For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. Romans 8:19
Once there was a handsome prince. (Of course there was.) He was arrogant, selfish, and rude. He loved only what could serve him and increase his power, his wealth, and his fame. One day an old hag came to his palace and asked for a drink of water. She was ugly, and the prince scoffed at her. He refused her what she had come for, and when he did, the old hag turned into a beautiful princess. The princess turned the handsome prince into a Beast, the basic lesson being that you can't always judge a book by its cover. Sometimes what we think looks wonderful on the outside is in fact brutal and deadly, and sometimes what we think looks worthless is in fact much more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.
But the lesson went deeper than that. The princess also handed the Beast a rose. This rose was magical. (Of course it was.) The rose possessed the magic of time, a countdown to the Beast's last chance to demonstrate that he had truly learned what love really looks like. Unless, by the time the last petal fell, he had learned to love another person enough to be loved back, he would remain...da-da-dum...forever a Beast. And the lesson here is much more profound. If you can't love you aren't truly human. You're no better than a beast.
I think you might know this story.
How profound of Disney to accidentally capture in a fairy tale what Ecclesiastes tells us:
I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. (Ecc 3:17-20)
We, like the Beast, have this limited amount of time to figure out what it means to be human. And, as with the Beast, it's all about finding true love. Not meeting that special someone and getting married, mind you (although fine if that's part of how you discover it). No, I said TRUE love. And that is found only in the God who lays down his life for his bride. The God who became human in order to be with us, and whose way of humanity points not to the beasts of the dust but to the God who gives life. We're the beasts in the story, he's the beauty, and the petals of your numbered days have already begun to fall. Dang, Disney. Nice.
The connections I could make between Disney's Beauty and the Beast (either version) and the gospel of Jesus Christ aren't endless, but knowing me, I could probably make it seem that way. Resurrection, sacrifice, spiritual regeneration. It's all in there.
Remember in the animated version that last scene of the Prologue, that view of the Beast's kingdom where the whole realm gets covered in thorns and thistles? Crazy, right? If this isn't Genesis 3:17 with a fairy tale filter...
But for today, in light of Romans 8:19, let's go past the wall of thorns and into the palace itself to talk about the other people who live in there for a minute.
These are the other characters whose lives also are reduced to something less-than-human. They aren't just side-kicks. They're part of this artistic masterpiece that reveals something true about our reality.
In the movie, it's not just the Beast who suffers the "curse" of the old hag. Everyone in his palace suffers, too, because we're just like him:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned... (Rom 5:12)
And this kingdom longs to be freed from this curse. They long to be human again. Why, oh why, did Disney eliminate the song "Human Again" from the final cut? (Okay, they added it back in later but you have to watch the IMAX version.) Listen:
"I'll be all that I was
On that glorious morn
When we're fin'lly reborn
And we're all of us human again!"
This is what I feel Romans 8:19 is pointing us to. The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. The Beast is a stark picture of humanity under the curse, time ticking, sin-heavy, and the rest of creation watches, like Lumiere and Cogsworth, wondering when Beauty will come. And he has! That's the point of Romans 8. Beauty has come, and he has done for us what the Law could not! He's loved us enough to lay down his life for us.
And, being a human, the perfect human, his perfect God-love overcame death. The son of God for whom creation waits has come, and we have only to unite ourselves with him to be human again, just like him.
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:19)
Creation waits in "eager expectation" (NIV) because creation has seen hope in the resurrection of a man from the dead. The curse has been thrown off and the creation is being released from its bondage to the decay of humanity in the grave. Creation has reason to hope, and so do we.
I know this post feels like a little diversion from where we've been. We're not talking about your struggle with sin right now. We're reaching for the sure hope that one day, sin will be no more. Your relationship with God will not always feel like a strain, like a struggle. You won't always be a candlestick, a mop, or a beast.
And the whole point of Romans 8 - the entire chapter - is that this has already begun, as the Spirit has taken up residence in your spirit and is now, even in this struggle, ushering you into that eternal perfect human life. The resurrection of Jesus is the same resurrection your spirit is now experiencing. And if spiritual now, then later, physical. Just like him. Your flesh, against whom you presently struggle, will be caught up in this story, too. And you'll be human again.
Claim it. I don't know what else to tell you except don't forget to look every once in a while at the ground beneath your feet, the trees growing silently outside your window, the sky looking down on the earth. They're all waiting. The creation speaks. Listen to its testimony of life in God, and listen to it crying out "Life from the grave!" It has been witness to this. And it longs to see you being a part of it as a son or daughter of the God of life.