I'm a big believer in the deeper meanings of fairy tales. But when I think "fairy tales," I usually think "Cinderella" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" and other stories that can be easily imagined as a full-length fantasy novel, a novel complete with breathtaking word-craft, lovable characters, and a well-developed storyworld.
"The Gingerbread Man" never struck me as anything much deeper than a kinda cute and very simple story to amuse little kids - more nursery rhyme than fairy tale.
Until I thought about it.
We all know the story. A little old couple wants a child, so the wife bakes a gingerbread man. As soon as he comes out of the oven, the little stinker jumps up and runs away. The couple calls for him to come back but he responds with the cheeky little rhyme, "Run, run, as fast as you can -- you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!" He says the same thing to all the hungry people and animals he meets on the road, and fares very well on his impudence until he is finally tricked and eaten by the fox. The end.
We pitiful little humans are gingerbread men, created by God out of love. Like the couple in the story, our Creator only wants what's best for us. If we stayed close to Him and did His will, we'd be happy. We were made for him.
But, instead of staying in Our Father's care, we prideful little geese want to try life on our own. We don't need God -- we don't need anybody! We're strong enough, smart enough, good enough to get around on our own.
This mindset carries us on for awhile. On our own power, we surmount all difficulties with more or less ease. Life is a game.
Until we meet an enemy we can't handle.
Until we run into the trap.
The fox is the devil. If we run away from God, Satan is our only alternative -- whether or not we know it.
The devil is most dangerous when we don't recognize him. He rarely shows himself as he is; if he approaches us, it is with a friendly smile and sugary promises of help.
How easy is it to see pleasure, riches, or power as our sole friend? To see sin as a safe passage across rivers of hardship? Do we ever stop to think that the very things we put our trust in might be our downfall?
Or do we not see the teeth of the fox until it's too late?