For years, I’ve been obsessed with Cinderella. There is a lot of prophetic significance to the story. The name Cinderella means “Little Ashen Girl” because she sleeps in the ashes of the fireplace. She is a slave in her own house. The house is run by her stepmother and stepsisters. Her life is changed when an invitation to the national ball comes in the mail. Her stepsisters and stepmother make her work even harder than usual. Somehow, she manages to sew a few things together and look somewhat decent for the party. Her stepsisters are livid and tear her dress to shreds. She is left crying in the garden when, suddenly, a pure spirit lights up the area. This spirit promises to make Cinderella ready for the ball but the spell will break at midnight. Off she goes. She dances with the prince. He falls in love. She runs away at midnight, leaving a remarkable shoe behind. The prince searches high and low for the owner of that shoe.
In the same way, we are slaves in our house. The house is run by Satan and his daughters of religion. Our lives are changed when we are introduced to The Gospel. The Holy Spirit comes and transforms us and allows us to see/hear/feel Jesus. Isaiah 61 says “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Cinderella means “Little Ashen Girl” but the Holy Spirit comes to take away our ashes and give us a crown of beauty.
Let’s get in Cinderella’s frame of mind here. She is an abused girl who just wants one night of escape. One night that she doesn’t have to work. One night to feel beautiful. One night to have fun. Marriage didn’t even her mind. She wasn’t there to snag a prince like her stepsisters. She didn’t even realize who she was dancing with that night! Because her vision was too small, her focus on only one night, she took the fairy godmother’s words literally that the spell would break at midnight. One night, no more. In the same sense, we just look for one night or one season of escape but then back to the world we go. The problem is, we don’t realize who we’re dancing with! It’s the prince, it’s Jesus, and he’s already in love with us. He isn’t looking for a fling or a mistress. He’s looking for a bride, someone to be part of him, someone to help him do the work of the kingdom.
So what happens at midnight, the beginning of a new day? Cinderella had a choice to make. She could stay and let the spell break and risk everybody seeing her as she was. Or she could go back to her old life with nobody the wiser. She runs, of course. But what would have happened if she stayed? Would the fairy godmother have renewed her? Maybe, just like the Holy Spirit, the fairy godmother doesn’t want to do the same thing twice. Maybe, the fairy godmother had something greater in store for her. But, because Cinderella couldn’t see past midnight, she ran. It’s the same in our own lives. We sense something is about to shift but, because we are not focused on eternity, we run. We may not go completely back to our old life. But we do pull back. We let our practices become prisons, our movements become monuments. You see, Cinderella could have lived happy for the rest of her life based on that one night. Happy, but still in slavery. We become so used to one way God moves in our lives that we don’t notice when He’s moved on. What used to work no longer works but we’re so blinded by our habits that we don’t even realize it. Don’t get stuck on formula. You may be happy but still in slavery.
What happens next? Cinderella leaves a shoe behind. She makes it home just as the carriage turns back into a pumpkin. The next day, she is humming and dancing as she does her chores. She doesn’t realize that the prince is looking for her. Curiously, she still has the glass slipper. It didn’t change back. When the prince comes, the stepsisters fall all over themselves to make the shoe fit. In one version, they cut off their toes and heels to make it fit. The stepsisters represent religion. They work and work and work to snag the prince. They think they are the rightful bride. They think they can seduce the prince by their works. But he isn’t so easily swayed. He looks at the heart, not outward appearance.
When the prince comes and the stepsisters try it on to no avail, he asks if there are any other ladies in the house. They quietly mention their spinster stepsister who works in the kitchen but she couldn’t have been at the party. She’s just a servant. The prince insists. They bring her out and, of course, the slipper fits. And, of course, they live happily ever after.
Last night, while worshipping the Lord, I saw a picture of the prince putting the slipper on my foot. I was wrecked from the point on. What is the significance of the shoe? The prince wanted to reaffirm Cinderella’s identity. Not her identity as a slave but her identity as a princess, a bride. I felt like there are those of us who feel like we had our chance, our season, our dance with Jesus but that was 1, 10, 20 years ago. But he is coming. He is searching for his bride. Not just another dance but a life lived alongside him. One of my favorite authors likes to say that he’s not looking for the experience of a lifetime but a lifetime of experience.