My daughter’s favorite princess is Rapunzel.
The non-Disney version of the story begins with a peasant couple longing for a child. When the wife finally becomes pregnant (with Rapunzel), she begins to crave an herb in her neighbor’s garden. The English name for the herb is rampion, but its German name is rapunzel.
The wife’s craving grows so strong that she tells her husband she will die if she does not get some of that rapunzel. Her husband agrees to sneak into the neighbor’s garden by night and steal the rapunzel. After her first taste, the wife’s craving intensifies, and the husband repeats his thieving exploit. This time he is caught by the owner of the garden, a witch. The witch allows him to take the rapunzel – in exchange for his baby. When the baby girl is born, the couple gives the baby to the witch, who names her Rapunzel. And the rest is fairy tale.
Even though it’s gritty, I love telling this version of the story to my children because it demonstrates the danger of sacrificing long-term blessings on the altar of short-term pleasures.
It reminds me of Esau, who gave up his birthright for a pot of stew (see Genesis 25:29-34). The writer of Hebrews references Esau, saying “[See to it] that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal” (Hebrews 12:16, ESV).
Esau was considered unholy, and a negative example for us, because he considered his immediate desires more important than his long-term good. An application of how we do this is sexual immorality. But we do it in other ways, too:
Considering our Facebook page to be more pressing than our prayer life.
Striving to win an argument at the expense of our marriage.
Faithfully watching a TV show but only sporadically reading the Bible.
Getting out the door on time rather than loving our children well.
Telling our teenagers off rather than listening closely and training them in godliness.
Dating someone we know isn’t right for us rather than trusting God’s timing.
In many of these cases, as in Rapunzel’s, we still get a happy ending. God is gracious and merciful, and He often blesses us in spite of our poor decisions. That’s what the gospel is all about.
But the happy ending often comes after a period of suffering, for us or for others. Because of her parents’ foolishness, Rapunzel spent years locked away in a tower. She was alone when she gave birth to her children, and she raised them for the first year or two as a single mom in the wilderness. Her husband, the prince, lost his eyesight for a time and was separated from his kingdom.
Don’t get me wrong. Life won’t be easy if we choose God’s best. It will involve giving up lots and lots of short-term pleasures. But we can do it if we remember the reward and whom we’re doing it for.
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26, ESV).
Be a Moses, not an Esau.
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