INTRODUCTION: As a child, I loved to read fairy tales. Cinderella was my favorite. Recently a Christian sister mentioned to me something she’d thought about Cinderella, and immediately it got me to thinking.
I thought about the whole story, and in my mind’s eye I could see Cinderella at the ball dancing with the prince. I marveled at her petite glass slippers and the luxurious ball gown she wore. But, I also could see her before all the glitter. I saw the mistreated, poor, disheveled, girl as she went about her day, always with eyes geared toward the floor, performing the many demoralizing and outlandish tasks that were put upon her. I found myself to be most captivated by the new Cinderella; the one at the ball, the one who would soon be called a princess.
My mental vision, though, didn’t just stop with pictures of Cinderella. I saw another, probably much older than the girl Cinderella, in another situation. This girl also met a prince - no, not just a prince - she met the Prince, the LORD of the harvest! This is the one the Apostle John wrote about in chapter 4 of his book - the one we call “ the woman at the well.”
My thoughts going a mile a minute, I began to write. I tried to picture the young woman, some of the things she may have done or gone through to get to the definitive points in her life. So, having reread both the Biblical story and the fairytale “Cinderella,” I came up with my own character, “Cinnerella,” to be called Ella, “for short…….
The Scripture: John 4:16-18- - “Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband. Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ’I have no husband.’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” ………………………………..............
When a very young child, Ella’s mother read to her the story of “Cinderella.”. In fact, her mother loved the story so much that she named her daughter Cinnerella after the storybook character. Most of us know the whole story. We recoil at the antics of the wicked step mom and the stepsisters with big feet. The story gets even funnier when we read how the stepsisters cut their feet, slicing off pieces here and there, in an attempt to wear the slippers Cinderella wore to the ball, which she left while hurriedly trying to reach home before the appointed time the fairy godmother had given her………………………………..
When Ella was eighteen years old, her mother died suddenly, and unlike Cinderella, her father remarried. However, also, unlike the fairytale characters, Ella had no step sister or stepmother problems. She and her father’s new wife got along quite well.
One night Ella had a dream about her mother. She saw her standing at the foot of her bed. She’d had this same dream several times before, and always her mother would appear to be crying. This time, however, it was different. The dream still had her mother standing at the foot of her bed, only instead of crying, her mother was smiling.
Ella woke up, but for a long time, she lay in the bed thinking about her dream. Her thoughts began to wander - finally coming to rest on thoughts of Cinderella, in particular, her favorite part - how her fairy godmother used her magic wand to turn a pumpkin into a carriage and rats into coachmen.
In her thoughts about Cinderella, Ella tried to put herself in her place and imagined how she might have felt dancing in the great ballroom in all that splendor! and with a prince no less!
From there, memories from another story her mother had read to her invaded her mind - the Creation story from the Book of Genesis. Ella recalled the very words her mother had read, (Genesis 1:3) “And God said, let there be light.” Remembering this Scripture brought a smile to her face, as she mused - the fairy godmother used her wand and magical things happened - so the story goes. God spoke, “Let there be…,” and many things happened, which are true facts, beginning with the creation of the world.
Tears filled Ella’s eyes as she recalled all the happy times she’d had with her mother. Too, came the tears as she thought about some of the things she had done - things Ella she knew her mother would not be pleased with. On top of that, people she had known all of her life were looking at her in a different way and would have nothing to do with her. Thinking about this, Ella compared her situation, not the things she was doing, but the treatment by the townspeople, with that of Cinderella and her family. However, there was much difference in the two situations in that Cinnerella (Ella) was much the cause of her own predicament, while Cinderella had no control over her state.
Ella had made some bad choices, and as a result, many of the town people had taken on a spirit of condemnation toward her. In other words, she was being put down by the people of her community because of wrong things she was openly doing. But really, these wrong things were wrong things Ella did to herself. They were sins because God said they were sins. Ella had sinned against God, and it was only God who could cleanse her and make her a new person; thus, it was only God who should judge her. Our Bible plainly tells us, “Judge ye not lest ye be also judged. “But Ella, in a great sense of guilt, allowed their actions toward her to make her miserably unhappy.
Ella’s mother did not take her to church very often, but she continuously gave her Scriptures to memorize. One, in particular, was the Scripture found in the book of Matthew, which reads, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12) So Ella grew up believing that if she were kind and pleasant to people, she would be treated likewise. It never occurred to her that people would be unkind to her because of decisions she made, whether bad decisions or good decisions. Though we all know that this is not always the case; hence, the very people who had once been so kind and pleasant to her had now began to judge her, and had even nicknamed her, “Sinner-Ella…………….”
This particular day had not been a good one for Ella; the sun was hot, and she was tired. Slowly she made her way to one of the towns many Laundromats to wash her clothes.. Her thoughts were in a turmoil over past and present events in her life, and on top of this, there was Mark, pushing, pleading, wanting to get married. These two things were most prevalent in her mind as she walked right pass the Laundromat closest to her house, with head held high, in defiance of the women of the town, who always seemed to gather there just to whisper, gossip, and pass judgment on any and every one, as they saw fit.
One day Ella walked upon two of the women talking about her. She heard one of them say,
“Something needs to be done about that Ella. She gives a bad name to all women.”
“Yes,” said the other, “It’s a shame we can do nothing, while our husbands just stand gawking every time she passes.”
The women were so caught up in their gossip that Ella was upon them before they knew she was there. Ella didn’t say a word, but the women knew she’d heard them, and their faces burned red with embarrassment; so in order to avoid another such confrontation, she chose to walk the extra distance.
Ella lived in a little Texas town called Pueblo, population 1,546. A small mining town, Pueblo was situated off in a corner by itself - the nearest city being fifty miles away. She had lived in Pueblo all of her life, and it had never occurred to her to move away. This was home. She was born here, and more than likely, she would die here. She saw no reason to leave, reasoning that she’d never be rich no matter where she lived, so she might as well stay where she was - where she was known, in case she got sick or got in some kind of trouble. She knew the people. She also knew that the women would always gossip, but she believed, with all of her heart, that if she ever needed any of them, they would come running to her rescue.
Standing 5’7” in her stocking feet, Ella was a good-looking, shapely, woman. The men of the town loved looking at her, and more than one had ungentlemanly thoughts about her. Early in her life Ella had made herself a promise that she would be a virgin until the day she got married. Her mother constantly told her,
“ Don’t you go letting any man touch you unless you’re married to him.”
Ella had all intentions of keeping the promises she mate to her mothr; that is, until she met Denny. Denson Montana was a drifter, who’d come to Pueblo to work in the mines. His intention, he told Ella, was to stay long enough to make some money, and then he’d be on his way. Denson was a handsome man with jet-black hair and a dark, deeply tanned body. His piercing eyes, long eyelashes, and thick eyebrows, gave him a Latin look.
When Ella met Denson, she forgot her vows, threw caution, along with her mother’s admonitions, to the wind, and the promises she’d made to herself and to her mother all went out the window. Cupid, as the secular world puts it, shot his bow, and in less than two weeks, Ella and Denson became inseparable. The romance lasted two months and one day. Then, without a word, Denny, just like he’d drifted in, drifted out, bag and baggage. Ella was left alone to bear the burden of hurt, shame, and worse, the wagging tongues of the townspeople. This was not a good thing for Ella because she made her living working in some of the homes in the area.
Outwardly, she never let the slanderous gossip of the people get the best of her; but inwardly, she cringed whenever she would pass any one of them. Still, as far as they knew, she really didn’t care. If she came face to face with any of them, she would smile, speak pleasantly, and, with eyes focused straight ahead, go on about her business. Eventually, the talk died down. Then Larry Johnson came into town.
Larry was the extreme opposite of Denson. He was heavier - muscular, with sandy brown hair and green eyes. He was an average looking man - nothing special, but Ella found herself drawn to him. It only took about three weeks; Ella let her passions get the best of her, and moved in with him. The affair lasted exactly four months and three days. One night while Ella slept, Larry stole away in the night. She never saw or heard from him again.
This time the broken relationship wasn’t so easy for Ella to get over - this time she couldn’t fake it. Her heart was broken. The hurt cut deep into her soul. The townspeople could see the hurt in her eyes. This time there was no arrogance in her step; but, though the people saw her pain, still they didn’t let up on her. Gossip rang from one end of town to the other. It was after the Larry affair that the women she worked for told her they could no longer use her.
There was one particular incident that really affected Ella. Every year the town held their annual picnic - it was a big event for Pueblo. All year everyone looked forward to it and all pitched in to do their part to make it successful. Ella always participated by helping wherever she was needed. Not so, this time. Not only did the people, as gracefully as they could, refuse her help; but, on the day of the picnic, when Ella arrived, all of their hostility and rejection seemed to permeate the air. At one point she saw someone she particularly liked and proceeded to walk towards her. But, when the person looked up and saw her coming, she turned away and began walking in another direction.
This was just one instance. Ella tried not to let it bother her. A little while later Ella realized she was standing next to one of her mother’s good friends. She turned and said to her,
“Isn’t this a beautiful day for a picnic?”
The friend never answered her, but rather started a conversation with another person as if Ella had not said a word.
Even the children weren’t allowed to talk to her; One day, as she sat on her steps, a group of children passed by, saw her, and immediately they began to chant, “Hey Sinner-Ella, Hey Sinner-Ella,” with much emphasis on the “Sinner.” Over and over they sang it until she finally got up and went into the house.
The people didn’t seem to care that they might be hurting her - in fact, actually, they seemed oblivious to their very actions. Here was a young woman they had all watched grow from a child. And yet, judgment was causing them to treat her miserably. Perhaps they had never heard, or had forgotten what another verse written in Holy Word said about this very action. “For judgment is without mercy to he has shown no mercy.” (James 2:13)
Satan had blinded their eyes, and it was impossible for them to see, feel, or even think about what hurt the consequences of their actions might be causing for another human being. On top of this, it was impossible for them to even have a hint of the depth of shame Ella may be feeling because of the things she had done to herself and to her mother’s memory. But, lest the hurt and shame become unbearable - lest she might want to repent; lest she might want to change her ways, sin sent another her way.
Enters Roy Latham, who, after being in town for only a few weeks, meets Ella, and sinful passion flares again! At first Ella tried to hold back - afraid to become involved - afraid of being hurt again. Roy though, with persistence and kindness, soon won her over.
Still determined to be careful, Ella kept her guard up telling herself over and over again,
“If he decides to leave, then so be it; I’ll not be hurt again!”
But, this worldly love, this Eros, we humans so easily allow to ensnare and take us captive, has its own way of sneaking in. Before Ella knew what was happening, she was deeply involved again. Roy stayed with her for a year and six months; then, Roy too, disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.
Poor Ella! She just didn’t understand. She couldn’t see that as long as she kept doing what she was doing, she would always get what she was getting. And, it is a fact, the more we give into sin, the easier it becomes to sin. In comes Beasley. The episode with Beasley lasted exactly one month. Beasley Jacobs, just passing through, had stopped to visit relatives, saw Ella and stayed in Pueblo for two months. This short romance lasted almost as long as it took to get it started. It took a month to get it started and it lasted exactly one month.
There was nothing earth-shattering about their romance - it was purely physical. The day he left, unlike the others, Ella bid him goodbye and went on about her chores as if he’d never entered her life.
All of these things were going through Ella’s mind as she made her way to the facility. Now, there was Mark - a completely different story. Ella’s feelings for Mark were different than the others. She just knew she was in love this time. She wanted to be completely honest with Mark - she wanted to tell him all about herself, but for one reason or another, she just couldn’t get up the nerve.
Mark had come into town about five months after Beasley left. There had been no crashing symbols when the two met; in fact, Ella had almost decided she didn’t want to be bothered with anyone anymore, when one night, Mark knocked on her parent’s door and Ella happened to be there. He’d come seeking her father’s help with tearing down an old barn next to the bungalow he was renting. Ella answered the door. They talked a few minutes about nothing and Ella left. The next evening Mark made a trip to Ella’s little house, and the next day, and the next, and from this, a new romance bloomed.
Mark wasn’t like the other men who’d been a part of Ella’s life - those who had just used her and then left her. He really loved Ella and wanted to marry her, but Ella couldn’t seem to make up her mind and would never give him an answer. This morning he had given her an ultimatum. Ella thought about the conversation they’d had….
“Ella,” Mark said, “I love you and want to marry you. You may not care about what the people are saying about us, but I do - not for myself, but for you. You’ve got to make a decision!”
Ella just didn’t know what she was going to do. Her mind preoccupied with her past and Mark’s ultimatum, Ella didn’t see the man sitting in the Laundromat with his feet stretched out before him, and she almost tripped over them. He moved, and Ella was able to stop just in time. She put the basket of clothes down on the floor, opened the machine and began to load her clothes, when the man spoke.
“Excuse me maam, do you live around here,”
The man asked. To which Ella replied,
Yes, I live a few blocks from here, why do you ask?”
“Well, I’m a preacher, and tonight we begin our meetings under the large tent across the street. I was hoping that to see a lot of people that I could invite to come and join us.”
“What kind of meetings?”
“Church meetings,” the man answered. “Haven’t you ever been to church?”
“Yes, when I was a little girl, my mama used to take me to church, but that was a long time ago. I can’t remember what it was like. Of course Mama always told me about Jesus.”
“What did she tell you about Jesus?”
“Mama said the most important thing to remember about Jesus is that He loves me.” She even taught me a song called, “Yes, Jesus loves me.”
Your mama is right, but I hope you will come and learn more about Jesus.” The man said.
Ella took a look at the man. What she saw pleased her. It wasn’t his looks, though he was very good looking. It was his eyes - they were so peaceful looking. A person could almost drown themselves in his eyes, Ella thought to herself. Aloud she said, “Okay, I’ll come to your meeting.”
“I’ll be looking for you. Bring your husband and your parents, and tell all your friends.” The man replied.
Ella didn’t reply to this last statement. She didn’t know what to say. Anyway, by the time he got the last words out, she was on her way down the hill. She’d told Mark about the man at the Laundromat, and the meeting he’d told her about, but he declined to come with her. So, at six o’clock, Ella made her way into the big tent.
At first she was hesitant to go in and, for a moment, even thought about turning around and going back home, but the preacher saw her and walked over to where she stood. He caught her by the arm and escorted her to a seat about four rows from the front. Ella looked around and saw many of the townspeople. Some of them smiled - some nodded, but all made it a point to let her know, in some way, that they’d seen her.
It didn’t take long for the tent to fill up. People were lined up all around the walls and on outside the door. The preacher walked to the front and stood before the congregation.
“Good evening,” he said. “I’m Brother Lawrence, and I’ll be doing the preaching here this week. I hope, for whatever reason you’re here tonight, you’ll leave knowing one thing - that is, that you have a
Ella smiled to herself; she knew why she was there. The preacher, himself had invited her.
Brother Lawrence went on, “I want you to join in with me and sing an old hymn, one I’m sure you all know. If you don’t know it, then listen and catch the melody; then you’ll be able to sing the chorus. Okay, we’re going to sing, ‘I’ll Fly Away.” His strong baritone led them into singing the old classic. Ella didn’t know the song, so she listened….”Some glad morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away; to a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away. I’ll fly away, oh glory! I’ll fly away. When I die, hallelujah, by and by, I’ll fly away.” Over and over they sang, “I’ll fly away oh glory….....................”
No sooner had they finished singing this song than someone began another. The words to this song touched Ella - they touched her very heart. “I once was lost in sin; then, Jesus took me in, and then a little light from heaven filled my soul. It filled my heart with love, and wrote my name above, and just a little talk with Jesus made me whole.” One man sang alone, “Let us have a little talk with Jesus; let us tell Him all about our troubles; He will hear our faintest cry, and He will answer by and by. When we feel a little prayer wheel turning; we’ll know a little fire is burning - and just a little talk with Jesus makes it right…..”
The preacher again took his stand in front of the congregation, behind the makeshift podium, and began his sermon. Ella was all keyed up from singing. Now everything was quiet. She looked around and saw every face focused attentively, expectantly, on the preacher. As he began to speak, the people sat quietly, as if mesmerized, feeding on his every word.
For some reason, Ella began to feel a little uncomfortable. She wanted to leave, but she didn’t want to just get up and walk out and draw attention to herself. She just couldn’t seem to get into what he was talking about. She forced herself to listen, and then, suddenly, bingo! A light went on in her head and she began to hear! The more she heard, the more she wanted to hear. What had got her attention was the words, “whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16c-d).
All around, Ella heard the people talking back to the preacher saying, “Amen!” “Yes sir!” “Preach Brother!” He had her attention too! Then the preacher read, “There hath no temptation taken you but such is common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13a). “This means,” he continued, “that any and everything you have ever done, someone else has also done the same thing.” To support his statement, he read another Scripture,. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Roman 3:23). “But,” the preacher went on, “there is help! From 1 John 1:9a he read, “If you confess,” that means to admit, “your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you.”
Ella was all ears. “Oh hear Him, Listen to Him,” the preacher urged. “Let Him come into your hearts. Let Him save you. Confess! Tell Him what He already knows! Repent! Let Him know you’re sorry for the things you’ve done. Tell Him you don’t want to do those things anymore.”
Ella hung on his every word. Then, in his final minutes, he called to those, who, he said, were lost. “Come, before it’s too late,” plead the preacher. “All you have to do is confess. His Word tells us in 1 John 1:9, “If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. “Come,” he begged with outstretched arms - come while you still have time.” Someone began to sing another song, a song everyone seemed to know. Ella knew the song too; her mother had taught it to her, and she sang loud with the congregation. “Just as I am, without one plea; but, that Thy blood was shed for me……” Many people stood and made their way down front to stand with the preacher. For a second Ella thought about going too, but quickly she pushed the thought from her mind.
Her heart soared as she left the tent, and Ella could hardly wait to get home and tell Mark about this wonderful meeting! She didn’t understand why or what had happened to her, but whatever it was, she knew she’d be back for more.
Mark was asleep. This time Ella didn’t crawl into bed beside him. Instead, she made herself a pallet on the floor in front of the window. For a long time she just lay there looking out at the stars. Tonight there were no troubling thoughts - tonight, a kind of peace had settled over her. After a while Ella fell asleep.
For Ella, the next day’s meeting couldn’t come soon enough; but, she managed to keep herself busy so time would pass quickly, and still, it seemed to take forever! When it was finally time to go, without a word to Mark, she left, on her way to the big tent in the field. For some reason, Ella felt the meeting tonight had a special message for her. Whereas, the night before, she wanted to sing all night, tonight, she could hardly wait for the preacher to begin his sermon.
Taking his postion, the preacher said, “Tonight, we’re going to study from the Book of John in the fourth chapter. We’re going to talk about “The Woman at the Well.” Ella smiled. She gave her full attention as he told the story - how Jesus got tired going through Samaria - how He had stopped to rest at the well, then the woman came along to get water, and Jesus asked her for a drink…..”
When he got to the part about the “living water,” he looked straight at her. She wished she had a Bible. The nearest person with a Bible was too far away for her to be able to read the page. Ella repeated the words, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, give me a drink, you would have asked of Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
The preacher read on, “Whosoever drinks this water (earthly water) shall thirst again; but whosoever drinks the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman said unto Him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come here to draw. Jesus said unto her, go, call thy husband and come here. The woman answered, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, you have said well, I have no husband, for you have had five husbands; and he whom you now have is not your husband; in this you have spoken the truth.” (John 4:13-18)
Ella’s face burned red. She just knew all eyes were on her! But, she was wrong - all eyes were on the preacher, and the preacher’s eyes were on her. A slight smile formed at the corners of her mouth as she fastened her eyes on him. He returned her smile, and from that moment on, Ella heard nothing else. The message was clear. Yes, this sermon had been for her.
Ella couldn’t wait to get home and tell Mark. She left the tent before the congregation had finished the last song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” She left running; she had to get home - to tell Mark what had happened. She rushed to tell him about what she had learned - how the story of the woman at the well was almost identical to her very own life story. She rushed to tell him how God must have sent her to this meeting so she could see the wrongs she’d done and was still doing - and she rushed to tell him yes, she would marry him. That night Ella’s life changed - that night Ella experienced the new birth - that night Ella Met Her Savior! No more “Sinner-Ella!” Tonight she also got a name change - she would now be called “Christian.”
The next night Mark went to the meeting with Ella. The sermon was, “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not to your own understanding,” (Proverbs 3:4). The preacher closed his message with the Scriptures, “And now we know that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord,” (Romans 8:28) and “Seek ye first the kingdom and its righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you, (Matthew 6:33). When the preacher gave the altar call, both Ella and Mark went forward. Together they joined the family of God.
The parting hymn was “In Times Like These,” and walking home, the two new converts sang the chorus of the song over and over…”Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds and grips a solid rock…”
That night Ella and Mark decided they could no longer live together - that is, until they were married. The meetings were scheduled for only two more nights - they planned to be there both nights. The last night the preacher read Jesus’ words, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Ella didn’t know Mark had an old, worn, Bible in the bottom of his trunk. He pulled it out and gave it to her. Immediately she searched until she found the story of “The Woman At The Well.” Aloud she read the entire story to Mark - finishing, with tears in her eyes, with the words of the story, “Come, see a man who told me all things I ever did.”
There was a new life ahead for her Ella - a life with Jesus. Ella wanted this life with all her heart, and she knew that in order to have it, she must do as the preacher had read, “Trust in the Lord with all her heart, and lean not to her own understanding” (Proverbs 3:4).
Needless to say, after a while, noticing the change in Ella, some of the townspeople began to have repentant hearts. “Perhaps,” they may have said, “We were wrong.” “Maybe we just might owe her an apology.” But, though their hearts may have prompted, they never apologized. It didn’t matter though, Ella’s life was now in the hands of the Lord. She didn’t have to be what the people thought her to be, and with the help of Jesus living on the inside of her, in the form of the Holy Spirit, she would prove it.
As I come to the end of Ella’s story, I can see in my mind‘s eye, Cinderella at the ball dancing with the prince. I can see the elaborateness and splendor of her surroundings, and here again, I can only imagine how she must have felt. All the mistreatment, all the snobbery, all the hurt, and yet, here she was, dancing with the prince! One day she would wear an earthly crown. But, there is an even greater crown for Ella. There is a crown of glory, and not only for Ella, but for all who love Him…………
As the fairytale ends, we see Cinderella and the prince together. Cinderella would marry the prince and become a princess. Cinnerella (Ella) accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior and became a child of God. The fairytale always ends “and they lived happily ever after.” The Christian is promised to live forever happily.
In her search for fulfillment, Ella had sought the wrong way. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way…..” The Holy Bible has a story for every one of us. Here we find words that will both encourage and convict. Open it, find your story - perhaps you’re hungry - if so, then your story is in the Book of John also. Open it, find chapter 6, verse 35, and read about the “Bread of Life.” Yes, He’s that too!