Recently I watched Amazon Prime’s reimagining of the Cinderella story and found myself encouraged that some of the old stories of a woman’s place and role continue to be rewritten. In this version of the story, Cinderella is an ambitious young woman whose dreams are bigger than the world will allow. The film smashes a number of gender stereotypes: Missy Elliot is the bold town crier and the Prince’s sister has a greater aspiration for kingdom leadership than her brother, an aspiration she eventually fulfils with strength, good initiative and leadership.

But the biggest reset of the traditional story is Cinderella’s passion to lift herself out of slavery by becoming a successful businesswoman. She attends the Ball to sell her dresses, not to meet her Prince Charming. When love comes looking for her in the form of the Prince, with all the typical fairytale ingredients, she remains committed to her leadership aspirations and dreams. Cinderella refuses to be put in a box, and whilst she and the Prince do fall in love, she retains her unique sense of identity and purpose. The couple help each other on, working together and loving each other well – which is exactly how it should be.

It’s encouraging to see, in both the worlds of fact and fiction, increasing numbers of stories of women discovering and developing their influence and impact in the world. The Bible has always shown plenty of women who led by example, braving the way.

  • Deborah stepped up as judge and prophet of Israel
  • Huldah spoke prophetically to wayward Israel, bringing them back to God
  • Esther risked her life to rescue God’s people from genocide
  • The Samaritan woman was the first person Jesus told He was the Christ, and she brought her whole village to Him
  • Mary Magdalene became the first evangelist preaching the good news of Christ’s resurrection
  • Phoebe led, served and gave financially to support the early Church
  • Junia embraced her call to apostolic leadership

All of these women, and so many more, rejected the prevailing, oppressive cultural narrative and said ‘Yes’ to heaven’s leadership invitation, modelling a better story.

One caution and failing with the revised Cinderella story is her commitment to remain the centre of her universe. That’s not surprising, it’s a movie, after all, but followers of Jesus know it’s vital that we daily surrender our choices, aspirations and desires to the One who loves us more than we can imagine, and has the best plans for us. Our primary goal in life is not to become a leadership success story. Our primary goal is to become like Christ.

So what might this mean for you today? Here are some thoughts to prayerfully chew over in the coming month.

  • Are there lies about my life and leadership that have become lids? It’s important to shake them off and believe God’s liberating truth. What will it look like to break more of the glass ceiling – and the glass slipper!
  • How can I ensure I continue to grow in my leadership impact and influence, to be an example, encouragement and inspiration to the people who follow me?
  • How can I be a person of grace and truth while I challenge cultural clumsiness, microaggressions, and any overt oppression that attempts to keep a lid on women leading?

May God help us to continue to be brave and bold and kind, partnering with God to put wrong things right and playing our own unique leadership role in His unfolding story.