Cinderella has never been one of my favorite fairy tales. Maybe that’s because its familiarity through the years has turned it a bit drab for me. Maybe it’s because the danger isn’t fierce enough or the stakes aren’t high enough.
Or maybe . . . maybe it’s because I can’t relate to a girl who is nothing more than a victim. A girl with a princess-like beauty whom never does anything wrong except in the eyes of her “evil” step-mother and stepsisters. A girl whose beauty and mere lack of evil are all it take for her to win not only a prince, but a kingdom.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely do things wrong. A lot. I say the wrong things, I’m clumsy, I’m impatient, I’m unkind, I’m none-too-beautiful. Basically, I’m human. How could I possibly write a story about a girl like Cinderella? I’m not qualified. I can’t understand her. I’ve never even been able to care much about her, try as I might.
So when considering retelling this story, I decided I wouldn’t write about Cinderella at all. Simple as that.
Instead, I wrote through the eyes of somebody I could understand: the stepsister (in my story, there’s just one). As a teen who went through some rough times, I often felt like the freak, the ugly, awkward girl, the misunderstood girl, the girl who used sarcasm like a shield, the girl people were uncomfortable having around because of her random bursts of emotion and sometimes rather brutal honesty. The girl . . . well, you get the picture.
Evil. Many times that’s how I felt. That’s what I believed people thought of me. That’s how they seemed to look at me. Therefore that’s what I began to believe I was in truth. Evil. Warped.
Then God stepped in. He had had enough.
“You’re not evil,” He whispered to me. “Your heart is beautiful and kind and loving. It is desirable to Me.”
The things I had never been able to see before because of my own blindness and self-loathing became apparent when God showed them to me through His eyes, through His grace. But then, that’s natural, isn’t it? That’s how it’s supposed to happen, the rescuing of our souls. My heart is beautiful because it’s God’s. My kindness and love are really only an extension of God’s own kindness and love.
When I began to think back on my own love story with God, I knew I must make it a part of this story I was writing. I have never been a Cinderella, ready from birth for Heaven. I needed redemption. I need redemption on a daily basis. But not from an evil stepmother or stepsisters. Not from any outside source of oppression. No, I needed saving from myself, and from the person Satan has plans for me to become. Because I am the evil stepsister. Or at least I was . . .
Those are the times God patiently reminds me that I am now His true daughter – a stepchild no longer.
When He took me in I became a princess in truth, and I share in a Kingdom more beautiful than any prince could have offered Cinderella. Right now I can’t always see that Kingdom, though it’s both in me and all around me. Sometimes I catch glimpses of it clearly, sometimes I only feel its nearness. But someday I plan on living there and claiming my happy-ever-after once and for all.
Tell me, what fairy tale could be better than that?
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It’s a term you can’t avoid hearing in our culture: self-esteem. Think better of yourself. You deserve the best. Be confident in your abilities. If you believe you can do it, you can.
For years I bought into it, too. Finding myself. Finding my worth. Loving myself despite my faults and the “ugly” things about me, inside and out.
That’s what the world tells us to do, right?
But then God nudged me awake. And instead of slapping me on the face with the horrible truth as He could have done, He gently and gradually showed me the lie I was holding so dear. You see, the problem with self-esteem, and even self-confidence, is that, well, it’s all about … you guessed it…
As a Christian who was searching genuinely for the heart of God, truly wishing to make His desires my own, I couldn’t help but see it.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)
What place does self-confidence have if we are to become weaker, so that God is able to become stronger within us? Shouldn’t it rather be called God-confidence?
What place does self-esteem have for someone who delights in weaknesses and insults? Wouldn’t it better be named God-esteem?
The world takes admirable virtues such as esteem and confidence and even love, and turns them inside out, makes them things of selfishness, small and warped, casting shadows into our souls. We let the world feed us these lies because we so ache to believe them.
But then, the best and most believable lies are always laced with a bit of truth, aren’t they? Because, in fact, we are of worth, we do deserve love and esteem. … But not in and of ourselves. Not because of anything we’ve done or ever will do or ever can do.
No, we deserve these things solely because of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ blood. God’s grace and overwhelming mercy.
Some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known have had no great physical beauty. God’s spirit filled them so completely that they shone with it. Their kindness was a glittering mantle. Their humility was a peaceful balm. The love that came from their eyes dazzled those around them with the undeniable awareness of God’s goodness.
When I think of it that way, my physical attributes seem so remote. My self-esteem and my self-worth fade to insignificance.
I won’t deceive you, it’s hard to do. But don’t ever think that it’s impossible, because it’s not. Just like any journey of the feet, a journey of the heart takes time. It’s painful and wearying … but oh so worth it in the end. Because it leads us closer to God, closer to who He intends us to become.
Self-esteem? I have no use for it. Not in the way the world wants me to, anyway. With my eyes firmly on God’s plan for me, with my desire for His will alone, my self slips into the place it was created to be…