So This Is Love

So this is love,
So this is love.
So this is what makes life divine.
I’m all aglow,
And now I know
The key to all heaven is mine.
My heart has wings,
And I can fly.
I’ll touch ev’ry star in the sky.
So this is the miracle that I’ve been dreaming of.
So this is love.

I love this short little song from Disney’s Cinderella.  There is so much truth packed into it.  God, as Love, invades our lives and transforms them.  We now have access to the highest of the Heavens.  We have access to his riches and his grace.

Who’s Your Daddy?

One of the main questions that philosophy seeks to answer is, “Where do you come from?” God has been talking to me about my origins these past two weeks and it really tied a lot of things together for me. I’m sure philosophy has some really interesting answers but here’s mine.

The four Gospels were written by four very different men. If you’ve peaked at the first Gospel, Matthew, you’re probably wondered what the deal is with all the “begats”. Well, from what I know about the culture of the day, your origins were very important. They determined what your station in life was and who would listen to you. Both Matthew and Luke, the 3rd Gospel, give a genealogy of Jesus Christ. However, they are different.

Matthew traces Jesus’ lineage back to Abraham. Matthew wanted people to know that Jesus was a Jew and also heir to the throne. Luke, who was a doctor, traced Jesus’ lineage back aaaaallllll the way back to Adam. Luke wanted people to know that Jesus was a human man, the Son of Man. It is believed that Luke’s genealogy traces Mary’s family history because Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus.

What about Mark, the 2nd Gospel? He wanted people to see the suffering servant side of Jesus. Nobody cares about the family history of a servant. So Mark doesn’t bother with a genealogy.

Then that leaves John, the 4th Gospel. At first glance, you’d think that he left out a genealogy as well. You see, John wanted people to know that Jesus was the son of God. Where does God have his origin? In God! Now read the first couple verses:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
John 1:1‭-‬4, emphasis added

John’s genealogy is pretty simple. Jesus came from God. But what else came from God, according to John? We did!!!

If you think you’re a result of your parent’s decision on prom night, you are very mistaken. You’re a result of the conscious direction and will of God. God does not make accidents. You may have even been conceived out of rape but your true origin is in Jesus Christ. That’s far, far greater news.

I was talking with a friend the other day. He’s feeling a lot of condemnation from his family. He’s trying to better himself but his family only sees and remembers the bad. I think sometimes we have to choose which family we’ll follow. Not all the time but sometimes. That doesn’t mean disowning them*, cursing them, or holding onto unforgiveness, it simply means choosing a different path than they showed you.

*Sometimes, going “no-contact” is the only sane and healthy choice with an extremely narcissistic family or family member. It’s never easy so really pray about this option before going through with it. God will give you the grace to handle it.

There’s a proverb that says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6

This is all fine and good if your parents or guardians started you off on the right path. A lot of us, however, were not and now we’re seemingly stuck on a dead end road. It is a scientific fact that that our brains grow more in the first few years of life than the rest of our life combined. This is when we need to recognize our origin and possibly switch paths. And God gives us Grace to do it through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37

Again, this is not about disowning family or breaking up families. Far from it! He’s calling us to or true origin. Whose heritage will you identify with? Whose heritage will you manifest? Are you descended from your natural father and mother? Or are you descended from Jesus? Jesus was all about his father in heaven. I’ve posted on this before. When Jesus was tempted, he never said he couldn’t do those things. He refused to do them because His Father had not requested it. The temptation wasn’t all the kingdoms of the world at his disposal, they’re already HIS!!! The temptation of Jesus Christ was to convince Him to do something independent of His Father in Heaven!!!

Just as you have DNA from your parents, you have inherited spiritual DNA from your Heavenly Father. And you are the spitting image of Him!!!! When the Father looks at you, he sees Jesus. You might need a bit of a polish now and then but He sees Himself.

Here’s the issue: Nobody has a problem believing Adam gave sin to all but hardly anyone believes Jesus brought holiness and righteousness to all. Sure, you may have inherited a disease from your parents or a bad personality trait or a predilection to addiction. It’s easy to see what you’ve inherited from your natural family. Almost no one wants to see what they have inherited from their spiritual family.

It’s like that scene in Ever After. Danielle had been secretly meeting Prince Henry for romantic rendezvous’. She had been using her mother’s name because her mother was a noble. Danielle makes it to the ball, only for her stepmother to out her as a servant in front of the prince. Her stepmother literally rips her wings off. Prince Henry, being human, is understandably upset. The same happens in Heaven. Satan continually tries to “out” us as fake. “She’s not really yours. She’s been my servant for 20/30/40 years.” Jesus, however, knows the truth. He says, “No, you’re wrong. She’s been my child since before the beginning of time. She may have glanced your way a time or two but she’s mine.”

So what we need to do is change our identity. In Genesis 17, God makes his covenant with Abram.

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty ; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”  Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram ; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.” Genesis 17:1‭-‬5, emphasis added

At first, it seems God is giving an impossible command. Walk before me and be blameless. But what happens after that? Abram gets an identity change! He’s no longer Abram but Abraham. Sarai is now Sarah. Both their names get an extra “ha” like a breath of air or even laughter. Air or laughter is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. They now have a name that reflects their origin in God. Now the command is not so impossible. If God is faithful and blameless, then so are we!!!

Such. Good. News!!!!!

The Ugly Stepsister – Part 3

Trigger Warning: Emotional Abuse, Self-Mutilation, Suicide

To me, the Ugly Stepsister represents a spirit of religion. She is incapable of receiving unconditional love. She’s incapable of recognizing individuality and unique talents in others. She molds herself to the religious culture of the day. In the Bible, Jesus talks about cutting off your hand if it offends. People think this means that we should cut out any pleasure or activity in our lives that might offend even the tiniest notion of some imagined rule.  Jesus was NOT advocating self mutilation. That’s horrific. He was saying that if you follow the law, you must do these things.

Jesus didn’t preach Grace. He preached the Law on steroids. Oh, you don’t commit adultery? Have you ever lusted after someone? You’re not a murderer? Have you ever hated someone? He revealed that sin was a heart issue, not a moral or ethical issue. Some great atrocities have been committed under the guise of ethics or morality. It doesn’t make them right. Following the Law can only fix the superficial issue of right versus wrong. It can’t fix the heart. So, with that mindset, it makes sense to cut off your hand or foot to fix some offensive part of yourself. Just like the Ugly Stepsister felt she needed to cut off her toes and heel to fit the shoe, we feel the need to cut off anything that might make us offensive to God. But God is saying that he gave us those things for a reason. Stop trying to wear someone else’s shoes!

A great teacher I listen to repeatedly says that the spirit of religion and the spirit of suicide are one and the same. The enemy of our souls would love nothing more than to work us to the bone, until we are nothing but dead, dry bones. But why does someone commit suicide? Because they tried and failed to hold themselves to some standard. The problems that arose from holding this standard appeared insurmountable.

The Ugly Stepsister is the epitome of working to earn someone’s love. We think it’s sad and desperate when a person does it for another person. But, for some reason, we think it’s noble and praiseworthy when we do it for God. She even goes so far as to physically mutilate herself. How many people these days are suffering from eating disorders and shelling out millions of dollars for plastic surgery? And why? Most of them think it will be the final piece of the puzzle that will turn a switch on. That when they are “thin” or “beautiful”, they will suddenly be confident, they will suddenly be loved by someone that matters. But the more they sacrifice, the worse they feel. Some feel their breakthrough is after the next hurdle. When they jump it, their standard has changed and they are nowhere close to it.

And we do the same for God. We fast from food or the internet thinking God will come closer when we give up our pleasures. Let me tell you now. It’s not necessarily impressive. Jesus gave up his Godly nature and was brutally murdered to be near us. Maybe, just maybe, if you can match that, Jesus would be impressed but I doubt it. Obviously, some things need to go like drug and alcohol addiction. However, it’s not a prerequisite to be loved. It’s arises out of true repentance. The nature of repentance is to gravitate towards Jesus and away from everything that takes your eyes off him. It’s nature is of simply turning on a light to see in the dark and realizing a poisonous snake had been waiting for you to come into the dark, familiar kitchen.

I’ve said before that the story of Cinderella has a  great prophetic significance. Whatever the origins of the story, it has come to symbolize the greatest story to me. As believers, we are like Cinderella. Our transformation comes from the Holy Spirit like Cinderella was transformed by the Fairy Godmother. Prince Charming searches for his bride just as Jesus searches the mountains and valleys looking for us. The stepmother represents Satan trying to steal our inheritance. Her daughter/s represent trying to earn love through dead works. The Prince doesn’t even acknowledge it to the consternation of all that would try.

The Ugly Stepsister – Part 2

Trigger Warning: Emotional Abuse, Self-Mutilation

So what does this have to do with The Ugly Stepsister? Whose stepsister am I talking about and why is she ugly? Well, in most tellings of the Cinderella story, the main character has a mean, ugly stepsister. Nobody really gives her much thought when hearing/reading/watching the story. We’re mostly focused on Cinderella and her journey. We give almost no thought to the fruitless journey of the stepsister. We forget that she has goals and life aspirations. She has ideas on where she wants to end up in life.

The ugly stepsister ($USS$ for short) is the daughter of a gold digging aristocrat. Her mother ($USM$), presumably after bleeding her last husband dry, sets her eyes on another wealthy aristocrat, the father of Ella. $USM$’s goal is to live comfortably and secure a nest egg for her daughter. Her new husband is bled dry physically and financially, leaving behind Ella to deal with $USM$ on her own.

Ella is merely an obstacle. $USM$ doesn’t want Ella to inherit her father’s estate (or what’s left of it). She wants it for herself and her daughter. $USM$, being the master manipulator, slowly nudges Ella out of the picture. The years go by and people have forgotten about Ella, the aristocrat’s daughter, and now only know Cinderella, the poor servant girl who can’t seem to quite make $USM$ happy but is kept around supposedly out of $USM$’s compassion. Meanwhile, $USS$ is fighting her own battle. $USM$ is ultimately a narcissist. She has her “golden child” and “scapegoat”. You can guess which is which.

Being the “golden child” is not as fun as it seems. While Cinderella is learning that the world is cruel and unyielding, $USS$ is learning that to be loved, you have to perform, play a part, and be a shell of your true self. Nobody will love the real you. Nobody cares about the real you. The only thing people care about is what you can do for them. She sees the example of Cinderella and how she was punished for daring to be herself, for daring to ask for unconditional love and affection. Seeing Cinderella’s position taken away, $USS$ is quick to play the role as happy daughter from a wealthy family lest the same happen to her.

It’s really a sad life for both the true daughter and the stepdaughter. Both are being abused although in vastly different ways.

When the invitation for the ball comes in the mail (or by courier, or carrier pigeon, etc), they both react in regards to their upbringing. Cinderella dreams of a one night escape but does not, in any way, shape, or form, expect real lasting change. She puts together some scraps from old dresses and manages to look somewhat decent for the occasion. She has no thoughts of even looking at the prince, let alone touching him or talking to him. The whole time, she is being punished with extra chores for daring to have a desire outside the four walls of “her” estate. You can read “Midnight Again” for more details.

At the same time, $USS$ brushes up on her acting skills. She needs to play the part of a beautiful, cultured heiress worthy of the royal hand. She buys the most elegant gown and the most glamorous shoes she can find. She works on her elocution. She practices the most modern dances. She gathers intel on possible competition. Remember, love is a competition. Especially when you’re basically the same as the next dame. And, to them, the prince is just the same as any spoiled royal brat that only cares about a pretty face and good hips for breeding. So it’s really only fair that they play along.

When it’s time to leave, they have molded and trimmed their personalities and individuality to be a perfect princess for the prince. All regardless of what they want or like or how they feel and totally without regard to the feelings of the man they want to seduce. The prince is just a means to an end. They don’t want love. They really want power and security. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a terrible wish to have but ultimately destructive when it means manipulating the feelings of a flesh and blood person.

You can imagine their shock and confusion when a new “contender” enters the arena, I mean, ballroom. Anybody who is honest with themselves knows there is only a handful of well-connected, manicured women of noble descent who are a good match for the prince. This woman walks in with a gown that outshines the most elegant of the elegant and crystalline shoes that sparkle like twilight. Remember that this is Ella who everybody has forgotten about. If there was anyone that the competition shouldn’t have worried about, it was Cinderella. Cinderella! The servant girl who tended the sheep and maybe was a little too scrawny, with a vacant face most days, and was always covered in pig shit and soot.

The prince is immediately enamored. He dances with her and her alone. The rest of the girls are seething. All their preparations were for naught. It’s all down the drain for a stranger that has never shown her face in court or society in general. If only they knew the true transformation that was beginning in this girl’s heart. For Ella, it’s not a transformation that takes away her soul. It’s a transformation that reveals it. She’s put no work into this at all. She’s paid no money, taken no classes, made no connections to be there. She’s not even looking for the prince. He’s the furthest thing from her mind. She doesn’t even realize who she’s dancing with!

However, midnight comes along. Fearing great punishment from the mysterious woman who brought her there, she flees. The other girls’ relief is short lived when the king and prince call off the rest of the dance to find her. After everyone is gone, they find the crystalline shoe.

The news spreads. The prince is looking for the owner of the shoe. The shoe is custom made. It will only fully fit one girl’s foot. The palace guard is going home to home having all suitable women try on the shoe. Most women have given up on the idea of marrying the prince so they try on the shoe with a morbid curiosity. However, one family has not given up. $USM$ and $USS$ are determined to fit $USS$’s foot in to that shoe. I’m sure if they had Google, they would have researched foot binding. But they can’t predict whether the foot will be too big or too small.

In at least one version of this story, $USS$ is cutting off her toes and heel to fit in this shoe. She literally has no concept of individuality and uniqueness. She completely misses the point. She’s thinking, “Fit the shoe and win.” She’s thinking that if she makes this one last sacrifice, she’ll get love and security. The prince, however, is looking for that face, who has a hint of recognition when she sees the shoe, who looked so exhilarated to be dancing and having fun. A face that doesn’t look like the person behind it is on a mission.

As we all know, Cinderella fit the shoe and also had the other shoe. Depending on what version you read, $USS$ suffers many different fates, from living as a spinster to becoming Cinderella’s servant to having her eyes plucked out by a bird. I’d like to think Cinderella forgave her and counseled her on what she learned from her own journey. And, after a few years, $USS$ became a little less ugly and a little more her true self and found someone to share her life with. I’d also like to think that $USM$ learned the roots of her control issues and and received love and security from her daughters.

The Ugly Stepsister – Part 1

Trigger Warning: Emotional/Physical Abuse

Have you ever tried to make someone love you? It is a pretty exhausting business. You fall all over yourself to make them happy and it never seems to be enough. There is always a part of them that is closed off to you. You deny yourself and sacrifice your desires to keep that person happy. Soon, you can’t even remember what you used to enjoy by yourself. Your being becomes wrapped around the existence of this other person. You smile when they’re happy and frown when they’re sad. However, you’ve forgotten how to register your own emotions. You don’t even realize that the other person rarely, if ever, does the same for you. Their happiness or sadness just doesn’t depend on you.

I see three possible outcomes of this behavior and none of them end well.

One: The other person is completely oblivious to your actions. They go on about their lives while your personality and individuality is eroding away more and more each day. They register no effect. However, you’re now a shell of a person. When they eventually leave your life, you become unglued. They were literally the glue that kept your identity together and he or she vanished. You have no choice but to break.

Maybe you find something or someone to glue it all back together but you’re never the same.

Two: The object of your affection DOES notice all the sacrifices you make for him or her. But this person is unscrupulous. He or she just sees you as a servant, a way to get his or her needs met and nothing more. This person cares nothing for your needs and makes no sacrifices for you. You feel that if you just make one more sacrifice, he or she will open up their reserves of love and affection.

This often turns abusive. With you becoming a doormat that he or she can wipe their dirty, diseased feet on. They take total control and you are so ready to let go because you’ve been practicing for the months or years you’ve been pining for this person.

Either they kill you (physically, emotionally, or spiritually), or get bored of you and move on. Either way, the other person has stolen an irreplaceable part of you. You lose your trust and faith in humanity. After all, you’ve poured yourself out and have gotten nothing back.

Three: VERY, VERY rarely does it work out that the other party receives this attention with open arms and returns the affection. And what I mean is that this person went from not acknowledging your existence to loving you in one leap. And what does this person get? You’re hollowed out from trying to emulate him or her. You’ve lost parts of your personality. You’ve spent months, maybe years, warping your personality to match the other person. Your true self is not going to magically re-emerge now that you have your lover in your arms.

At first, it would probably be a very exciting experience. Your lover has someone that focuses their attention on them constantly and all your hard work has paid off. But you don’t have that spark that makes you stand out from the rest. After all, many people could do what you are doing for them. You’re just as capable as the next doormat.

It gets boring and you both drift apart. Again, your life is in pieces. It’s worse than a flat out rejection from the start. You think that if they loved you before, you can work even harder and sacrifice even more to keep them in love with you.

And it should be no surprise that we treat God the same way. We have 24/7 prayer houses.* We organize fasts and feasts. We have our traditions and rituals which read more like spells and bewitchments at times. “Maybe if we plead the blood of Jesus five more times, because five is the number of grace, this wart will finally fall off! I really feel that this is the Lord’s leading!”

*What is the idea here? Do they think breaking the 24/7 cycle will bring about the apocalypse? But, wait, don’t they WANT the apocalypse to happen so Jesus can come back? So confused. Anyway…

Religions have risen and fallen all based on the idea that if we do things just so, God will begin to love us. God will come and be with us. God will come and speak to us and teach us.

Christianity (and most religions) will never come right out and say it. I mean, we have a verse in our holy book that says, “God is love.” So, it’s not like we can come right out and claim that we need to work for God’s love. But we twist and torture our holy book to make it say the dumbest things. My mother used to tell me that interracial marriage was against the Bible. Lord knows what she would have said about gay marriage. It’s been 20 years, mom, I still haven’t found that scripture. RIP.

What’s even more amazing is that we KNOW that it doesn’t work in human relationships. We’re always telling abused partners that you can’t change your significant other. But we think God is so foreign and so alien that he’ll fall for it. We forget that he created us in his image. We are his image. He is more like us that we can ever imagine. Jesus was both fully God and fully man.

It’s not that God doesn’t love us. Far from it. However, he has never ever been impressed with our efforts to earn his love, or woo him, or turn his eye to us. He knows that we are finite beings. He knows that we can only pour ourselves out so much before we are bone dry. He also created us with an individual personality with unique gifts and talents. And it breaks his heart when he sees his children molding themselves into some cookie cutter model of a Perfect Christian ™. It saddens him when we give up our unique talents and pleasures because they don’t fit in with the current religious culture.

He also knows that the god they are molding themselves to doesn’t exist. They mold themselves for a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and/or genocidal god. They pride themselves on being white (or the dominant ethnicity of that region) or being rich, or being straight. “Surely, god loves us more because we’re not part of ‘that’ group over there. In fact, I think god would be pleased as punch if we just eradicated them all. In fact, it’s just being kind to put them out of their misery.” I said before on this blog that evil (link) is simply the idea that God needs our help in running things. It starts out innocently enough, like a junior high crush on the star quarterback or head cheerleader. But, before you know it, there’s the Spanish Inquisition. They are not as unexpected as you may have been led to believe.

Is Cinderella Feminist?

TW: Abuse, Slavery  (I don’t use these often enough.  I apologize.)

I came across a very interesting post last night.  You can read it here.  To summarize, the author argues that Cinderella is not a good example for young girls to follow.  Everything in the movie happens to her.  Almost none of the action is motivated by Cinderella herself.  For the most part, I agree.  But I would also say that this is kind of the point of the story.  Cinderella can’t do anything for herself.  This story is hundreds of years old.  The movie is set in a different century.  It is set in a time where women did not have a voice.  The system she was in was so oppressive and so harmful towards women that there was no recourse for Cinderella.  It literally takes a higher power to break her free.

Deep down, Cinderella is a deeply abused girl. Most movies and books present her as a generally happy, cheerful girl. But, imagine the trauma she must have gone through! Her parents die when she is young. She is ripped from her comfortable surroundings to live by the fireplace. Her entire life is taken from her. Her station, her belongings, her autonomy, etc are taken. That would traumatize anybody. Not to mention the beatings she must have received. Cinderella is really a lesson on why abused girls stay in bad relationships.

Cinderella could have left anytime she wanted, sure. Just walk out the door and leave. But who would take care of the animals, even Lucifer? Who would take care of her father’s estate? How would she make a life for herself in a time when women had to rely on their husbands? Would she just end up a servant in someone else’s home? Again, it literally takes an act of God to set her free. Here’s a wonderful post giving some possible reasons that Cinderella stayed.

Now you could argue that the message is still misogynistic. It does kind of give the impression that a woman just needs to find the right man to be happy. But, if you’ve been reading my blog at all, you know that I see a deeper level to the story. Because I don’t see the Prince as just a man. I see him as Jesus Christ and the Fairy Godmother as the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes, and I would argue most of the time, it takes the power and love of God to change your identity from that of a slave/victim to that of someone who is dearly loved and cherished. The Bible says in Psalm 113 that God lifts the poor up from the ash heap and seats them with kings.

Maybe Cinderella was dreaming her life away according to the post linked in the beginning. But her identity was built on being a slave. A slave has no autonomy, no agency, no power to act on their situation. That is, until a higher power comes along to break the illusion. Maybe it’s not some ecstatic vision of God. But maybe it’s a friend, a teacher, a coworker that says, “Hey, I see something great in you.” and acts for you and with you in your situation.

I’ve argued on my blog before that the power of the Fairy Godmother wasn’t transformation from one thing to another. It was the power to reveal who you truly are. The Fairy Godmother didn’t see a slave. She saw a beloved daughter of the King, beloved bride of the Prince, a beloved princess of the people. When we get a hold of that revelation of what we truly are, we are unstoppable. In Colossians 2 and elsewhere, the Bible says that we have the fullness of God within us. What power we have! If fully realized, we could change the geography of the planet spiritually and physically. We could make women safe and loved and give them power beyond imagining whereas they would spend most nights just dreaming.

So, is Cinderella feminist?  I can’t give a complete answer because I’m not completely familiar with feminist thought.  But what I will say is that Jesus Christ is looking to set women free from bondage.  He wants women the world over to realize the power they have in Him.  If feminism is about giving women power, then look nowhere else but Jesus Christ.  He is the source of all power.  I also believe that Jesus Christ respects all forms of femininity.  Jesus Christ didn’t make women to just be baby factories.  Proverbs 31 describes a faithful woman who not only takes care of her home but does business and works in the community.  She is wise and respected.  Even the city leaders have respect for her.

Some women work at a career.  Some women stay at home to raise their children.  Some women do both.  Some women cut their hair short.  Some women wear their hair long.  Some women wear traditionally masculine clothes.  Some women wear dresses and buy expensive makeup.  Some women do both.  Some who are biologically female identify as men.  Some who are biologically male identify as women.  Some identify as both or neither.  I don’t believe that Jesus Christ is looking for cookie cutter women.  He is looking to build up his body with many different parts.  One person may be the middle finger, another the small intestine.  Both look very different.  Both function very differently.  To expect the middle finger and the small intestine to look and act the same is ridiculous.  It is equally ridiculous to expect two women to act and look the same.

I think Cinderella is a representation of all women.  We have all felt powerless and without the ability to do anything about our situation.  Sometimes, we are able to break free ourselves.  Other times, I would argue most times, it takes the restorative power of Jesus Christ to break free of our bondage.

Midnight Again

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 mebecause 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 ashesthe 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.

Midnight

In the story of Cinderella, we are told that she tries desperately to prepare herself for the ball.  But, her family makes it impossible with all their pointless chores.  Despite this, she manages to sew a few things together and actually looks somewhat decent for the ball.  Her step-sisters are livid.  They tear her dress to shreds.  Now she is dressed in nothing but rags.  She runs out to the garden and sobs.

Her voice is heard by a pure spirit who, at first, is just a pinprick of light but soon a person steps through.  She is beautiful and radiant.  With a magic wand in her hand, she promises to make Cinderella ready for the ball.  But, the spell will break at midnight.  Cinderella lights up.  It’s not much but it will work.  She says yes to the spirit and everything is transformed.  Her dress, the mice, the pumpkins are all transformed.  But, again, the spell will break at midnight, the spirit cautions.

Cinderella rides off to the ball for a few hours of enjoyment.  She gets lost in the prince’s gaze.  She dances all night.  But then, the clock tower strikes.  Cinderella, remembering the spirit’s words, rushes out of the palace.  In her hurry, she loses a glass slipper.  She gets back in her coach and they ride off.  Once they leave the palace gate, everything starts to melt around them.  Pretty soon, Cinderella is left walking home barefoot.  Curiously, the slipper is still intact.  She clutches it like a newborn baby.  It’s all she has left of the one night of enjoyment she’ll ever have.

Midnight always gave me problems in this story.  Because, otherwise, Cinderella is the Gospel of Jesus Christ condensed.  This spirit, the Fairy Godmother, enacts a transformation of this girl to make her ready for the prince.  Much like the Holy Spirit transforms our lives and makes us ready to see Jesus.  So why wasn’t the Fairy Godmother’s transformation permanent?  Well, let’s examine the story closer.

In most versions, the glass slipper is left behind.  For some reason, the glass slipper was not changed back.  Just maybe the spell wasn’t what we thought it was.  Maybe there was ‘deeper magic’ at work.

Let’s examine Cinderella.  She has been verbally and physically beaten all her life.  She is an orphan and raised in neglect.  Her identity as a lady of the house has been stripped. Her inheritance stolen by her stepmother.  She now begs for scraps and sleeps by the fireplace in the kitchen.  Her life is one of fear.  She feels she deserves every punishment she gets.  She feels dirty and used.  She feels worthless.

What happens when a girl like that is given a pretty dress and shoes and told to enjoy herself?  Fear like no other.  She feels she doesn’t deserve it.  She still feels dirty and used.  She fears what the spirit will do to her if she messes up.  The spell will break at midnight?  Better be home before then.  You see, the transformation is only physical.  A physical makeover can never replace years of psychological abuse and scarring.  But what does change that?  Seeing a glimpse of what you truly are.  Seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you.  That’s what the Fairy Godmother hoped to accomplish.  She hoped that when Cinderella saw how the Prince and everybody else looked at her that the pain of the abuse would start to fade away.  Maybe she would start to see herself as a treasure.

But that still doesn’t answer the question.  Why midnight?  I believe deeper magic was at work.  If you watch the Disney version, Cinderella doesn’t start to change back until after she leaves the palace gate.  It is only when Cinderella runs away that the spell is broken.  The slipper doesn’t change back as it’s still at the palace of the King.

At the palace of the King, we see ourselves as we truly are.  Radiant, beautiful creatures of divine light.  It is when we leave that we start to listen to other voices like the stepmother who tells us that we’re dirty and rotten.  So at midnight, Cinderella had a choice to make.  Who would she listen to?  Unfortunately, Cinderella listens to her stepmother’s voice and leaves.  As evidenced by the slipper, I don’t believe Cinderella would have changed back if she had stayed.  The spell was meant to make her examine what she really was.  Was she a servant who smelled of pigs and ash and worthy of every beating?  Or is she much more?  It is a good thing that the Prince is always in pursuit of us.

Wounds

I asked God one day back in August why the Prince loves Cinderella so much.  In the story, as we all know, Cinderella is from a broken, abusive home.  There is so much psychological baggage that comes with that.  She has been beaten and verbally trodden on for most of her life.  How does a prince come to love someone like her?  A prince, a royal, who has been doted on his entire life.  How can he possibly have the patience to contend with the nightmares and flashbacks of Cinderella’s sordid life.  How can he possibly understand?

So I asked God about this.  Why does the Prince fall in love with Cinderella?  In reality, I was asking myself, “Why does Jesus fall in love with mankind?  Why does He love ME?!”  Because, in my version, I/We are Cinderella and Jesus is the Prince.  What came back was a picture of Cinderella asking her prince on their wedding night, “Why did you fall in love with me?  I am far below your station.  I was so wounded and broken.  I have many scars.  Why did you choose ME that night at the party?”

The prince answers, “I chose you because I knew that you could love more deeply than any other.  The depth of your wounds only made your heart grow deeper.  You attempted to cover the holes, believing them to be dangerous traps.  But, with time and patience, I’ve uncovered them.  Because, in reality, they are wells of great love and joy.”

In life, especially in this modern era, we mistakenly believe that if we fix the outside, the exterior, that everything will be okay.  This goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit and immediately fall from grace.  Their first instinct is to cover up their nakedness.  It is much the same with Cinderella.  Her first instinct would be to try and cover up her imperfections.  Her calloused hands, greasy hair, torn nails.  Her scars from battling the kitchen stove.  Her psychological scars are even greater and are harder to hide.

What’s the good prince to do?  He restores everything that was taken from her and then some.  He gives her a new name.  He gives her a safe environment to live in.  He lays everything out in the open.  No secrets.  He is patient with her.  As their trust grows, so does her trust of other people.  She is no longer constantly afraid of being taken as a slave again.  She begins to let herself feel again.  She starts to think she might actually love this prince of hers.

How does Jesus know this about our wounds?  Because he was once wounded for our sake.  His wounds unleashed a torrent of love, mercy, and grace toward all of mankind.  The depth of His wounds only made His heart grow deeper in love for us, if that were possible.  When he lives inside us, our wounds become wells or oases for His love to overflow to others.  So don’t try to cover them up in an attempt to appear normal.  Normal doesn’t exist.  You may be plugging the only watering hole in the desert of your life or someone else’s life.  Wells scar the earth but, without them, people would die.

The Prince in The Glass Slipper (1955).

I should start off by saying that I’m obsessed with Cinderella and I’m always pulling Holy Spirit things from it. This comes from 1955’s “The Glass Slipper”. In this version, Cinderella and the Prince don’t meet at the ball. They meet in the forest, beside a small pond. She’s crying because her family treats her poorly. He’s just out for a walk. When he sees her, he doesn’t introduce himself as the prince, he introduces himself as the son of the chief cook and invites her to hang out in the kitchen during the ball.

It’s such a wonderful picture of Jesus. Cinderella is us. She’s broken and beaten by the world. Here comes a “servant” of the king who just wants to make the crying girl better. This shows me a couple things.

1) We need to go back to basics. Jesus came as a servant to mankind. He didn’t part the clouds and ride in on a white horse. No, he saw a hurting world and came to serve it. We need to fall in love with servant side of Jesus, not just the kingly side of Jesus. He chose to relate to mankind on the level of a servant so we should respond in kind. The servant is the man the disciples fell in love with and went to the ends of the earth to tell people about.

2) Jesus meets us where we are. Cinderella was a servant herself. She was dirty and in a raggedy dress. If he had introduced himself as the prince, she would have been scared off. No, he saw that she was of a lower station and lowered his station to match hers. Jesus isn’t afraid or too proud to come down to our level. He isn’t afraid of our mess.

3) Jesus doesn’t force his authority on us. He doesn’t violate our free will. A lot of times, we want him to ride in on a white horse and wave a magic wand but he doesn’t. He comes in as that servant. He comforts us and gives us an invitation to be with him. It is through this, that our prayers get answered.