The Story Inside the Story

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A young girl pursued by a prince, who danced with a king and became a queen…

It is the story of Cinderella and, with some excitement and some reserve, I agreed to take my daughters and one of their friends to see the latest edition in theaters this past weekend.  My excitement stemmed from anticipating a fun day with my girls and from the fact that I love the story of Cinderella.  (Not so much the Disney version specifically, but the story itself.) The reservations grew from doubts about how well-done this particular telling of the story would be.  After all, Cinderella has had her run of success, with lots and lots of different versions out there.  With each new one, I celebrate for the story is worth being told and I want my girls to hear it, but I also cringe because I want it told as I feel it should be.  I want the directors to stay true to the story, but come up with new and creative ways of telling it.  I want the actors to fit the roles as I see them in my head.  I want the stepmother to be sufficiently evil without being unbelievable, and I don’t want any of it to be cheesy. Admittedly, that’s a tall order.  As with any other well-known, much-loved classic, it’s almost impossible to get it “right” or to please everyone.

After two trips around the block looking for an available parking space, we found seats inside with plenty of time to spare, allowing me to people watch.  What I saw was a room full of females, in all ages, sizes, shapes, and outfits.  Sitting next to me was a tiny girl so full of excitement that she couldn’t stay in her seat; her level of engagement continued throughout the movie, as she jumped and gasped and clapped and cheered and even cried, depending on how Cinderella was faring onscreen.  In a way, watching her allowed me to see the movie through her eyes, and I gained a new perspective.  An older, grandmotherly aged woman behind me contributed her part during the film with snorts of amusement or disgust and hums of approval.

And I thought again that each one of us, being female, was somehow both drawn and repulsed by this story.  I believe this story echoes The Story, and in each re-telling we are confronted with our own fears, insecurities, and hopes.  Every time we hear, see, or tell the story of Cinderella, we tell the story of ourselves in part.  How far along we are in the story depends on how far along we are in our own journey.

For each one of us is a princess, trapped in attics of our own making, as well as trapped in small spaces by those around us setting limitations of what we can and can’t, should and shouldn’t do.  Each one of us questions our self-worth and whether or not we are loved and each one takes on false identities.  Each one of us, at some time or another, will be bombarded with lies about who we are and where we come from and what our future holds.  Each of us will be faced with a choice about how we will live, whether we act or react.  Each of us gets to decide whether or not we live with courage, whether we will be kind, whether we will forgive  — or not.  Each one of us longs for friendship and will most likely find it in the oddest places.  And each one of us longs to be known, noticed, pursued, called out, and ultimately loved.

Surrounded by females, swimming in sea of estrogen and double-X chromosomes, I suddenly had a thought.  Or rather, I had a host of thoughts, all swirling around this one topic of what it means to be female and have these questions and hopes and dreams and to live in a predominately male-oriented world, and to live gracefully and courageously and to offer our femininity in ways that both off-set and balance the lives of the men we love.  Instead of merely going to see a movie, I was swept up into this Story, this Big Picture, of women the world over, who long to live well and love boldly and forgive generously and come to a true realization of who we are.

How many of us see it or believe it or, more importantly, have experienced this story of pursuit by a prince, a king, who goes to extreme measures to seek us out and win our hearts?  How many are still bowing under the power of a false name: Cinder Ella or the “ugly” one or the “fat” one or the “unwanted” one?  How many have memories only — or not even that — of a real father’s and mother’s love?  How many are trapped, living under a “stepmother” and harassed by the lies and caged by the oppression or the addiction or the loneliness?  How many of us have courage and kindness and are looking for the magic?  How many have met the prince, danced with the king?  How many have felt pursued or loved?  How many are still trapped in the attic, feeling pushed aside, shut up, worthless or insignificant, overlooked, “too much,” and at the same time “not enough”?  How many have friends willing to put down their cheese — or their own insecurities — long enough to open a window of hope?  How many have realized the king loves us enough that he left the castle, disguised his identity and mingled with the foot soldiers and commoners in order to seek us out and find his most beloved?  How many of us identify with being the beloved of the king?  How many of us have the grace to forgive and yet give room for the consequences to occur, acknowledging that forgiveness doesn’t mean it never happened.  How many of us have been “made new”?

I had this bizarre wish that I could have a box of printed cards that read:

“You are a strong and beautiful princess,

loved and sought out by a king.

Be courageous and kind.”

With that box of cards, I would have stood at the door of the theater and given one to every single female who left the movie and went back out into this difficult world.  Because I believe that is why every generation has their version, their own telling and re-telling of the Cinderella story that echoes in the heart chambers of every woman and girl in the world.

Courage and kindness.  The love of a king.  A little magic.  All things being made new.


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