“Tale as old as time, tune as old as song, bitter sweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong, certain as the sun, rising in the east, tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, beauty and the beast.” –Mrs. Potts
Not many stories have impacted me the same way as Beauty and the Beast. There are many reasons I loved the story of Beauty and the Beast as a child. Belle's love of literature sparked my enthusiasm for the same thing, even in my early years, to give an example. As an adult, I now understand ways this "tale as old as time" points beyond smaller earthly pleasures and towards a deeper love of God.
I am like the Beast.
“He fell into despair, and lost all hope, for who could ever learn to love a Beast?” -Narrator
The Beast’s attitude toward Belle is mostly self-interested. The Beast exploits Belle to fulfill his own desire to break the curse he precipitated to the entire castle. He forces Belle to remain with him in captivity with the hope that she’ll be the one to set him free. The Beast is not motivated by love, but by self-liberation. Nothing about the Beast should warrant Belle’s love (besides the fact that he saves her life from the wolves, but every analogy breaks down at some point). The Beast is hideous, shameful, hidden, and angry. He is a man covered up in animal skins because of his wretched attitude of unlovingness.
The many ways I relate to God the way the Beast relates to Belle are staggering. Many days, I only want God for selfish gain. I want God to give me freedom from what I hate most about myself more than I want to be with God. I am wicked, selfish, and there is nothing inside or outside of me that should warrant God to step in and save me.
God is Beauty.
“She warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within.” -Narrator
Belle cares for the Beast, the one who doesn’t deserve her love. She is superior to him in every way. Belle is outwardly and inwardly beautiful, sacrifices herself for the good of others, and cares not what anyone thinks of her. Belle chooses to show the Beast kindness and ferocious, undeserved love. This ultimately changes him.
Similarly, God looked upon the beast that I am and showed me the love I did not deserve. God is more beautiful, more kind, and more gracious than I could ever conceive of. God on high stepped into our skin and died so that we could be fully human. This magnificent undeserved love transforms us.
Togetherness is the reward.
“We’re together now, everything’s going to be fine.” -Belle
The Beast’s original desire for Belle reveals he did not have the correct prize in mind. He wanted to be free from the curse. His original motivation was to win Belle's love so the Beast could rescue himself. Freedom from the curse is the one thing the Beast wanted more than anything else. Yet the curse would not be lifted if he coerced Belle’s love. Belle had to choose him. He had to learn that it wasn't freedom he truly needed. The Beast needed to be with the girl.
Similarly, the gift of the gospel is not ultimately our release from the curse of sin. The gift of the gospel is not ultimately to receive beauty. Though our freedom from wretchedness and the beauty God gives us are incredible rewards, there is a greater gift. The gospel is the ultimate "tale as old as time" because we get God. It is God that is the prize, and when we are with Him, everything really is going to be fine.