Recently I had the opportunity to direct the musical, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, for a group of elementary aged kids. As a child, Roald Dahl’s beloved novel turned into a movie was one of my all-time favorites. I recall being utterly enchanted by the scene when the Golden Ticket Winners enter the magical Chocolate Smelting Room of the factory for the first time, and Willy Wonka tells them that everything—yes, everything—is edible! What must those little waxy flower teacups taste like in real life? What would it be like to topple into that river of melted chocolate? I even remember asking myself, “Could a place like this really exist?”
As it always happens, some of the magic has faded for me now. When I watch the movie now, I’m distracted by the old acting style, cheesy 70s hairdos, and the outdated graphics. Sure, the magic has faded, but now I find a wisdom in the story I never noticed as a child. I find myself deeply impacted by the final scene, where Willy Wonka looks intently at the young boy and says,
“But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything
he always wanted.”
To which Charlie replied, “What happened?”
“He lived happily ever after.”
Perhaps Dahl is warning us that we will surely face danger if happiness is our endgame.
As I consider the life and teachings of Jesus, I would argue that He is infinitely more concerned about our holiness than our happiness. We are so crippled by our pursuit of this happiness that we will stop at nothing until it is finally ours. But what happens if it’s never actually attained?
I believe Dahl’s timeless story has captivated us all, even over half a century later, because he kindly invites his readers to join him in imaginative creativity, while he’s subtly teaching us all a very important lesson in integrity. How admirable that Dahl believed an adventurous narrative could carry a teaching opportunity, as all good fables—and parables—should.
Happiness is fleeting. It lasts only for a moment, and yet we chase it as if it’s everlasting.
Today, may we choose righteousness, even though it takes longer. Today, may we choose what’s eternal, even though we prefer the here and now. Today, may we be holy, because He is holy.
by Lindsey Fontneau