Some friends from back home sent me a care package last year. The package included a sweater, a Toy Story blanket, and a Disney mug with my zodiac sign, Aquarius. There’s a picture of Ariel, the Little Mermaid, on the front of the mug, and on the back of the mug is this quote: “There are plenty of fish in the ocean- yet there is only one worthy fisherman, noble and princely, to catch your devotion.”
I thought it was a pretty neat quote, considering how much of a hopeless romantic I’ve been. Definitely gave me hope that my Prince Charming would come eventually…
Anyway, I use this mug so often in my apartment that I overlook that quote more and more each day. I never thought too much about the story of the Little Mermaid either, because I barely even remember the last time I watched that movie. It wasn’t until recently, while reading a book called Story by Steven James, that the tale of the Little Mermaid took on a new perspective for me:
In Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale of “The Little Mermaid” (not the Disney version), a beautiful young mermaid has fallen in love with a human prince. The mermaid is a glorious singer beneath the sea, but she gives up her voice to be able to become human and love the prince. The deal is, if she can woo him, then she can remain human and receive an eternal soul. But if he marries another woman, the little mermaid will turn into sea foam, the fate of all mermaids.
Well, despite all her devotion to him, the prince’s heart remains enamored with a different woman, a princess whom he believes rescued him from a shipwreck. However, the little mermaid was really the one who had saved him. She wants desperately to tell him that she was his savior and that she loves him, but she has no voice above the sea, no words he can hear.
In the end, all three are sailing back to the prince’s palace for his wedding to the other woman. The little mermaid is about to turn back into sea foam when her sisters swim to the water’s surface and offer her a knife and a choice: if she will take the prince’s life, she need not give up her own. The magic can be reversed; she can become a mermaid again if only she will kill the prince. One of them must die before daybreak.
Everyone else is asleep on the boat. Silently the little mermaid approaches the prince and finds him in the arms of the other woman. As Hans Christian Andersen writes,
The knife trembled in the hand of the little mermaid: then she flung it far away from her into the waves; the water turned red where it fell, and the drops that spurted up looked like blood. She cast one more lingering, half-fainting glance at the prince, and then threw herself from the ship into the sea, and thought her body was dissolving into foam. The sun rose above the waves, and his warm rays fell on the cold foam of the little mermaid.
The prince knew nothing of her sacrifice, nothing of her love. He didn’t know she had rescued him, given up her beautiful voice to become like him, and then exchanged her life for his. All this went on while he pursued another woman. She sacrificed all for her prince because she loved him, yet he never returned her love.
When the gospel is told like that, I can understand it.
“When the gospel is told like that, I can understand it.”
When the gospel is told as the story of a lover who continues to pursue the beloved despite not receiving love in return, I can understand it.
When the gospel is told as the story of a lover sacrificing everything, even giving up his or her life for the beloved, I can understand it, but I can hardly believe the magnitude of the love shown by the lover.
Jesus gave up His heavenly throne to become human, to become one of us. The storyteller entered the story; the author stepped onto the page.
While we became devoted to other lovers, oblivious to Christ’s sacrificial love, He still offered His life on the cross so that we might live, knowing full well that some people may never know anything about how He saved us and gave up His life for us.
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, sometimes we forget about the weight or significance of Christ dying on the cross for us. We grow numb to the fact that He voluntarily died on the cross for our sins, voluntarily gave up His life because He loved us that much. Why do we become more and more unmoved by the fact that God Himself, who created us and the entire world, stepped down from His throne to be with us, die for us, and redeem us from the mistake that our ancestors Adam and Eve committed?
For those who don’t know Christ, they’re still sleeping beside other lovers, unaware of the costly sacrifice that Christ endured for all of us, unaware that although there was a choice for Him not to go through with death on the cross, He still followed through according to the Father’s will. All because of love.
“There are plenty of fish in the ocean- yet there is only one worthy fisherman, noble and princely, to catch your devotion.”
God thought all of us were worth His devotion and love, so much that He sent His one and only son to die for our sins. There will be plenty of other fish in our oceans — other lovers, distractions, temptations, etc. — but HE is the only One worthy to catch our devotion.
So maybe it was never about finding Prince Charming. Maybe it was all about understanding the magnitude of God’s love for all of us and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us. While I was focused on other lovers, He remained focused on me, faithfully remaining by my side and loving me regardless of my thoughts and choices. God still chose me when I didn’t choose Him, and when I didn’t know Him, He still gave up everything for me and died for me.
He is the only One worthy to catch our devotion.