I met Cinderella when my parents took me and my baby sister to London. I was sure I was going to see The Queen of England. We went with another homeschool family, and their mother read me the story of Cinderella on the ride in the train.
I was enchanted, though now I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because Cinderella had brown eyes and brown hair, like mine. Most princesses in stories were blue-eyed and golden-haired and the discovery of a princess who looked “just like me” was exciting! Or maybe it was because Cinderella wore a pink dress to the ball; pink was my favourite colour. Or maybe … maybe, although I had a limited understanding of wicked stepmothers and ugly stepsisters and charming princes, it was because of the magic wand and the glass slippers and the happy ending.
Whatever it was, I identified with Cinderella somehow. And there’s a sense in which I’ve been waiting for a fairy godmother and a pumpkin coach – waiting for a moment of transformation and a way to meet a prince – since I was four years old.
But this is the real world; I don’t believe in fairy godmothers and pumpkin coaches. Some girls never marry. Maybe there isn’t a prince for me out there “somewhere”. I know I’m not entitled to love and marriage!
So this yearning for more – for transformation and love and happily ever after? It’s a gift, in a way, from Him to keep my heart from getting too comfortable with the here and now. It’s a gift from Him to keep my heart close to His heart. It’s a gift from Him to keep me chasing, with all my heart, the One who is my Creator, my Saviour, my Comfort.
Cinderella wasn’t real, but there are other women who were real – as real as I am – who also had a yearning for more. God was their God as well as my God. He disturbed their hearts, He asked them to keep their hearts close to His heart, He asked them to chase Him with all their hearts. There were no fairy godmothers and pumpkin coaches in their lives. I’m not sure that their princes would have won any prizes for charm, being dwellers in the desert, physical workers, farmers and shepherds and carpenters who had beards and big, rough hands and wore robes and sandals.
God surprises me all the time – and He surprised them too.
- Sarah was ninety years old when God told her that she was going to have a child. Can you imagine, for decades, yearning to nurture a child and watching other women with their children and trying not to cry because your womb and arms were empty … and then, in your old age, being told that you would finally conceive and birth a child? Sarah laughed! We wonder how she could laugh at God. But don’t we laugh at God too? And, really, the idea of a woman in her nineties having a baby is, well, laughable!
- Rahab was an innkeeper – a woman with a doubtful reputation. But her lifestyle didn’t stop her from recognising the power of God and putting her faith in the One who rescued the Israelites from slavery and parted the Red sea. She was not only saved from the destruction of Jericho, she married an Israelite and became the mother of a righteous man called Boaz.
- Ruth was a widow – a women for whom love, from now on, would not be “first love”, but “second love”. She left her home and her family to accompany her mother-in-law into a new land where Ruth was a stranger. She was poor and she had to work to support her family. She was diligent and industrious and the man who welcomed her into his fields to glean married her and provided her with a home and a son – a son who would someday be the grandfather of Israel’s greatest hero and king.
- Esther was an orphan and a captive in a strange land. She was far from home when she was taken to the palace of the heathen king and prepared to be a royal bride. She was beautiful and she captivated the heart of the king. He crowned her queen of Persia and, unknowingly, gave her the power that she needed in order to save her people from destruction.
- Mary was a country girl engaged to a country boy when an angel appeared and told her that she was going to give birth to the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the World. Mary could have refused to be a single mother, but she accepted God’s will for her life. She gave birth to a baby boy in a stable and, through her, history was changed forever.
God doesn’t promise to give all women babies or, even, to give all women husbands. He promises that He has a plan for our lives and He asks us to believe that He is faithful. And He shows us, in the lives of the women of the Bible, that He is able, at any moment, to step into the midst of our lives and surprise us in wonderful ways. So wherever you are in life, remember that although Cinderella is just a fairy tale, God is as real (or more real!) than the world in which we live and He is “the God of Surprises”.
Oh … and The Queen? There was a state visit and Buckingham Palace was out of sight between crowds of people lining The Mall to watch The Queen and her guests as they went past in a state carriage. My family and I joined the crowds, my father lifted me up on his shoulders, I waved … and I really did see The Queen! God cares for our hearts. Nothing is impossible to Him. And He loves to surprise us when we’re least expecting it …