At the end of almost every fairy tale and Hallmark movie, the happy ending is really just the beginning. We see how the relationship starts, but we don’t see 20 or 30 years down the road, long after the newness has worn off and the characters have been through the usual ups and downs of life. What starts out as a happy ending might not turn out so happy after all.
Accepting the sacrifice of Christ and his forgiveness is just the beginning for Christians, somewhat the same as a fairy tale ending. There’s a lot of living afterward – ups and downs, trials and suffering, but also joys and mountaintops. And as we all know, the true happy ending doesn’t happen until after death. We can’t know exactly what will happen then, but we do know Jesus told the thief on the cross next to him that today, the day of the crucifixion, he would be with Jesus in paradise. Perhaps, as N.T. Wright says, paradise is the time between death and our bodily resurrection, just as Jesus was in the grave for three days and nights, and the true happy ending will come later – another beginning, when we will experience life as it is truly meant to be.
We do know that this life really is just the beginning, the time when we learn who he is, who we are and who we are in relation to him. We are learning to speak the language of the Kingdom of God (N.T. Wright), to lean on and trust him and to surrender our lives in daily dying to self. This is our time to get a taste of what true humanity looks like and what life will be like when God makes all things new – earth, heaven and us, with new bodies just like Jesus’ resurrected body. We experience this as he lives in us and we live in him, sharing the relationship he has with the Father, in the Spirit. We long for the time our happy ending will start – and we know it will never end.