by Dawn Aldrich
Ella stood before her dying mother, frozen with fear. “I want to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer,” whispered her mother. “Have courage and be kind.” Choking back tears, Ella nodded and sealed the secret between them with one last hug.
Little did she know, but this little secret would see Ella through life’s toughest trials.
While we know Cinderella’s story well—the beloved daughter of an English merchant who, after the death of her mother, is forced to live with her abusive stepmother and selfish, spoiled, homely stepsisters until she finds Prince Charming—Disney turns us on our heels in the 2015 remake of this childhood favorite.
Yes, all of the original fairy tale stays intact with its magic and transforming powers, but goes beyond the “happily-ever-after” ending, leaving us with four key lessons: (1) What you’re called is not your doing, (2) Kindness begets goodness, (3) Goodness begets “magic”. (4) Forgiveness precedes freedom.
Lesson One: Have courage – what you’re called is not your doing
Cinderella and Prince Charming first meet while riding on horseback in the woods. After exchanging niceties, the prince asks Cinderella, “What do they call you?” Embarrassed by the truth, Cinderella plays coy, “It doesn’t matter what they call me.” And the prince, seeming to understand her secret, states, “I’m sure it’s none your doing.”
We all carry labels, you know, those names others slap on our backs that distort God’s image of who He created. What we’re called is not our doing, not our true identity. God holds our true identity, our true name. Throughout the Bible, God renames His faithful ones to match His purpose for their lives, signifying the death of their old identity and the birth of their identity in Him. For example: Abram (high father) to Abraham (father of many), Genesis 17:5, Jacob (supplanter) to Israel (God contended), Genesis 32:28, and Saul (prayed for) to Paul (small, humble), Acts 13:9. Living that transformed life, living by the name God intended for us rather than the labels by which others call us, takes enormous courage because we’re constantly bombarded with the lies.
Lesson Two: Kindness begets goodness
Cinderella repaid her bossy, demanding step sisters with humility and kindness over and over again. And in her weak moments, when she wanted to reply with anger, she bit her tongue and recited her mother’s words, “Be kind…be kind…Have courage and be kind.”
Both kindness and goodness are fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), an outward sign of a Jesus-follower and the evidence of the Holy Spirit within. Jesus said if you know me, you know the Father who is in me. Certainly, Jesus shows kindness to all who know him, a characteristic of God the Father implanted in each one of us when we place our faith in His Son, Jesus. Kindness shows God’s goodness in us and through us.
Lesson Three: Goodness begets “magic”
Weary of living courageously and overwhelmed by her stepmother’s cruelty, Cinderella cries out for her Fairy Godmother. Surely, with a wave of her magic wand, her ugly rags will turn into something new and beautiful.
Isn’t that just like us? When we grow weary of the world’s cruelty, find we’ve reached the end of ourselves isn’t that when we cry out to God? Isn’t that when we wish He’d just wave a magic wand over our situations and make our lives fairy tale beautiful?
I know in some Christian circles the word magic is taboo, so let me clarify. Here, magic refers to God’s miraculous transforming power in our lives; that power that makes all things good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Oh, God isn’t meant to be used like Cinderella’s Fairy God Mother. No. But for those truly repentant hearts, God’s goodness will restore all the years (situations) that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25).
Lesson Four: Forgiveness precedes our freedom
Upon leaving her childhood home with Prince Charming, Cinderella turns to her stepmother and says, “I forgive you.”
If you walk away with anything from this new version of the classic Disney film, it’s this: forgiveness precedes our freedom.
I could write an entire article (an entire book) about freedom in forgiveness. It’s not my idea or Disney’s, either. It was God’s idea since the Fall. God, in his mercy, grace and love for us–His creation–has given us the way to freedom; freedom from sin, but also freedom to live fully whole. Our pronounced faith in the salvation bought through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus frees us from sin and offers us life eternal in God’s presence, yes. But it isn’t something just for the future, it’s so we might live in complete freedom NOW! By repenting and accepting God’s forgiveness, we in turn are asked to offer forgiveness to those who offend us–give at it has freely been given to us. It’s not easy. It takes great courage. Courage to let go of our pain and loss. Courage to release the hold our offender has on us. Courage to let God heal. And when we do offer that forgiveness? That’s when heaven’s floodgates open wide and blessings flow and we truly become who God created us to be.