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.

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.

Weekly Writing Challenge 2 – The Evil Stepmother

Her legs were a little bit wobbly as she trekked out into the forest with her husband.  She had just given birth to beautiful baby girl.  She was blond with fair skin.  Izabel wondered if the blond hair would keep or would darken to a shade like her auburn.  She was amazed at the miracle her body produced and mourned all the more for the little ones that tried to come before.  Izabel was secretly relieved that her daughter didn’t have Adam’s dark skin.  She secretly knew it wasn’t possible for Sarah to have Adam’s ebony skin as Adam wasn’t the true father of Sarah.  Izabel had been with another.  She was convinced that Adam didn’t know.  Sarah looked enough like her as to not arouse suspicion.

They walked still further.  Izabel’s side was starting to ache.  She wanted to get back to the homestead and check on her daughter.  Every moment without her was more and more painful.  After about two hours of walking, Izabel’s eyes lit on a bloody rock on the ground.  Hey eyes jetted up to her husband who was a couple paces ahead of her.  Almost sensing her trepidation, he hollered back, “Not much further now.”  Izabel began to grow worried.  She hadn’t seen her lover since giving birth.  And now this bloody rock.  She quickly added up the situation in her mind and started running.  Even in her weakened state, she overtook Adam as adrenaline poured through her.

It was just over a hill that she saw him.  Her blond, fair-skinned lover.  His body was splayed in many directions.  His face was unrecognizable.  Brain matter was seeping from a deep wound.  Maggots had already started to fester.  Blood was running from his eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.  Izabel let out a long wail that turned into a scream.  She kissed what was left of his face.

Adam was quite noticeably confused.  He expected Izabel to thank him.  The man obviously took advantage of her.  It had never entered Adam’s mind that his second wife was an adulteress.  He failed to realize that Izabel was not Cava, his first wife.  He had taken for granted that all women were like his Cava.  Cava was a selfless gentle woman.  Izabel was a servant girl, hardened by the harsh realities of the world around her.  Izabel was a woman who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted, even if it meant tearing apart a family.

Izabel had wanted a child of her own to take the focus off of Kallah, Adam’s bright morning star.  Everything centered around Kallah in the household.  Izabel thought that if she had a child of her own, Adam would truly see her as a wife, a leader in the household, and not just a step-mother/servant for Kallah.  But failure after failure to have a child with Adam, drove her to extremes.  She sought the comfort of a servant man.  She finally brought a child to term.  Adam must have suspected right away but because he was so pure (naive in Izabel’s mind), he thought something more nefarious happened between the man and Izabel.  Now all was made clear.

Adam’s rage then went to his wife.  Izabel was still grieving at the side of her lover’s body when she felt hands around her throat.  Her eyes went wide.  He was behind her so all she could do was kick.  But his large frame had her covered.  It wasn’t long before she slipped into a comatose state.

“Your bastard daughter will never live in my house.” Adam whispered.  It was the last thing Izabel heard before slipping under.

Adam marched back the way he came.  His rage quelled, he was now deeply saddened.  He thought only of Kallah.  Kallah would miss her step-mother.  Kallah would want to know what happened.  Adam quickly came up with a story of Izabel drowning.  Little did Adam know that Izabel was merely unconscious.
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Here it is.  A fresh post for the weekly challenge: Characters That Haunt You.  And yes, Izabel is a racist *&#(@.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Characters That Haunt You

From here:

To be honest, this has been on my computer for years.  I just needed an excuse to share it.

It was the first time she had ever danced. She had thought about it often, imagined it. She twirled around in the fields in a rhythmic sway when her stepmother wasn’t looking. She had never seen a picture or really had it described to her. Her body did, however, have a natural rhythm when it came to hearing a tune. She always swayed alone in her dreams but music was a rare thing in her experience. However, in these mental machinations, she never imagined that dancing included touching.

The only things she ever touched were dirt, pigs, chickens, and trees. Touching things was not a pleasant experience for her. Very rarely, did she experience the touch of a person.  Mostly to shove her out of the way.  She did not even experience a human’s touch when she was disciplined. When she disobeyed, she got a switch put to her backside that she cut for herself so her stepmother wouldn’t have to dirty her hands or risk injury.

Tonight, right now, she felt the warm hand at her back. He rested there. He was not pushing her. She felt the other hand clasped in hers, covering and caressing her hand. She was grateful the gloves covered her calloused hands.  Her other hand wearily reached for his shoulder as she had seen the other couples do.

His eyes alone made her want to run and take cover. She could not stand to have his eyes on her. No one had ever gazed upon her. Gazed was the only word she could think of at the moment. His eyes were at once sapphire and gold. It felt like beams of high noon sunlight mixed with a cool breeze. She wondered if she had been set ablaze. She had only ever endured the cold, distant glares of her stepmother. However, his eyes actually wanted to rest where they were and see what they were seeing.

In that moment, she felt so afraid. She felt in her heart how unworthy she was. She was scared for the moment when the prince would find out that he had been fooled. That somebody dared bring a servant girl to a royal event in the hopes that he would mistakenly choose her. She felt both the fire of his eyes and the fire of her guilty heart all at once. It was a battle for her very soul in those few moments. Would her heart yield to the prince’s wondrous gaze? Or, would her heart yield to the years of guilt that her step-mother put upon her?

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.