A Tale of Two Princesses
Five and a half years ago my wife and I plunged into the awesome responsibility of raising a daughter of Eve. Then, less than three years later, the Lord doubled down and we welcomed our second girl into our home. Soon, our once tranquil space was piled with tutus and princesses. The latter of these go in and out of style quickly in our home, but right now, Cinderella is the princess of choice. The Disney film has been watched and re-watched dozens of times over the past few months.
Over the same period, my family has been reading through the book of Ruth during family worship. It’s a joy to watch our girls listen (sometimes), discuss, and act out this gritty and yet beautiful story of God’s redemption.
I had never noticed the many similarities between these two tales. Both stories depict young women who:
- are buried in seemingly hopeless circumstances
- persevere in hope even in the face of difficulty
- exude character, compassion and strong work ethic
- receive help from older, wiser women (though one is technically a fairygod mother!)
- are rescued from their plight through marriage
These two works have some striking similarities– but it’s against this backdrop that stark contrasts also begin to appear. When we dig below the surface we find two vastly different approaches to meeting prince charming. Over the next few posts I will highlight several key themes that set these stories apart. As we look at these differences, picture yourself in the story. Which best describes your own outlook on dating and marriage?
Dreams of Happiness
While both Cinderella and Ruth persevere in hope, what we find is that the object of their hope couldn’t have been any more different.
Let’s start with Cinderella. In the beginning of the film the narrator paints a bleak picture of Cinderella’s treatment at the hands of her stepmother and stepsisters. But then the narrator adds, “And yet, through it all, Cinderella remained ever gentle and kind. For with each dawn, she found new hope that someday her dreams of happiness would come true.” Here, the narrator lays bare the foundation of Cinderell’s hope – “dreams of happiness.” Through these dreams of happiness, Cinderella weathered the storm of her life. Her hopes were like deep set roots which produced the fruits of kindness and compassion even through adversity.
But in order to really understand this hope, we must zoom in on the lowest point of the film. Here Cinderella is painfully close to attending the Prince’s Ball. But just before she can board the carriage, her step–sisters step in and rip her beautiful mouse-made dress to shreds. Devastated, Cinderella sprints outside to the garden in tatters. There, with tears streaming down her face, she makes the fateful confession– “everything I have hoped for is gone.”
Did you catch that? Everything I have hoped for. By her own admission, Cinderella’s dreams were built entirely on meeting and marrying prince charming. Now her one hope for deliverance is dashed. And we discover the startling truth that the anchor for Cinderella’s soul was only as strong as the string of her dress. Her dreams were unraveled in a moment. This is a fictional story, but how many real life women today (either single or married) have put their hope in the exact same thing?
An Infinitely Better Hope
As we focus the camera back onto the (non-fictional and divinely inspired) story of Ruth the Moabite, we find Ruth at her own low point of the story. Tragedy has befallen not only her, but also her mother in law Naomi, and her sister-in-law Orpah. Death has robbed each of them of their husband. This families’ dreams of a “happily ever after,” seem to have been buried with the men they loved.
With this, Naomi packs up her bags and plans to move back to the land of Judah. The two daughters-in-law follow, but Naomi tells them to turn back, saying, “The LORD grant that you find rest, each of you in the house of her husband” (1:9). Naomi realizes that following her would all but guarantee that these two younger women would remain husbandless. Their chances of meeting and marrying a man in Israel was apparently slim to none.
So how do the two girls respond? Orpah does the practical thing. Although it grieves her greatly, she gives her mother-in-law a good bye kiss and goes her way. But Ruth’s response was very different. Ruth clings to her (v. 14).
And it’s here in her own dark valley that Ruth makes her own fateful confession, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (v. 16).
Here, in the exact moment that Cinderella would have said, “everything I have hoped for is gone,” Ruth clings to the people of God and casts herself upon the mercy of God. With eyes wide open, Ruth sacrifices her chance of meeting Mr Right and having a family of her own. But she exchanged this hope for a far better one. She took refuge under the wings of Yahweh (2:12). She lashed her hopes and dreams to an unmovable anchor– the Rock of Ages.
Singles, Set Your Hope Fully
Let me close with three charges to my single brothers and sisters in Christ:
1) Refuse to conform to our culture’s “dreams of happiness.” The Bible makes it wonderfully clear that finding a spouse is a good thing (Gen 2:18-25; Prv 18:22, 19:14). But our culture today treats the love between man and woman not just as a good thing but as everything– the very linchpin on which true happiness rests. Marriage was never meant to bear this kind of awful load. God designed marriage as a penultimate parable that points to Jesus Christ as the ultimate savior and satisfier of our souls.
2) Cling to the people of God. Spend your time investing in the body of Christ by serving in your local church rather than anxiously waiting for Mr. or Mrs. right. Let your life be intimately intertwined with the bride of Christ. Be accountable to older, wiser, Naomi-like saints and give them full access to all your romantic undertakings.
3) Set your hope fully on God. Or, better yet, as the apostle Peter says it, “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:13). Let this one hope burn so brightly that everything else grows strangely dim by comparison. Singles, fix your eyes here. Look until you cannot look anymore…then keep on looking. Let that day–not your wedding day– dominate your dreams of joy and happiness.