Dear Cinderella Mamas

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Lately I’ve been feeling somewhat like Cinderella. I find myself dreaming of a far-off land. A land where I’m doted on and admired, esteemed among women, and clothed in the latest fashion — which fits me perfectly thanks to my perfect body. In this kingdom, my husband is dashing after me as the clock strikes midnight.

I catch myself dreaming of this kingdom more vividly when the laundry pile rises, and my kids are whinier than the day before. As I continue to dream, admiring my husband begins to feel forced, and admonishing my kids starts to take more effort; order, discipline, and accountability become daunting.

As I search for a reason I feel this way, C.S. Lewis chimes in at the back of my head: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world” (Mere Christianity, 136–37). And then some poor theology kicks in, and I entertain the thought: If nothing in my home satisfies me, I must be made for being outside of it — right?

Cinderella Thinking

Our Cinderella complex tells us that we are enslaved to our homes and chores. We assume that if we are restless, then God must be directing us to do something big, fresh, different. We don’t feel satisfied with what we’re doing, so that must mean God is on the move. And that must mean we should move too.

I hear this as the litmus test for many in my generation. But I don’t see it in the Bible. Instead, Scripture shows me a different reason for my restlessness. I may not be restless because God is calling me to something big, but because creation itself is in a state of restlessness as it waits for Christ’s return:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8:22–24)

If you’re feeling restless like me, could this inward groaning be the root? Perhaps all our yearnings for a Cinderella world are distortions of a yearning for our fully realized salvation: a real kingdom, with a real prince, with a real perfect love that we clearly see and feel. Maybe our fantasy world is not so crazy after all — just misguided.

Set Your Expectations

When Lewis reminds us that nothing in this world will satisfy us, is his conclusion that Christians should make an attempt to escape this life? No. His point is that God is stirring our hearts for true intimacy with him, a desire that is unquenchable in our broken world. Heaven — true oneness with God through Christ — is the only place that will fulfill our yearnings. Lewis is actually freeing us to enjoy this life more by setting our expectations of it rightly.

If you are at home, and serving your husband and your children doesn’t fulfill you, perhaps it’s because you’re expecting them to fulfill the insatiable yearning that will only be satisfied in heaven. If that’s the case, then nothing will be enough, regardless of whether you are at home with a supportive and affirming husband, or in the workplace receiving accolades. You’ll be discontent with your children, no matter how obedient they are. You’ll be discontent with your business growth, no matter how booming it is. If your fulfillment source is misplaced, you’ll be discontent either way. And this place of discontentment will tempt you to make reactive, self-centered decisions.

I see a very clear trend in my own life: When my intimacy with God feels dry and mundane, my daydream world increases. When my experience in the word and prayer is active and rich, my contentment with the real life before me increases. Why? Because I am satisfied. I am satisfied not by what I am doing or where I am, but by who I am in Jesus.

The Unexpected Call

Countless examples in the Bible show us that delighting in Jesus while doing the routine equips us for his call to do something different. When God calls his people in Scripture, most of them aren’t itching for a mission; they’re simply living their normal life with faithfulness.

David was faithfully shepherding when God called him to shepherd Israel (1 Samuel 16:11–13). Daniel was faithfully devoted to God in captivity when God called him to interpret the king’s dreams (Daniel 2:1–16). Ruth was faithfully gleaning in the fields when God called her into the line of the Messiah (Ruth 2:17–21). Zechariah was faithfully serving in the sanctuary when God called him to father John the Baptist (Luke 1:5–23).

It’s in the faithful routine — while we parent, pray for our husbands, make meals, or clean the house — when God will call us to do crazy, unconventional, nontraditional things. But the latter is not greater than the former. In fact, faithfully fulfilling our routine makes us candidates for the crazy and unconventional.

Free to Listen

When we lean in to hear God from a place of contentment, we are free to hear him say, “Stay. Be. Slow down.” And we are free to hear him say, “Go. Move. Do.” He may call you, in addition to the precious and weighty responsibilities of raising children, to pursue a business endeavor or help with a community development initiative. He may call you to a church leadership position. He may call you to homeschool your children. But let the call be from him, not from a desire to fulfill wanderlust or craft a public persona of yourself.

Let us only do whatever we do “to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Let us be found faithful, making much of his kingdom — not dreaming of our own.