It’s a commonly used ending in fairy tales and folklore:
“…and they all lived happily ever after.”
As a reader, I need the Happily Ever After (also known as, the HEA).
As a film-watcher, writer, and sold out inspiration-seeker (and total believer in happy endings), I always look for it. In fact, I’m one of those odd people who actually seek out spoilers for my favorite TV shows and books. (I know. That’s going to shock and dismay some of you…) I recall standing in a store aisle once, skimming the last chapter of a book series I truly adored, thinking: “If the author killed off one of the main characters, then I’ll just be heartbroken.” The author left my beloved characters alive, so I bought the book and promptly went home to spend the rest of the weekend devouring (and loving) the story.
This is a point of contention, I know, especially for a storyteller.
It’s not the fact that we want happy endings that divides us. (I mean, who longs to see the evil nemesis win the final battle and take over the mythical fairy land, forever enslaving the heroes of our story?!) What seems to take center stage is that some of us want the foreknowledge of how we get to The End, and we need to prepare ourselves if there’s going to be heartbreak along the way.
“I’ve read the last page of the Bible, it’s all going to turn out all right.” ―Billy Graham
If you’d told me ten years ago that my dad would be gone from this life, my husband and I would have three sons, I’d see my dreams of becoming an author come true, I’d experience loss and grief in more than death, and everything about who I once was will have changed by the time I reached 35 years old, I’d have been dumbfounded. The end point of that sounds like a complicated HEA to me – unless you earnestly consider the hope that’s infused in the journey it took to get there:
I learned more about faith-walking in lean times than I ever could have with abundance.
I learned more about Christ’s faithfulness in standing by a graveside than I ever could have standing in a pew.
I learned more about purpose, and calling, and dream chasing through failure, than I ever could have on the wings of success.
I learned more about loving and truly worshiping Jesus through tears than I could have with a contented sigh.
I don’t mind knowing the end of a story while I read it.
In fact, it helps me to see finer points of plot and character design as I go through, and ultimately makes the experience a richer, more enjoyable one for me in the end. Even as as writer I typically pen the last chapters first before I get to the muck and mire of the character’s journey in the middle.
But I realize there’s one problem when you’re addicted to the HEA:
It steals away the storyteller’s joy.
It’s not just about whether the characters end up walking down the aisle in the end… it’s about the journey it took for them to get to the church. Or to buy a dress and rent a tux. It’s so much more about the lovely moments and smiles and pain and forgiveness it took to get to the HEA, that the outcome means so much more when you’re finally in it.
If you’re a reader, I know you have an opinion on the HEA. If you’re a film-lover and inspiration-seeker too, I know you you might cringe at the thought of someone revealing spoilers about the end of a good story. And if you’re a follower of Christ, you’ve no doubt got your eyes set on the hope we have in the future.
What about you? Do you need the HEA in your favorite stories, or do you like to be surprised?
We’re always looking out – fixing our eyes on the good to come. And just like my favorite Billy Graham quote above, we know the ending of the most important story of all. (It’s totally okay to be addicted to this HEA. I dare you to challenge me on that one!) But let’s not forget that in order to get to The End, we’ve got an amazing Christ-centered faith-story to tell on the road to get there.
…And they all lived happily ever after,