“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:5
My dress for my daughter’s wedding arrived. The romantic blue floral with long sleeves and tassels at the cuffs felt perfect for my daughter’s upcoming whimsical outdoor wedding in June. I rushed upstairs to try it on, having already worked through that the sizing of the dress made me feel like a failure. This company, after taking my measurements, had me ordering a size dress that I hadn’t been in for two years. These little insignificant numbers seemed branded on the front of dress, like a scarlet letter. I rushed upstairs and as soon as I took the dress out of the package, I had a sinking feeling. The dress lay on my bed, cut in ways that seemed disproportionate and unnatural for most women. I reluctantly tried it on, unable to button it in certain areas while other areas it hung on me oddly. Moments of my wedding dress fiasco flashed through my mind, making me feel “less than” once again.
Twenty-five years ago, we decided to have a much smaller wedding than originally planned by getting married in three weeks. Although we moved up the wedding, I still got married in the church I had always planned surrounded by people who loved us. My mom threw us a small wedding reception, with the traditional cake. Although everything else seemed to be working out, finding a wedding dress had been a challenge. A dear elderly saint offered to make my wedding dress in three weeks. I was looking for a romantic style with flowy sleeves and soft lines. When we shopped for the fabric and pattern, she led me to pick out a formal dress with more ruffles than I thought would flatter me. She also picked out a fabric that she thought was dressier. Again, I acquiesced to her request. In a final fitting, two and half weeks later, the wedding dress of my dreams was a bad mixture of clown ruffles in front, a skirt that folded in like baggy shorts, and linebacker shoulder pads with too-tight sleeves. She recognized that it needed a few changes and offered to do the final alterations. I agreed, fighting back the tears, knowing deep down that no alterations would make me feel beautiful.
When I picked up the dress, I was adamant with Terry about breaking tradition and begged him to give me his honest opinion. So, we went back to my apartment, and I tried on the dress. When I came out of the bedroom, his eyes were wide and his mouth dropped open, not with pleasure, but in disbelief. He had no words, and I threw myself down on my bed crying, threatening to call off the wedding or walk down in jean skirt. After calming down, we went out to look for a replacement and found something in the second store that was close to what I had envisioned.
Yes, my final dress was pretty, and when I walked down the aisle, Terry beamed with absolute joy. Yes, everyone I loved said I looked beautiful, but years of being overweight and the wedding dress fiasco reaffirmed internal messages I felt about myself. These messages of feeling less than, clownish, and like a linebacker taking up too much space in the universe robbed me of the joy I should have felt on my wedding day. For years, when looking back on my wedding pictures I have focused on Terry’s smile, my hair and avoided my body, still feeling less than. I have put on a brave face and laughed about my wedding dress story, trying to believe the words I told others, “In the second store, I found the perfect dress.”, knowing deep inside, it always felt less than perfect.
And once again, I have an important event where I am feeling less than. I am not writing this to receive a lot of comments about how far I have come or that I am beautiful. I know the truth of what everyone is saying, and it’s the same wisdom I would offer a friend. I know I need to show myself some grace. I know that I have taken some steps to address the weight gain, which I will share in later post. And I have had a tough year, with some hard losses. I know that in times of crisis, its common to revert to old habits of coping. And at different points in the last few months, food has been a source of comfort for me, especially the pistachio lattes someone in my family has been generous to buy for me.
I have all the head knowledge and know the right things to do and speak. But it doesn’t stop the internal messages from blaring in my ears; the feeling that in my daughter’s wedding, my dress will emphasize all that I have believed is wrong with me. It will shout out my lack of grace and femininity while emphasizing the twenty pounds I have gained, the hanging skin on my arms, and the large space I believe I take up.
But this blaring voice is not the voice of God. Yes, God wants us to submit all areas of our lives to him, including how I use food as a comfort instead of relying on him. But God doesn’t look at how much space I took up when I was 361 pounds or how much space I take up 150 pounds less. He doesn’t look at the size on the dress tag, or the numbers on the scale. He doesn’t look on my outward appearance. He sees a woman who has internalized the messages of the world and allowed them to have more influence on her heart than His truth. He sees a woman who is forgetting what her wedding and her daughter’s wedding day are about.
My wedding day had nothing to do with my dress, Terry’s smile, or even the cake. It was about entering into a covenant relationship with God and my husband. When I make it about me, I lose sight of what is important. Maggie’s wedding is not about how I fit into a dress. It’s about celebrating with family and friends the covenant relationship she is entering into with Will and God.
And what is the truth? The truth is that God wants me to know that I am fully known and accepted, saggy skin and all. He desires for me to draw closer to Him, to become more confident in how He sees me. At times when I feel less than or, in some cases, too much, He wants me to know that I am just enough for Him. Yes, I need to grow and become more Christlike, not because I need to measure up to an ambiguous, ever-changing standard, but because I see His goodness and want to be more like Him.
I am waiting for dress five to arrive later this week. Both Maggie and I love the dress and feel confident that it will work. Regardless, I am reminding myself who I am in God and what Maggie’s wedding is about. It is going to be about me standing next to my husband, surrounded by family and friends who are traveling from afar, to share this moment with us, as my daughter enters a covenant relationship with God. And no matter the space I take up, God is with me, filling me with His peace and assurance that I am enough!