The Cinderella Experience
Recently I wrote this article for Christian Today.
Once upon a time, a beautiful young woman falls on hard times as a result of a tragic death in her family. She is forced into manual labour. Then a complete reversal occurs. She fortuitously meets a wealthy, well-respected member of the community who falls in love with her. They marry and she is rescued from a life of poverty and hardship. They live happily ever after.
This is the basic plot of Cinderella, several other fairy tales and many fictional stories. It’s also the storyline of all our lives.
Our Cinderella Story
We were created ‘beautiful,’ made in the image of God. We have worth and value because we bear God’s image. We fall on hard times because we live in a broken world. Hard times take many guises. Cinderella experienced the tragic death of her father which changed the family dynamic. We may experience conflict in our family due to divorce, addictions, abuse, neglect. Or our hard times may come from unfortunate circumstances, illness, economic downturns, floods, fire. Or our hard times might be unseen, mental health issues, emotional distress, disappointments, broken dreams. None of us escapes difficulties, though the severity varies greatly.
We are all faced with a choice, a call to action or adventure. Cinderella didn’t have to go to the ball. She could have stayed home and bemoaned her unfortunate life. Will we allow our hardships to define our lives or will we carve out a life of meaning and purpose outside our difficulties?
Our opportunities to overcome physical difficulties may be limited, perhaps ill-health or financial restraints mean we’ll never achieve all we hoped for. Yet this doesn’t mean we can’t achieve something worthwhile for our family or community. We can change the lives of those we come in contact with through our kindness, by being a listening ear and by our prayers. Yet it’s a risk.
The risk of engagement
Cinderella took the risk of becoming involved in the king’s affairs and the danger of being exposed if she was home late. Likewise, we’re called to take a risk, maybe not to go to a ball, but to take the initiative and pursue a course of action outside the expectations placed on us by others.
Our course of action may simply be to abandon our plans and commit to God’s plans, not knowing where this might lead. Though it’s unlikely to lead to marrying into a royal family or even a family of wealth and privilege. Yet from a spiritual perspective when we commit to God, he welcomes us into his family and we experience spiritual wealth and privilege. Even as part of God’s family, we may not experience release from hardship in this world but we know we will in the next. By faith we know, we will receive our happily ever after ending.
The Cinderella of the Bible
Of all the characters in the Bible, the story of Ruth reads like Cinderella.
Ruth is still a young woman when the early death of her husband leaves her destitute. She travels with her mother-in-law to Israel, the birthplace of her husband and her deceased father-in-law (Ruth chapter 1). She works in the fields, gleaning grain and meets Boaz, a wealthy, well-respected member of the community (Ruth chapter 2). They fall in love and marry (Ruth chapter 3 & 4). Ruth is rescued from a life of poverty and hardship. It’s a “rags to riches” story where God works unnoticed behind the scenes.
The complete reversal of Ruth’s circumstances comes about because she makes the decision to abandon her Moabite religion and puts her faith in the God of Israel. Her situation isn’t instantly improved as Ruth has to work long hours in the heat of the day gleaning grain, but she has hope in God and her faith is rewarded. She is blessed beyond expectation.
Ruth was a foreigner, widowed and poor. Through her marriage to Boaz, Ruth joins his family and is released from poverty. Ultimately, she becomes an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew chapter 1 verse 5). Destitute Ruth is the Cinderella of the Bible.
Happily ever after?
Ruth’s story finishes with great blessing but also unanswered questions. Ruth marries an older man, will she be widowed again? Does she ever see her parents again or her sister-in-law, Orpah?
In this life, we will always face uncertainties and disappointments but we have great hope in the God who makes Cinderellas of us all.