When I was a little girl, I loved Disney movies. I still do.

Growing up in the environment I did, with a violent alcoholic father, without God (I was 9 before I saw the inside of a church with any regularity), Disney movies in particular shaped my view of the world. From an early age I understood that bad things happen to good people, good people were often oppressed and mistreated by powerful enemies, but when good people grow inner strength and worthwhile qualities (fruit of the spirit, maybe?), they would make it out of their dire situation and live “happily ever after.”

One of the best examples of this storyline is Cinderella. But as I was painting my front porch the other day (it came out great, BTW), I came to realize some things about the storyline that I think people don’t talk about:

Her stepmother and sisters kept her busy with things that really didn’t matter. Granted, a clean home and a well-cooked meal are necessary and someone has to do it, but the key point here is that they kept her so busy with menial tasks, she couldn’t think about anything of real importance, as she was made to function below her capacity.

Cinderella walked in supernatural Grace. The Disney musical overture to Cinderella sings the words “though you’re dressed in rags, you wear an air of queenly grace.” How do you obtain such an air if, since an early age, you’ve been abused and degraded, ultimately having your inheritance stolen and turned into a maid within your own home, working night and day to pay for room and board?

Cinderella’s early years were spent with her father. He loved her lavishly, providing everything she could need or want. Even though he died when she was very young, this made such an impression on her that somehow, despite the child abuse and adult slavery, her identity still came from those years with her Father. That identity enabled her to dream, hope, and walk in supernatural grace—despite her circumstances.

Cinderella didn’t overcome, she was delivered. While her attitude of grace and meekness certainly enabled her escape from her circumstances, they didn’t elevate her, they enabled her to endure. When her endurance was complete, an external, supernatural source (enter Fairy Godmother) initiated the change sequence. Her endurance was necessary to her deliverance, but in the end, it still came from a “God” source.

Another point to consider about the Cinderella story, is that the Fairy Godmother didn’t change Cinderella at all. She simply placed her in the environment to see what she really was, and what she could become. Her inner identity, the much-loved child of her Father, kept her protected from the darkness that surrounded her, but it didn’t propel her forward. That’s because, in her whole life, she’d only had one person who loved her and called out her destiny. That man was dead. Ever since, she’d been isolated with negative, enemy voices. The truth is, while she dreamed, she still didn’t believe her future could be different than her present. The change happened when she was removed from her present reality and placed into the path of her “price charming.” Once dressed to accentuate her true identity, he immediately recognized that she belonged with him. He became the second person in her life to show her “you are lovely, you belong with me, you have a future.” When that voice from her distant past echoed into her future, she immediately took steps to live her future as soon as possible.

The big-picture of Cinderella, though inspiring and indicative of God’s saving grace, also tells us of our own human weakness.

Even though Cinderella knew everything she needed to know to save herself, she was so locked-up and wounded she honestly believed her best days were behind her. Her dreams served more as escapism than actual future-planning.

It took the supernatural actions of a “God” parent to move her into her destiny.

Thus, the Cinderella tale serves both as inspiration and cautionary tale: Jesus saves, but it may happen faster if you know your own worth. God helps those who help themselves.