For the most part, this latest adaptation of the Disney classic followed the traditional story line. An orphan girl left to live with her spoiled stepsisters and embittered stepmother. A courageous prince. Friendly mice. A fairy Godmother.
As with many of Disney’s modern adaptations, the creators of Cinderella tried to help us see how the wicked stepmother could become so cruel. Tragedy had traumatized her. She was bitter and afraid. In the end, though, no amount of trauma could excuse her selfishness and cruelty.
The most poignant moment in the movie came at the end, as Cinderella said good-bye to her wicked stepmother. Her scheming had been discovered; her dark heart exposed for all to see.
As Cinderella and her prince turned to leave, Cinderella looked up at her former taskmaster and quietly whispered the most powerful words in the English language.
“I forgive you.”
A dramatic silence followed as those potent words echoed in our ears. But how could anybody be so merciful? Words cannot describe the pain, hurt and shame the stepmother had caused Cinderella. This had to be a fairy tale because no one in the real world could be so gracious and forgiving.
I truly believe forgiving is the most difficult thing our God asks us to do. Your husband of twenty years cheated on you. Your best friend lied to you. Your child disappointed you. Your parent abused you. How can you forgive? How can you let go of all the hurt and anger?
As the soldiers tied his hands to the posts, as they raised the hammer and drove the nails deep into his flesh, pinning him to the wood, as his enemies watched in morbid pleasure, Jesus spoke a word of forgiveness. “Father, forgive them.”
Yet this was no fairy tale. God himself was paying the price of their wickedness. God’s forgiveness isn’t that he simply let’s go of the pain. It isn’t that he somehow forgets or doesn’t care about our sins. God’s forgives you because Jesus suffered your punishment as your substitute. God isn’t going to punish you because he punished Jesus in your place. God turned his anger for your sins onto Jesus.
Every day, even now that you believe in him and love him, you do terrible things to your God. You cause him pain and hurt and shame with your lies, your gossip, your anger, your laziness and your pride. Yet every day he speaks those powerful words, “I forgive you.”
If God can forgive you the millions of sins you have committed against him – if he has let go of his anger forever because of Jesus – you can forgive your wicked stepmother or your cheating husband or your lying friend. Forgiveness isn’t saying it’s okay what they did. Forgiveness is saying, “You hurt me, but I will let go of the anger – I will forgive you – because God has forgiven me.”
It’s hard to do, but it’s not impossible. With God’s help and by his grace, you too can say and mean those powerful words: “I forgive you.”
Forgiveness isn’t just for fairy tales.