The story of Cinderella is rich with Christian allegory. Ella (“light," “other," “goddess”) is born into a loving family, into a paradise of sorts. However, with the loss of her mother, suffering and death begin to spoil her idyllic beginnings. Her father, now a widower, remarries a woman with two daughters of her own and, notably, a cat named Lucifer. Shortly thereafter, Ella’s father dies, leaving Ella an orphan, subject to the oppressive whims of her evil stepmother. To keep warm at night, she is forced to sleep by the dying embers of the fire, which stains her face with ashes (cinders), giving rise to her new name, Cinderella. Though she had formerly given “light” to all, Cinderella loses her dignity. Her beauty is obscured, and she becomes identified with ash.
Likewise, as we commence our Lenten observance, we mark our faces with ash. In so doing, we confess to God and one another the suffering, death, oppression, and utter loss of dignity brought about by our sin. Though we were made in the image of God, our beauty has been obscured.
“This is perhaps the greatest risk that any of us will take: to be seen as we truly are."
– Cinderella (2015)
Although Cinderella is marred and lowly, a majestic yet humble prince sees good and beauty beneath her ashes. In love, and not to his own advantage, he pursues her resolutely, he finds her, he calls her, and he makes her his bride.
So if you find it helpful, allow the story of Cinderella to influence these forty days leading up to Easter. Lent must never be observed apart from the beautiful truth that we already have God’s favor. As the lowly Bride of a majestic Prince of Peace, an eternal marriage awaits the Church. We can plumb the depths of our sin and brokenness precisely because we are loved. We can learn the Christian disciplines of patience and longing, because we know our ash will be wiped away. Someday soon, night will be no more. God will be our light (Ella), and we will reign with our King forever and ever (Revelation 22:5).