Good Princess, Bad Princess, and Our Status as Daughters of the King

As we've walked through some of the famous Old Testament stories in our summer sermon series at Cornerstone, I am struck by the power of story to help us better understand God and ourselves. And the more time I spend reading and re-reading these familiar stories, the more I realize details that I previously missed. Like streaming a documentary about the decade when you grew up, you realize that so much more was happening in the world than what you observed at the time.

But all this talk about nations and war and kings and pharaohs can also seem a little disconnected. Because our power structures in the Western world today look so different, there are times when it takes a little digging to help us understand the context of these stories and how those themes apply to our life.

This is especially true for a women’s Bible study thematic favorite—the princess narrative. If you have spent much time reading Christian writing for women, you have probably come across this metaphor. Because we are called children of God, and because God, our Father, is King over all, this makes us real-life princesses. Dream come true, right?

Now, not every feminine analogy appeals to every female. As much as we have in common with others of the fairer sex, the experience of being a woman is replete with diversity—differences that God calls good. When not muddled with sin, variety among our experience allows us to showcase different aspects of God’s character to the world around us.

For some, that means the princess narrative is empowering, encouraging, inspiring, and more. For others, it elicits an eyeroll. I’m not here to admonish wherever you may land on that spectrum, but I do think there’s room to consider our reactions and ask for a deeper, “Why?”

The real question is, what do we do with this regal imagery? Do we envision ourselves as Esther, risking life and reputation for the sake of our people? Are we Joan of Arc, leading armies, or Princess Diana, influencing culture? Or maybe we think of Ariel, Jasmine, Moana, or any of their compatriots, striking away from the status quo and confines of our parents to seek our own way.

As one who is known to cry my big feelings at the end of a Disney flick, please don’t misunderstand this as a judgment against any of these stories. Using wisdom and discernment, Christians have the opportunity to compare our favorite narratives with many important Biblical themes and ideas. What does real love look like? What does it mean to follow the Holy Spirit? What constitutes victory or triumph? Story opens the door for a discussion about truth.

But specifically when it comes to how we view our identity as women, we must take caution to understand the difference between our modern notions of princess life and the metaphor of rulership that runs throughout the Biblical narrative.

When God commands Adam and Eve to “fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over...every living thing that moves on the earth,” this is a kind of coronation (Genesis 1:28). We are to be stewards on earth, representing His kingdom in a similar way that members of a royal family represent the crown. This analogy gives us a conceptual framework for how we relate to God and to the world around us, but just like all biblical analogies, its application must fall under a biblical worldview. Meaning, not every princess stereotype applies to us.

Our God-built family is remarkably different from the royals we are used to seeing in history, fantasy, and even modern day. We have a different inception and a distinct purpose. This isn’t a family that you must be lucky enough to be born into. There is no “good bloodline” or outcast race. The God King of the Bible welcomes anyone who will submit to his rule. This also means that unlike any rulers of antiquity or our cultural imagination, we can trust the laws and guidance of our Father.

As representatives of God’s Kingship, we align our mission and values with what He calls good. When God establishes rulers, he intends for them to rule the way that He does: full of justice, compassion, mercy, and steadfast love. We see some examples of this through the stories in our Bible—good rulers and bad rulers who we want to emulate or avoid—but just as we’ve considered in the sermon series, each of these examples is more than a morality play. God’s story is designed to show us glimpses of Him. Where we see admirable rulership, we see into a mirror dimly. But one day we will see our King face to face.

Our image of princess life should be shaped by this King and will include at least two facets: training and action. First, we must train. We cannot represent God’s kingdom on earth if we are unfamiliar with who He is and how He rules. This means reading about God as He has revealed Himself in scripture, both in individual character traits as well as systems and structures. After all, we must understand the law of His land to uphold it. What does God value? How does He prioritize his time? What kind of work is good? What kind of rest is actually laziness? Then, we pay close attention to how He engages His people so that we might emulate His behavior. In scripture, we observe His gracious patience and fierce justice, His eye for the least of these and compassion on repentant sinners. We model the greater love of our Teacher, who lays down His life for His friends. We observe. We copy. Like students of a holy finishing school, we hope to debut looking like Jesus.

Meanwhile, the battle is already underway. So as much as we might like to focus on refining, we are also called to act. Ruling well means considering what’s best for those under our care and often making difficult decisions that impact others. If we really view ourselves as stewards for the kingdom, that means considering carefully those scenarios where we have authority, influence, or privilege and acting not in self-interest, but for the best of our community. This might look like boardroom decisions and political policy, parenting choices or managerial styles,  but most often, our action is required on a much smaller scale. We consider the needs of a neighbor, respond graciously to an unfair accusation, choose kind words instead of adding to the internet fervor. We act with kingdom strategy in those small moments where impact seems nominal, but proves monumental over time.

Yes, our identity is regal. It is infused with purpose and upheld by the Ruler of all rulers. So the next time you are invited to ponder what it means to be a daughter of the King, I hope your mind jumps not to jewels and dresses but edicts and difficult decisions and opportunities to showcase the kind of royal family that defies all expectations.
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