Some stories never grow old—Cinderella is certainly one of those, and this beautiful, new (but faithful) rendition of the classic is no exception. Any story that stands of the test of time as this one has does so because of the universality of its themes. The Cinderella story resonates with our souls—it speaks to our human condition, but it also speaks deeper, to our spiritual condition.
Just think of all the themes that this simple story touches on: the plight of the orphan, social injustice, bullying, slavery and servitude, insecurity, humility, hope, faith, perseverance, the ideal, prince charming, rescue, vindication, kindness, forgiveness… It so beautifully encapsulates so many themes in such a succinct little story—it’s no wonder it’s a classic and we are drawn to it over and over again.
I could easily focus on any one of these aspects, but I want to draw your attention to how well Cinderella’s life illustrates this verse from 1 Peter.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 5:6-11)
I realize that Cinderella did not pray to God. She didn’t cast her cares on her Heavenly Father, as this isn’t a “Christian” story… But that’s part of the beauty of it—without meaning to write a “Christian” story, the writers nonetheless could not escape Christian principles. Who can trump the author and creator of all? Who can tell a better story than He? The nearer our story parallels the one He is writing, the better ours will be—and Cinderella does just that.
Cinderella humbled herself for years before her stepmother and stepsisters. She endured all manner of suffering, wrongs and injustices. She did not try to exalt herself, but patiently waited, believing in the help and love of a fairy Godmother—whom she had never met or seen In truth, she wasn’t sure if there was a fairy Godmother (we could just as easily say God—the story would be the same). She had been told there was. She hoped there was. And certainly she needed there to be one—she could not save herself. Meanwhile, she humbly waited, firm in her faith that in due time things would change, that her suffering would only be temporary.
In her time of need, her fairy Godmother did reveal herself. Because of her supernatural interference, Cinderella was restored to her former status, confirmed in her faith, patience and righteous course of action, strengthened to meet the future, and established as the prince’s love and ultimately as the princess of the kingdom.
It’s the Christian story. We have an enemy that is out to rob us of our inheritance as the beloved of God. We are persecuted and mistreated. We are tempted to believe there is no God, no love, no help for us. But, if we are patient and humble ourselves, in due time God shows up. He defends us. He restores us. He protect us. He does what we cannot do for ourselves. And, much like the movie says, He asks of us to act with kindness and courage (mostly the courage to have faith that God exists and is able, even while we do not see Him) while we wait for Him to show up with “magic” aka His supernatural power to deliver us. Hebrews 11:6 puts it this way: “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Belief is an important, powerful thing…not just in fairy tales, but in real life, as well. Perhaps that’s why it resonates so with our soul.
Questions for Discussion:
- Why do you think Cinderella is such a classic, iconic story? Why don’t we grow tired of it?
- What are some of the themes in Cinderella? Which ones resonate with you?
- What do you think Cinderella might have been like if she’d never had to suffer before marrying the prince? Do you think the time of trial and sorrow was good for her?
- How do you think Cinderella’s story parallels the Christian story?
- What difference do you think it would make in your life to apply “kindness, courage” to all you do?
- In what areas of your life do you think you need “a little bit of magic”? Do you think there is “magic” to help you in life? Or is that only in fairy tales?
There were a few other little nuggets that I wanted to make note of –they were too good to pass up!
- After the step-sisters dub Ella “Cinder-Ella” the narrator comments: “Names have power, like magic spells.” She goes on to explain how this name affected Ella, robbing her of her sense of dignity, convincing her she was unworthy. We often focus on the power of names in the negative sense, but I want to also point out that God recognizes this power as well, and uses it for good. Often in scripture he gives someone a new name, or tells a family what they should name their child…because there is power and a sense of destiny in names. And often, when someone needed a fresh start, He would give them a new name—a name that spoke to a future and a hope.
- If God was going to give you a name (or nick-name), what do you think it would be?
- What “names” do you think the world has given you?
- If names have such power, how can you use that power for good among your friends?
- The narrator commented, “Perhaps it was just as well that Ella’s step sisters were cruel for had she never run to the forest, she would never have met the prince.” The Bible talks about God’s ability to use all things (even bad things) for good. This is essentially what happened with Cinderella.
- Have you ever had a bad thing turn into a good thing? How?
- If it’s true that God can use all things (even bad things) for good, then how does that change how we see things? How does that affect our ability to give thanks in all things?
- What bad things are going on in your life right now? Can you ask God to make good out of them, and thank Him for his ability to do that?
- The prince was urged to marry a foreigner, the reason being that they felt it would behoove their kingdom to align with another, stronger nation. In the end, the prince said, “I believe we need not look outside of our borders for strength.” You see this same principle in scripture often repeated. God is continually urging His people not to look for strength or security in things of this world. He wants to be the source of all we need. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence,[d] 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4). God doesn’t want us to look outside our borders, so to speak, for strength. He wants us to look to HIM and HIM alone.
- What do you depend on—for strength, for security, for help…?
- Is it easy for you or hard for you to trust in God for all that you need?
- Why do you think God wants us to look only to Him to supply all that we need?
- Rumors: Cinderella faced all manner of untrue rumors after her night at the ball. She didn’t attempt to correct them or to defend herself. She was well defended by the truth in the end. It’s a great look into how things get twisted by people who do not understand or know the truth (much less by people who want to pervert the truth). She also sets a great example for how to respond with dignity and patience. (Again, I refer you to I Peter 5: 6-11, in which God restores, confirms, strengthens and establishes us after a time.)
- Would it have helped anything if Cinderella had defended herself? Could it have hurt anything?
- Have you had to suffer rumors and false accusations? What did you do?
- Which would have been more dignified—defending herself, or ignoring the rumors?
- The Bible says that God is our defender. Do you trust God to defend you?
- In this version of the Cinderella story, they made one significant addition. The narrator made a point of saying what a risk it was for Cinderella to face the prince without any magic, as a servant, as herself…completely vulnerable and exposed. “Would who she was really be enough? There was no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take—to be seen as we truly are.” To that point, Cinderella asked the prince: “No princess, no carriage, no parents, no dowry, I don’t even know if that slipper will fit—will you take me as I am—an honest country girl who loves you?” The prince replied, “Of course I will, but only if you’ll take me as I am—an apprentice who’s still learning his trade.” Both of them had to face risk of rejection if they were to be truly loved. They had to expose themselves. It’s hard—and it’s a universal truth that we all must face: If we are to be truly loved, we must be truly known, and that involves vulnerability and risk. The beauty of it is that God already knows everything about us, and loves us so much He sent Jesus to die for us. It may feel risky, but when it comes to the Lord, there is nothing risky about it—because we know the outcome. We can’t expose anything He doesn’t already know, and we already have His love.
- Have you ever been afraid to be exposed?
- Have you ever felt fear that someone wouldn’t love you if they knew everything about you?
- Is it good news to you to hear that God already knows everything and loves you anyway?
- OK – this is NOT a nugget. The one thing that bothered me in the movie was Cinderella’s mother’s very liberal acceptance of all beliefs. Cinderella asks, “Do you believe in them [fairy Godmothers]?” Her mother responds, “I believe in everything.” I understand that she was making room for what she could neither confirm nor deny, but the statement is a dangerous one if one were to consider that wisdom. In the Christian context, I think it better to say not that “I believe in everything,” but that “I believe in God’s power to do anything.”
- Do you think it’s a virtue to believe in everything?
- Do you think there’s danger in believing the wrong things?
- How do you know the right things from the wrong things?
- Do you believe in God’s power to do anything?