Happily Ever After

As I’ve mentioned recently, I’m a big fan of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I find the movie’s ending particularly touching. Poor boy Charlie proves his good character and Wonka invites him to come and inherit the factory, inviting his whole family to join him there for the rest of their lives. After extending this marvelous invitation, Wonka turns mock-serious and says: But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted. … He lived happily ever after.

It’s a typically silly Wonka line, and it fits with the joy of the scene. Yet, it’s always struck me as false. Does getting everything you’ve always wanted ensure happiness? Not in my experience.

I’ve wanted so many different things. A certain relationship, to travel, a particular job, or even just the freedom to set my own schedule. I haven’t always gotten what I’ve wanted, but whenever I have, there has been one constant: I’ve always wanted more.

Though I often forget it, I know from experience that getting what I desire is not the pathway to enduring fulfillment. There will always be something else that I feel I need. No matter how beautiful life is, there will inevitably be some person, place, or thing that I imagine would make things even better.

The movie’s closing song hints at this truth:

If you want to view paradise, simply look around and you will. Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.

When I pay attention to the beauty, love and joy that God provides in this present moment, I find a depth and reality beyond the incessant drive for more. Turning away from my desire for everything I’ve ever wanted, I experience the incredible blessings that God has already provided.

That’s the only happily ever after I’ve ever known.