The idea for Ashes was born out of the desire to place the focus on qualities other than physical beauty. When Samuel was looking for the next king of Israel in 1 Samuel 16, God reminded him that, “the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (verse 7b, ESV). Despite this reminder, it can still be easy to be swept away in the mad rush to be physically appealing to others. We want to be nice to look at. And I think that a lot of women have, at least at one point, wanted to be the beautiful princess, the most stunning one at the ball. That’s what we usually see in the story of Cinderella. This fairy tale often has some connections to the idea of kindness, but that can be overshadowed by the idea of being pretty. After all, the prince does notice Cinderella at the ball primarily because of her appearance. So what happens when you strip that piece away? Where does the Cinderella story go when Cinderella herself is not actually all that pretty by the world’s standards?
As it turns out, it goes in some very… let’s say, untraditional directions. And the entire ball situation becomes significantly less important. But, that’s not really the point here. The point is that taking our focus off of Cinderella’s beauty and ability to outshine her stepsisters opens the door to a more passionate and deliberate illustration of kindness. Throughout Ashes, Ember establishes herself as, perhaps more than anything else, a kind character. Kindness is her goal, and it’s what drives most of her actions.
Here’s where the refined definition of kindness comes in… Ember is not just kind to those who are kind to her. In fact, her entire journey is driven by showing kindness to the people who have hurt her the most. Ember’s stepsisters have caused her pain throughout her entire life, and yet when they are in trouble, she steps up to help save them. And so Ember is established as a character distinguished by great kindness, but without the appeal of great beauty.
I won’t claim to be original with this idea. It’s a concept that has been around for a while… almost, you could say, for eternity. Isaiah 53:2-5 tells us, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not… But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” (ESV) This is one of the Old Testament passages that refer to Jesus and His sacrifice to forgive our sins, and in it is the clear point that there was nothing about Jesus’ physical appearance to draw us to Him. And yet, we are still drawn in. Christ’s love, kindness, and sacrifice are the focus. We are healed and saved through these things, not through something as superficial as outward beauty.
I think it’s important to note here that God has known every moment before the beginning of time. He is infinite and His plan is perfect. The time Jesus spent on Earth, culminating in the sacrifice that this passage talks about, was not a last minute addition to the story of everything. This was planned and intentional. God could have orchestrated something flashy and beautiful. He could have sent someone eye-catching. But He didn’t. Everything about Jesus was focused on the heart, rather than the outward appearance, from His humble arrival in a stable to His undeserved death on a cross.
This paints a picture of what is truly important. More than beauty, it is sacrificial kindness, of which Jesus is the best example. The picture of kindness is uttering, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” even as He hung on the cross at the hands of the very same people He prayed for (Luke 23:34, ESV). The picture of kindness is the Savior of the world kneeling to wash the feet of His disciples, giving us the perfect picture of a servant’s heart (John 13). The picture of kindness is recognizing that it is a kind heart that is important, more than any physical beauty.
In Ember, it is my hope to draw attention to this kind of kindness. To reinforce that showing kindness even to those who hurt you is far more important than catching anyone’s eye because you happen to have a pretty face. Ember’s character continues the illustration of kindness. Her character is one in which the special characteristic is “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:4, ESV) Because why choose the temporary dazzle of a ball when you can have the eternal reward of pursuing and emulating God’s kindness?
What to Expect
This particular page is dedicated to connecting my stories with their inspiration in God's Word. One of the goals of my writing is that it would illustrate God's goodness, love, and truth. These posts are designed to make those illustrations just a little more clear.