Friday, April 17, 2009

Of Fairy Tales, Wolves, and Happy Endings

Susan Boyle

Image by Bert Kommerij via Flickr

I almost never watch TV any more, so I probably never would have heard of Susan Boyle if someone hadn’t posted a link on Facebook.

I confess, I’ve watched the YouTube video at least five times in the past few days. Sometimes it has even made me weep.

Sure, it has all the appeal of a Cinderella story. An unknown woman with a less-than-polished stage presence faces the sneers of a cynical crowd, then brings them to their feet with her stunning singing voice. When she’s through dazzling everyone, she turns right back into the awkward 47-year-old who admits she’s never dated or been kissed. And yet the crowd who once mocked her now loves her. She is an overnight global sensation who sits in humble awe, calling her success “a miracle” because she truly doesn’t realize how phenomenal she is. What story could be better?

Oh, but wait, it does get better! Because she lives in an unattractive house in a little Scottish village, the same house she grew up in. The house where she gave up her dreams of a singing career to take care of her parents until their deaths.

A dream died and was resurrected for a dutiful, loving daughter. It’s perfect.

I admit, I love it. I hope for the absolute best for her.

But as I thought about her today, I found myself developing an almost maternal concern for her (even though she’s a few years older than I am). I even found myself praying for her, that God would protect her from the hazards of this newfound fame.

The wolves will be circling, especially the men who want bragging rights for giving Susan Boyle her first kiss. She could be used and abused and hurt pretty badly, especially since the sudden rush of adulation and offers would leave anyone reeling and prone to uncharacteristically foolish decisions.

Isn’t that sad? In a perfect world, as in the fairy tales we love, that one big break always leads to “happily ever after.” And I hope it does for Susan. But the truth of the matter is, we all have an enemy…a spiritual enemy who loves to take the good things that God gives to us, and turn them against us.

As I pondered this fact, and the perils of sudden success, it occurred to me that we all have received gifts from God. Not all are as stunning as the voice which He gave to Susan, but all are perfectly suited for the role that He wants us to play in the world.

And our enemy can see them as well as we can, if not better. He marshals his forces against us right there, where God has placed our gifts.

That means you and I have hazards to face which are specific to us, to our gifts and our circumstances. And some of those dangers remain hidden like landmines, ready to explode when we experience success.

The other day I was talking to a friend about where she wants her budding ministry to go, and I heard myself saying, “God may protect you from too much success in that area until you’re ready to have it without letting it go to your head.” And even as I said it, I thought of how I feel about my blog, and how few people ever read the words I write.

Is God protecting me from too much success, because I’m not ready to handle it yet?

Now, maybe some of you bold, adventurous types might not be able to relate to this, but I love the idea of being protected. I love the picture of God as my Heavenly Father, keeping me safe from the jaws of the ravenous wolves.

Pride is one of the worst carnivores out there, but there are certainly other problems that accompany success. My Father sees them all, even though I don’t.

Am I prepared to be content with however small my blog may be, trusting God that it’s just the right size for now?

Are you prepared to trust God for what He does with your gifts?

Can you and I thank God together for how He’s using us now, even if it’s not what we’d dreamed of? And can we pray that He’ll prepare us to face the challenges of being used in greater ways without becoming some lurking wolf’s lunch?

Can we thank Him for the “Happily Ever After,” even though we may not see it until we get to Heaven?

And while we’re at it, maybe we can lift up a prayer or two for Susan Boyle of West Lothian, Scotland. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t help caring about her.

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karin said...

It was very moving to watch Susan give her performance! I am in total agreement with you. I pray the Lord protect her from those who may seeks to use her for their own gain. She seems to have led a very sheltered-from-the-world and selfless kind of life. This event has also confirmed for me again that the 2 second first opinion we make of people, is often sooooo wrong!

I have also seen how wonderfully God has protected us from ourselves and the fame and success we would seek. At first we might be disappointed, but it was for our own good. God's dreams for me are far greater and far-reaching than I could ever dream for myself and He will achieve His plan!

Thanks for your interesting post again.

Linda said...

Susan's story touches me on many levels. I am close to her age and have laid aside some dreams to do what I believe God asked of me. My "sacrifices" seem trivial in comparison to hers.

This whole idea of success, no that is the wrong word, Hmm. Realization and fulfillment of talents as we put them to God's use. Yeah, I might be more comfortable with that definition. Anyway,I appreciate your caution of pride. It can destroy so fast. If not visibly, certainly we are destroyed within when we elevate ourselves. I sincerely pray God protects me from pride whatever is ahead.

I have been studying Joshua and one of the lessons I see is that God is systematic and thorough when he develops us for his assignment. Joshua spent decades wandering aimlessly because of others sin. But God used that time to lay the foundation of character and build it strong so when Joshua's time came, he was ready. Of course, his total dependence on and obedience to God was his success.

Great words to think on!

Laurie M. said...

Well, you've read my post on her. Though, as you said, I went in another direction with it, in my conversations with my husband about it there was some of what you've said here. I told him I hope she doesn't let "them" get away with poking and nipping and tucking at her, as you know those who curry the famous are wont to do. Fame is a harsh task-master.

And as far as your blog goes - well, it's all relative. For a housewife raising challenging kids, you're doing pretty well - better than me, and my kids are grown.

Yvonne said...


Betsy, I have had the same thoughts about this (the Susan Boyle story) and about pride.

I choose not to add a visitor counter on my blog because I know that pride will become a battle as my reader number grows. I don't want to know how many follow my blog. (In fact, I'm going to take off my "follower" widget.)

I'm reminded of the story of David where God told him not to number his army. He knew David would become proud and boast in army.

There's a fine line between excitement and pride as a writer, isn't there? I battle it all the time.

I love you, Betsy, and your sweet attitude. You have a wonderful ministry in your blog. Keep it going.


Mary Moss said...

The other day I was talking to a friend about where she wants her budding ministry to go, and I heard myself saying, “God may protect you from too much success in that area until you’re ready to have it without letting it go to your head.” And even as I said it, I thought of how I feel about my blog, and how few people ever read the words I write.

Is God protecting me from too much success, because I’m not ready to handle it yet?

Betsy, you are very wise, indeed. I believe you are correct about God's protection. As my ministry has grown, I have also noticed I get to certain "dry spots." After reading your post, I now understand those are the resting places where God has placed his hedge of protection around me.

What a blessing to be loved by a God so loving and caring:-)

Deborah said...

My husband showed me the YouTube link, and I wept along with the judges and the crowd (BTW, there's a long video and a short one--you have to watch the full 7+ minutes to get the full impact). I appreciate the concern expressed here for Susan, but I also wonder if she's a naive as the media currently makes her appear to be. Maybe she lives alone in a remote little village, but how does she manage to know a song from Les Miserables?

And if she knows the song, then she know the story that goes with the song. I would hazard a guess that she knows both the play and Hugo's novel itself. I've read an unabridged translation, and few books I've read have so well depicted both the depravity of man and the redemptive grace of God. It was the first novel that I wept while reading. (The second was GILEAD, and the most recent was THE SHACK.)

So I do think Susan needs our prayers, but I also think we all need to open our eyes more and not share in the prejudices of her original audience.

As far as the "no one reads my blog" thread, I'm with you all there. I'm not really blogging on Blogger. I'm on Freewebs (look for joswrita). But I'm not sure I have any readers except my friends. And then, only when I announce an update to them. How DO bloggers get wide readership?

Sherri Ward said...

I did happen to catch that part of the show - and I was just as shocked as anyone. It reminded me that I have wondered at times why God causes to bloom some of the prettiest flowers I have ever seen - from a thistle weed. I am in agreement with you - for her, and also in relation to the gifts He has given me and How He desires to use them. I also am thankful for His protection. It's such a balance, isn't it? Willing and confident, yet humbly remembering it's about HIM. Great insight, Betsy, thanks for sharing.

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