I don’t know if it’s growing up in Orlando surrounded by princesses or just my nature as a woman, but I love a good fairy tale…and Disney’s recent release of a live-action Beauty and the Beastis just that.

There’s a moment in the new movie that isn’t in the classic cartoon. (Don’t worry—this isn’t a spoiler; you can keep reading.) After Beast has swept Belle around the sparkling ballroom (and each of us wipes that tear from our eye), they walk out onto a balcony of the castle. Beast looks at her and asks a question. I can’t remember the words exactly, but you know from the look in his eyes, he’s asking, “Is there any way you can ever love me?” I waited with baited breath, expecting her to look back and emphatically say yes, but instead, her reply caught me off guard: “How can anyone be happy if they aren’t free?”

In that moment, I felt God say, “Do you see why I had to set you free?” Love is not love if you’re a prisoner. Without the freedom to choose to love God, we are merely hostages.

We all know what happens next. In Beast’s greatest act of love, he sets Belle free, knowing there’s a chance she will never return.

God, in His steadfast love, sets us free as well. On page 27 of her Bible study, Redeemed ,Angela Thomas-Pharr says, “He did not create us like puppets to be pulled by strings. Being forced to love anyone is no love at all. God created humans with the ability to choose or to reject His love, so that He would be glorified by real love.”

Unfortunately, rejecting Him and choosing sin brings with it a slew of other consequences, including (but not limited to) pain, suffering, illness, and eternal separation from God.

We are incapable of saving ourselves. We are incapable of doing enough good to earn heaven. We are incapable of following the law. We are incapable of being good parents, good children, good wives, good husbands, good friends, good coworkers. We are not, nor will we ever be, “good enough.”

But, unlike Beast, our freedom wasn’t God’s greatest act of love toward us. Jesus was. God knew we couldn’t be good enough. He knew that we would continue to choose sin again and again (Romans 3:23). So, He sent His one and only Son—not to condemn us (because we were already condemned), but to save us (John 3:16–18). We are made worthy because of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, once and for all (Romans 5:17–21; Hebrews 10:8–10).

Stop a minute, and let that bring freedom to your soul. You don’t have to work for it! I love what the author of Hebrews said: “For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14).

We are made perfect through Him, but we still must walk the process of growing to be more like Jesus. That process of sanctification or “being made holy” means we are separated from profane things and dedicated to God. It is a process. I fail daily, but no matter how many times that happens, He meets me where I am, picks me up from the pit of my own sin, and offers me grace, forgiveness, and the chance to try again. And when He does, I praise Him.

Oh, Jesus! I cannot thank You enough for allowing me to choose to love You and for Your faithful, steadfast love that keeps pursuing me, growing me, changing me, and giving me grace, even when I run away. Like Belle, may I find myself ever returning to You, my true love. Amen.

Written by Erin

Photo by Nine Köpfer