Cinderella is an enduring story. Today's familiar version descends from folk tales published during the 1600s in Italy (Cenerentola) and France (Cendrillon). However, variants over one thousand years old exist in Greek, Egyptian, and Chinese literature. Why does this tale of a persecuted girl being discovered and rescued by a prince appeal across centuries and cultures?
Arthur Rackham illustration for C.S. Evan's Cinderella
Books and dissertations have been written on this topic. As for me, I hear in it echoes of the longings found in every human heart: for the end of persecution and injustice, for transformation from lowliness and drudgery, for being chosen and cherished.
The Cinderella story isn't literally true, but it is figuratively true. We, like Cinderella, live in an unjust world and need to be rescued and transformed by ever-after (that is, unending) love. I love the story as a secular parable or a message in the bottle accessible to all ages, classes, and cultures.
But our true story also has important differences from this fairy tale. If God wrote this story, perhaps the prince and the fairy godmother would be the same individual--the One who seeks us and loves us forever is also the One who transforms us. And God's version of the tale would not imply that Cinderella somehow deserved rescue for her innate "goodness" or earned it through uncomplaining hard work, as if this fallen world were run according to cosmic karma or rules for fair play. No, Cinderella's rescue would be shockingly undeserved—grace swooping down upon an ungraceful, ungrateful creature. Perhaps the wicked stepmother would be the one transformed and loved. Isn't that how God works in our lives?
How can we, as Christians, encourage one another in the rags and cinders of everyday, pre-happily-ever-after life? If I were Cinderella's non-fairy godmother (or yours!), I would urge her to meditate on Psalm 146 as she sweeps and scrubs.
A Psalm for Cinderella
1Praise the Lord, my soul.
2 I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
First of all, congratulations on your upcoming royal nuptials. Sorry if that gives away your storybook ending, but we need to discuss eternal matters and deeper issues of the heart than princely attention and ballroom romance. My question for you is this: are you able to praise God right now, in your current state of drudgery and mistreatment? Because the "all my life" in verse two means in all circumstances, the good and the bad, the grease-spattered rags and the diamond-spangled ball gowns. You may be wondering why I bring this up before you reach your fairy tale ending...
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
As lovely and romantic as castle life sounds to you now, your human prince isn't your happily ever after. Yes, his attentions will lead to palace life with sumptuous dining, beautiful clothing, and army of servants. But even castles have cinders, dear girl, and even princes are mortal and flawed. We humans are incapable of perfect love, so every human relationship has its share of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and isolation. Do not put your hope in the prince and palace. Look higher and farther ahead. Long for more.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
Precious child, our ever-faithful, ever-present God knew you and loved you before the earth was formed. Reflect on that and be amazed. But it gets even better: He sees your humble state. He is watching over and sustaining you. Even now, His rescue plan is in place, a plan that extends far beyond the train of your future wedding gown and the last peal of your future wedding bells. Can you imagine a joy greater than that of a bride marrying her beloved rescuer? Perhaps not, but that's what our eternal, powerful Father has in store for you: unimaginable joy and perfect love. Put your hope in Him. And when you truly understand what He has done to secure your happily-ever-after in His arms, you will find you cannot help but sing this as long as you live:
10 The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.