By Madison Garrett
We had been waiting for months. Years, even.
Ever since they announced it, we had been ready.
We had March 17th written down on our calendars ever since they advertised it for the first time back in October. We knew the casting a year before the commercials started coming out and we listened to every song sample as they were released, discussing in depth every note and voice and every tiny, minute change from the original.
When opening weekend was finally upon us, we had our tickets ready and popcorn in hand. We, like millions, gathered under the big screen to see our favorite childhood movie come to life. Molly and I shrieked as the screen went from black to vibrant color, revealing the classic Disney castle. Anna and I cried when “Beauty and the Beast” popped up in gorgeously gilded lettering and again when Belle and the Beast danced their famous dining room waltz.
I cry at movies. Not a cute, one-tear-streaming-down-a-pale-cheek cry, a full-on, red-nosed, curled-up-in-my-chair-clutching-my-knees cry. Name a movie and I’ve probably cried during it. My siblings place bets on me whenever we see a movie together. When we went to see Inside Out, they guessed three times. Later, I blew them away with an astounding five times when we went to see Moana. I get wrapped up in it all: the stories, the honesty, the metaphors about JESUS that are inherently found in art, evidence of a creative, story-telling God making himself known through His creative, story-telling children. I find myself lost in the characters’ emotions and in their adventures and stories and all of a sudden, I can’t help but cry because my heart is so swollen with truth and beauty and freedom and emotion.
Beauty and the Beast was unsurprisingly no different.
Those of you who have seen it are probably somewhat familiar with a brand new song, “Days in the Sun”, performed by the entire cast, including everybody in the castle from the young prince mourning his mother, to the enchanted household objects reminiscing, to Emma Watson as Belle reviewing and responding to it all. The lyrics take my breath away, particularly when the wardrobe sings:
Oh, I could sing of the pain these dark days bring
Or the spell we're under
Still it's the wonder of us I sing of tonight.
Madame de Gardarobe doesn’t sing of pain. She doesn’t sing of the darkness. The wardrobe does not sing of the desolation, the longing, the loneliness, the heartache that I’m sure she experiences as a human living as a wardrobe and as a woman separated from her husband. She does not sing of the old days; she does not sing songs of nostalgia, of wishing for what was, what was easier, or what was known. Instead, she sings of perseverance. She sings in belief that the days in the sun will return, not in the hopelessness that they are gone. She sings of WONDER, of the endurance of the human spirit, of the hope and love they continue to insist upon even in their trapped, uncontrollable, isolated state. The wardrobe sings a song different from her circumstance. Better yet, she sings in opposition to her circumstance. She sings hopefully in the midst of darkness. She sings of wonder in the midst of wilderness.
And all of the sudden, I’m crying.
THIS IS IT, I want to exclaim. THIS IS HOW WE WORK THROUGH THE TENSION. THIS IS HOW WE CLAIM VICTORY. THIS IS HOW WE CLING TO HOPE. THIS IS HOW WE DISCOVER THE GUSTINESS, THE EARTHINESS, THE FORTITUDE OF LOVE.
We start singing.
We sing when we shouldn’t. When we aren’t supposed to. When the scene is dark and the outlook grim and the prognosis shorter than we want it to be, we sing and we celebrate and we believe. We choose joy when we shouldn’t. We praise when we do not understand, believing that the most powerful Hallelujahs come from the depths of our heartbreak: in that painful moment when we cannot see the end of the story yet proclaim victory anyway.
As I find myself yet again in-between seasons and places and decisions, I am also caught in-between hope and uncertainty. As my dad fights brain cancer (but more importantly- fights fear), he too is in between doubt and belief. We are all in between, clinging to a sticky hope that he will be healed, that prayers will be answered, that the story is not over. We have the choice: hope or uncertainty. They cannot coexist. There is not room in our human hearts for both at the same time. It is either hope, with all its danger, risk, and breathlessness, or despair. And every decision I make, every book I read, every song I listen to, needs to point me closer to whatever I choose. Every book I read is preparation. Am I filling my mind with grief or with belief? The music I fill my ears with- what are the lyrics telling my heart? And in my heart, in my prayers, do I sing of wonder or do I sing of crippling doubt?
The song we choose to sing matters. The atmosphere we set for the way we struggle matters. The underscore to our un-understanding changes the melody of the way we believe.
Because I too want to sing of perseverance. I want to stand against the darkness and crow and belt out loud, reverberating notes of hope that change the landscape I am living in. I want to sing of hope in the process and in the progress. Progress is a privilege we did not expect to be allowed. This story was supposed to end, closed firmly by the malignancy of cancer thirty eight weeks ago. It was supposed to be quick, relentless, inflammatory, and chaotic. The prognosis said three weeks at most, but HERE WE ARE, at week forty one, still living in the five percent chance and celebrating that miracle every chance we can.
We are living where feet may fail. We are living in dangerous territory (or terror-tory) as we don’t yet know how the story will end. But still: it is the wonder of us I sing of tonight. It is the JOY my family is somehow able to find in this season. I sing of the macaron making and the nickname giving and the inside jokes developed and the level of intimacy we have entered into that we can never exit.
THIS is what it is like to sing of the wonder of us: to recognize the growth of each individual and call it sacred, rather than shattering.
We focus on the love and not on the pain. We focus on the heart and not on the change. Yes, our normal is unrecognizable, but the faces are not, and the faces and the hearts are STEADFAST. We will not give power to our pain because we will not let it damage the relationships we have built, that we still build, and that we are building upon even now. We will not let cancer steal more from us than it already has. We will sing and praise and BELIEVE that our days in the sun are not over, that they will RETURN, and that they will be more beautiful than we can fathom. We sing from our desolation and we sing from our exhaustion. We sing with every breath in our lungs; we sing to shake Heaven. We sing to change the story. We sing and we will sing until we collapse because we are singing an eternal song, a song that challenges despair, a song that helps us believe just a little bit longer.
This is the song of the valley, of the heartbroken and the weary and the seeking: we believe. We believe in what and Who we cannot see. And we cannot be convinced otherwise. We will continue to insist upon the best in one another. We will strike down thoughts of doubt, both spoken and unspoken, and we will replace them with a fervent hope in the God of miracles. We sing of the character of God and we sing of the love that has somehow surrounded us the entire battle. We sing of the provision we have seen and the provision we have yet to see and the provision we believe is coming.
The walls of Jericho trembled when the Israelites raised their voices against it. Brick and mortar crashed to ground, tumbling after a tune of rock solid belief.
If we sing of hope with that same fervency, this tumor has no chance against our irrefutable melody.