I love her entrance at the ball when she looks good and everybody notices. I love that the prince searched for her all over his kingdom because he fell in love with her the moment he saw her. I love the scene when the wicked step mother breaks the glass slipper and it seems that all hope is lost, and Cinderella pulls the other shoe out of her pocket. I love it when the bad guys lose and the good guys win. I love the Disney doctrine of happily ever after. But the problem with that is the ending is not the whole story. We don’t get to focus on the parts we like and ignore the parts we don’t. Cinderella’s happily ever after was determined by the choices she made before her fairy ever tale began.

Focusing on the happy ending can keep us from seeing the truth about the story. We all want the magic dress and the handsome prince…without the surrender and sacrifice and service that made them possible. Cinderella’s story is tragic. Her beloved father died, and she went from being cherished to being abused. Rather than valuing her as a daughter in the house provided by her father, she is relegated to serving the wicked step-mother and step-sisters. She is treated unfairly and cruelly by selfish, hateful women. No one would have blamed her if she had treated them as spitefully as they treated her or if she had secretly despised them. It would have been perfectly understandable for Cinderella to lecture them on their ingratitude or to just run away and let those self-centered, lazy women do for themselves.

But Cinderella never allowed her sorrow or her pain or the vicious behavior of others to make her any less than the kind, gracious young woman her father raised her to be. She is the hero of this story, not because she destroyed those who opposed her, but because she did not allow those who opposed her to destroy her goodness and joy. She chose to be true to her upbringing and heritage, to what she knew was good and right, no matter how others behaved. She couldn’t really change her circumstances, but she refused to allow her circumstances to change her for the worse.

Her home with a father who loved her had changed to a place where she wasn’t loved. He died and she faced a “new normal”. What we do with our “new normals” determines our future. The unwavering strength of her character and her consistent choice to be joyful and kind made her someone the mice and the fairy godmother liked and wanted to help. Their help provided her with a new dress and a snazzy carriage and the opportunity to go to the ball and meet the handsome prince and live happily ever after. But it was Cinderella’s choice to be loving and kind that caused the fairy godmother to seek her out, to give her that magical evening. Before the fairy godmother gave her what was necessary for her happily ever after, Cinderella surrendered her pride; she sacrificed her expectations, and she became a servant in her father’s house.

Cinderella did not allow the difficult people or disappointing moments to define her. She stayed true to her character and chose joy, despite her circumstances. She cooked and cleaned for her step-mother and sisters, even cared for their lazy, ill-tempered cat. Her service to them may not have been voluntary, but her attitude in that service was completely her choice. She didn’t cheerfully serve them because they were good and kind; she cheerfully served them because she was good and kind. She didn’t focus on what she believed she deserved or her approval of who she was called to serve or even whether or not she liked what she was required to do; she chose to focus on what she knew was right, even when it was unfair and hard.

Cinderella had really good reasons to choose to be less than her father raised her to be. So do we. We are called to obedience in situations that are hard and unfair. We are daily confronted with difficult, negative, hurting people who demand more than they give. Our plans have not turned out like we thought they would. We dreamed of “happily ever after”, and we got tedium and chores and tasks and interruptions and frustrations and disappointments.

It is easy to obey God when He’s doing something we like, when He allows us to serve from our strengths and when we like the people we serve…but what about when one or none of those are not the case? Our happily ever after may be the ending to our story, but we have to obediently walk through a new normal to get to that part of our story.

 The thing is, one day the King of Heaven is going to come find us and take us from the mess of where we are to our “happily ever after”. He’s already prepared a place for each one of us, and he’s going to usher us into the New Jerusalem for eternity. We will be his bride. There will be no more death or mourning or pain. God himself will wipe away the very last tear you will ever cry. But our happily ever after starts with our choice to surrender now. Our choices will not increase or diminish God’s love for us, but they will determine whether our story becomes God’s story. We need to choose obedience to him now so that we will be prepared for what is to come. We need to sacrifice the things that separate us from Him, we need to serve those He loves so that we will be ready when he comes to take us home.