time. It reinforces and nails this repeated lesson into my heart. This, that love transforms us, it makes us new, makes us more fully ourselves. It doesn’t let us go scot free when we have messed up, letting us go our own way again the moment it meets us. It doesn’t leave us when we fail, and come back when we are fine. Love is very much in our dark nights as He is in our days. Love sits with us, and dines with us, and we with Him, if we lets Him. And He changes us, with love, in time. And that this is the resurrected (or as Elevation Worship aptly puts it, “resurrecting“) life. God is resurrecting us. Love itself, Grace itself, resurrects us.
For those unacquainted with Once, if you have seen the movie Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie, you would understand the story arc. Which is this: behind every villain is a broken heart. A dark, painful past that has distorted and contorted the villain. And the other is this: behind every hero is a propensity for darkness. Both have hope of regaining, and gaining their true humanity.
This arc turns old-time fairy tale arcs on its head. The false, permanent binary of good guys and bad guys, previously to teach children to avoid bad characters. Perhaps this little detail in our storybooks has influenced how we do incarceration, how we judge another, how we make stereotypes of others especially the unknown, how we make war with each other in our hearts, how we shrink from compassion. I say ditch the old black-and-white perspectives, please.
Some recurring patterns in the series that I found were useful:
- There are constant invitations to be good. Somehow, somewhere, we are given, or once were given, an opportunity for the path of goodness. The invitation is given by persons who saw a glimpse of our humanity – our true self. I see these invitations as abundant grace.
- We have a choice to accept the invitation to be good. That choice is an invitation made to us by someone from the other side, someone who has stretched out their hand to say, come here, I will help you choose goodness and keeping choosing it. It is a constant invitation that withstands the sense of fatalism or victimisation that is deeply entrenched in the recipient. In all instances we need courage to make that choice, and it is a continuous choice until we live in that reality of goodness. I see these invitations and our response, as generous grace.
- We are all in need of love, especially those whose lives thrive in darkness and manifests itself in evil. Sounds familiar? Divine grace.
- Everyone, no matter how pure or noble, struggles with their darkness within (to be differentiated from the evil around us). However it is also in the darkness of the night that we can find the most comforting of hopes. I call it long-suffering grace.
- Sometimes, it is a matter of accepting our darkness within, and letting the love we receive from our new family change us in its own time. Patient grace.
In this series, the characters speak to me as they usually tussle over the one problem that repeats itself in the series: Is this person worthy of redemption? It asks all the questions I ask. It presents all the fears I can think of. It gives all the chances it can give. And sometimes, they give up. But in this story, continuous, trusting love brings about change and transformation. And sometimes, the other party simply, walks away. But love remains steady and present, ready to receive and embrace again. Sounds familiar?
If you haven’t seen this TV series that is now going to end its sixth season, it’s never too late. I’ve been watching the past couple of episodes with Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond, a very good pairing to bring material to illustration.
It’s just been such good material for my contemplation. If it’s your kinda thing, it could be yours too.