Cinderella, Lent and Light In Darkness

Author: Andy Drozdziak

Picture: Shaw Air Force Base

Cinderella, Lent and Light In Darkness

The story of Cinderella can help us understand the season of Lent, says Andy Drozdziak.

How might we understand the season of Lent? One explanation which may help is the story of Cinderella, as suggested by Canadian priest Ron Rolheiser. The name itself, Cinderella, comes from cinders, or ashes: the girl who sits in the ashes.

Whilst everyone else goes to the ball, enjoying dancing, bright lights and joy, she is left, on her own, to contemplate her own situation.

Mocked by her family, she sits alone by the fire, by the ashes, with no company and clothed in sadness. On Ash Wednesday, a period of self-reflection and solitude and prayer is encouraged. We hear these, or similar, words: “Remember from dust you have come and to dust you shall return”.

We are reminded that the God of love puts us on earth for a short time before returning to Him. We are also reminded that life, at times, can be very hard and we experience darkness and disillusionment, like Jesus on the road to Calvary.

Crushed With Pain

Many experience times of suffering, their own ashes. Sky Sports presenter Simon Thomas lost his wife Gemma to cancer in November 2017, leaving behind an 8-year-old son, Ethan.

After revealing he is “crushed with indescribable pain”, he reeled off a list of questions: “How the hell can I do life without Gemma? How on earth can I survive as a single parent when five minutes ago I was happily married? Will I ever smile properly again?”

He has admitted to being unable to see a way forward: “One day I will rise again from the ashes of these painful past few weeks, but for now this is me.”

Simon has been encouraged by these words from pastor and author Pete Greig: "When life is tough, they tell you to be strong. Don’t be strong. Be weak. Unclench your fists. Dare to be vulnerable. Honest weakness takes courage.”

Simon also revealed in an Instagram post how a stranger sent him 365 motivational notes for each day of the year: “A guy called Dan Ritchie, who I have yet to meet (but will) had seen my notes for Ethan and felt I needed some too, to encourage me and help me keep going when I feel like giving up.

He's written me a daily note too - for every single day of the coming year! That's #lightinthedarkness right there'.


Take Heart

Jesus promises his followers that, although they will experience trouble and pain, joy and light will follow: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) He embodied this in his own journey of suffering, death and resurrection.

As we know, it eventually turns out well for Cinderella; she does go the ball, joins in the dancing and is chosen by the handsome prince.

Her joy only comes after a period of reflection, darkness and suffering. Only when the ashes have done their work is she ready to join the party and experience joy.

Lent reminds us of our own deserts, our own periods, like Cinderella, of sitting in the ashes. How are we to respond?

Jesus heard the Father’s delight at his baptism: “You are my son, whom I love. With you, I am well pleased.” The Spirit then immediately “sent him out into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:11-12)  Before we do battle with our anxieties and suffering, we need to know, in the depths of our hearts, the passionate and unconditional love God has for each of us.

As Christ rose from the dead, we are promised resurrection, hope and new life: a time when we will, like Cinderella, go to the ball, experience joy again and dance: “Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so too we may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)

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