This Is Who I Am
Ella has just been discovered in the attic of her father’s house, where the woman who inspired the term wicked step-mother had her locked up.
She looks in the mirror at her dirty reflection and smooths her once-pretty dress. The narrator describes the rare kind of courage it takes to let ourselves be seen for who we really are. If Ella is going to seize the opportunity to try on the glass slipper, she has no choice but to walk into the drawing room as her messy, unimportant self.
This moment meant standing up to her step-mother, even as the woman snarled into her ear, “Remember who you are, you little wretch.” (Shivers. Why does that voice sound familiar?)
It meant deciding she would no longer be bullied and belittled.
It meant being brave even after learning that “have courage and be kind” wasn’t nearly as simple as her mother made it sound on her deathbed.
It meant knowing that the wonderful man she fell in love with might reject her.
At first I found it strange to hear her introduce herself to the king, not as Ella, but as Cinderella—the name her step-family called her just to be mean. Then I caught the strength in her voice, like that communicated, “I’m done pretending. The truth is I’ve been wearing the same dress for months, my hair is gross, and I smell like fireplace soot. I had to sneak to the ball, and the gown and slippers you saw me in that night weren’t even mine.” She lists all the things she doesn’t have to offer—a family, money, a title, confidence that the slipper will fit now that the magic has worn off. “But if you’ll take me as I am . . .”
Talk about brave!
You probably don’t need to have seen this particular film to know Ella’s courage paid off.
You might be expecting me to go into a devotional application about what this scene says about how we approach God, and it does remind me of that. But that isn’t what came to mind first.
I thought about what it says about those moments when we finally get the courage to do this with people—to stop pretending and let ourselves be known as our imperfect selves. I faced this challenge while starting life over again. Suddenly I was no longer the woman known for her singing and writing abilities, and I’d left my closest friends behind. If I had walked into my new church, for example, and given an Ella-inspired speech, it would have gone something like this:
“I’m divorced, bankrupt, and I live with my parents. I don’t even earn a steady income. I am a bottomless pit of fear, insecurity, and neediness right now. I have no idea where I fit in, only what I used to be considered good at. But if you’ll take me as I am . . .”
And they did.
In the past three years I’ve had to practice this kind of courage again and again, often while beating back my own inner wicked step-mother.
I’m so glad I decided to do the hard things anyway even while quaking in my clearance-priced boots.
It is scary to stop hiding behind whatever made us feel good about ourselves in the past and risk being accepted (or not) for who we are. “Hard” doesn’t even describe how it feels to walk into a room as no one special, wondering if we’ll ever have anything to offer again. If we are walking in with a load of baggage, scary is taken to a whole new level. But like Ella, I discovered that it pays off.
- It’s freeing! I learned how good it felt to let people get to know me before they learned what I could do, and that sharing the truth takes less effort than coming up with lame answers and expecting to get through a major transition without shedding a tear in public. I discovered that I had more to contribute than my talents.
- We attract nice people. Kind, mature people will accept us as we are, love us even when we’re a mess, and recognize our strengths. For a while it surprised me that I had so many nice friends, then God helped me understand that these were friends who met me at my least impressive and still let me hang out with them.
- “Remember who you are” takes on a new meaning. Once I caught myself slouching during a Palm Sunday service out of my typical insecurity, until I almost literally heard a voice say, Sit up. You belong to Me! The power of that statement wore off eventually, unfortunately, but lately God has been sending reminders that it might be time to write it on a note card. Or invest in a neon sign: Remember who you are!
When have you needed courage to let yourself be known for nothing more than who you are as a person? What would your Ella-like speech have said, or say now? What has God taught you about what it means to “Remember who you are”?
A friend gave me this verse in a Christmas note. Maybe you need it today too.
For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)