Of Hubris, Hope and Telling A Better Story

If you've stood in line at a grocery store anywhere in the United States in the past week, you're probably aware of the story that's captured the world's attention for this moment and, I suspect, a few more moments to come. While it may be replaced now and again by more pressing current events, I expect that we'll all be hearing a great deal about Prince William and Kate Middleton's upcoming nuptuals through the week of their wedding, currently set to occur on April 29, 2011.

I've had a few friends complain bitterly and sometimes caustically about not only this story, but about the role of the British monarchy in general. Words like "disgusting", "hubris", "anachronism", "inbred" and "leeches" have been used. Being a British citizen myself, it might be easy (and believe me, it's been a temptation) to become defensive or even antagonistic in response. I've taken some time, though, and asked God what's going on—both within myself and within the reactions of others—that He'd like to talk about. While I don't even pretend to be God's voice on the issue, I do think there are a few things going on that can teach us about the story God's telling and our hearts within it.

On the eve of Advent, I know that I am longing for a fresh start and, paradoxically, a reminder of the His-story of which I'm a part. I suspect I'm not alone in this. In fact, I suspect that whether you would call yourself a person of faith or not, you're longing for a fresh start as well. It's been a rough few years, globally. Economic downturns, political polarization and name-calling, unstable global politics, and a sense of distrust for our leaders has created an environment of fear and, sadly, despair. Good people are going through difficult times. Hard work, prayer, and just 'pulling yourself up by your bootstraps' hasn't seemed to produce the results that we would have expected five years ago. While it never was, the world doesn't feel under our control any more, and that brings with it a low-level but pervasive sense of unease.

Do you know the difference between a Shakespearan tragedy and a Shakespearan comedy? Some would say death toll is the determining factor, and while that may be a good measure most of the time, it's not the only factor. Tragedies and comedies can sometimes have equal amounts of bloodshed on and off stage, but comedies end in resolution and, more often than not, they end with a wedding.

I'm sure you get where I'm going here.

With all that's been going on, you've probably been wondering if the story we're living in isn't a tragedy after all. There have been questions, quiet doubts, and outright fist-shaking-at-the-ceiling prayers. Anchored by the Word of God, we know that the story ends differently… but our emotions, and sometimes our hearts, have taken a beating. Those without the plumbline of faith have even greater struggles keeping purpose and hope about them.

Enter stage right: Prince William and his commoner-to-princess fiancée, Kate (who would like you to call her Catherine.) Prince William, tragic Diana's son. Prince William, heir to the throne of England. And Kate, beautiful, intelligent, young and… hopeful.

It's hard to say whether it's William, Kate, or the combination of the two that grab our hearts the most. William's story is one of adventure trumping breeding: rather than take the safe route, he's entered the RAF and flies helicopters, even against the advice of the royal family who would prefer him to be safe. William lost his mother, also a commoner-to-princess story, and has had to manage mourning and the public spotlight. Kate's parents are self-made millionaires, an air traffic controller and flight attendant who made good with a dream and some effort, very little in the way of royal blood to their names. Young, beautiful and dynamic, together the couple are engaging and compassionate. They feel like real people. They could be your cousin, your sister, your son or your best friend.

They could be you.

And that's where the story has us. Why we're enraptured, why we care about something that can feel as anachronistic as royalty. Just like professional sports and players, there's a story going on that echoes of the story that we all care about, the story we all secretly and not so secretly want to believe.

In the story of Kate & William, we're being reminded that this story isn't a tragedy after all. Things may look dire, but there's a wedding to look forward to, and this means that this story's got a comedic ending. Not necessarily one we'll be laughing at as hilariously funny, but one whose punchline will have us smiling and understanding all the twists and turns along the way had to lead us to this point, this happily ever after, this feast.

And what story does that sound like, hmm? What story begins with a wedding and ends with a wedding? (I am, by the way, indebted to John & Stasi Eldredge for first pointing that out, or at least first pointing that out to me.) It's God's story, echoing into our own, giving us reason to hope that things are going to be right with the world, right with our own story, after all. That God's in control, and the ending is going to be more beautiful than we'd hoped. Instead of just getting by, we're going to get more that: we're going to be adopted into royalty, given a title, a crown, and called heir to the throne (the real Throne, the path to which is the real Cross). Our suffering will have mattered, and there's a wedding feast at the end of things to celebrate the most royal of all weddings: that of the Lamb of God.

Whether you like the royal family or not (and, in interests of full disclosure, I will say I happen to like them), we need our stories. In difficult times, we need hope, and we need to remember. Yes, there are important things that resources can and should be spent on other than royal weddings or Super Bowls or all the other things that remind us that our story is epic after all.

The story of Prince William and Catherine may not be God's story, but it is one that He is using to echo, to re-awaken, to remind people of the Larger Story. He is using it to offer hope, and to deepen our longings enough that we might be brought back once again to the One who has already called us His royal priesthood, His heirs, His children.