The dress wouldn’t zip. It didn’t matter what I did. It was the bridesmaid dress for my sister's wedding, and I had to be in it, standing by my sister's side in front of 200 guests within 72 hours.
Sweaty and stuck, I willed the panic away and called my mom for a game plan. We decided I’d head to her house, where she and my grandmother could help me get into the dress. Maybe I just needed another set of hands to get the zipper going. If we couldn’t make it work, Mom said, we’d create a gusset ourselves with extra fabric or find a seamstress.
I touched base with a few friends on the way to Mom’s house, joking that I was willing to go Middle Ages on this problem and remove a rib if necessary. I told Adelaide, “Pray for Mommy’s dress,” and she did. “Dear God, help Mommy’s dress. Amen.”
Unfortunately, even with Mom and Grammy (two legitimate tennis powerhouses) wielding all their strength, the dress wouldn’t zip. I googled “rib removal” and “Kardashian shape wear,” joked about juice cleanses and duct tape, and we drove to the one alterations lady that could squeeze us in. On the way, Mom and I were laughing and talking lightheartedly, but on the inside, I was giving my soul a pep talk:
“At this appointment, Caroline, you will likely feel like an inconvenience. You will have a lump in your throat because the dress won’t fit, and you’ll worry it’s your body’s fault. You’ll remember how much Mom has to do this week, how much unexpected work you are putting on the seamstress, how much money you’ll have to pay, and you’ll feel like a fool. You will worry you’re adding unnecessary stress to your sister, that you’ll look like an idiot on her wedding day. Shame will come in swinging and tell you that you’re unworthy and silly and inconvenient.
But Caroline -- you are not those things. You are worthwhile. You are a good sister. Your mom loves you and is in your corner. You look pretty in this color. This dress doesn’t have the power to change any of that. The only one who gets to tell you who you are is God Himself, and He declared that because of Jesus, you don’t have to live under shame. Who are YOU to choose to live under what God has already conquered? Don’t undermine His gift like that. Don’t let this dress turn into chains. It’s just a dress. It’s just a dress.”
Dear God, be louder than the dress!
I knew the dress didn’t matter in the big picture, but, man, it mattered to me in the small one. In the midst of an overwhelming few weeks, I worried the dress could send my shaky insides crashing down.
But then? The sweetest sound of a zipper. The tiny alterations lady somehow zipped me up in one swoop, shrugged, and declared, “It fits."
What happened next can only be described as “a complete abandonment of appropriate boundaries.” I shrieked, “You’re so strong! How did you do that? I love you so much! It looks pretty! Will you marry me?” I picked her up and twirled her around like an ice dancer. (No I didn’t.) (I almost did.)
Was it witchcraft? What happened? My new best friend explained that the lining was too small, but the dress itself fit, and it was a simple fix. “You look great,” she said, and she charged us zero dollars. I kissed her right on the face. (No I didn’t.) (I almost did.)
Here's what I know: When I first walked into that dressing room, I was already safe from shame because of the gospel. I had already carefully placed the helmet of salvation on my head to protect my mind from anti-gospel messages. But even though God had already conquered my shame and equipped me to battle against it, in this situation, He extended extra kindness into an inconsequential dressing room.
"IF EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT IS FROM ABOVE, I THINK IT'S SAFE TO INCLUDE LAST MINUTE DRESS FIXES."
My immediate thought when I heard the glorious zipping sound was that I felt so tenderly loved by my Father. He spared me from a painful internal battle during an especially shaky week, and I felt seen, loved, and ever more aware that He takes interest in the little details of our lives.
But sometimes the dress doesn’t fit. Sometimes there is no magical seamstress and no lovely zipping sound. Sometimes there is no supportive mama and no encouraging word. But those things do not undo the gospel and do not diminish the strength of the helmet of salvation. When a dressing room feels like a jail cell and Shame has the keys, take a deep breath, Sister. God is even here, in this silly place, and He cares about what’s happening in your heart when your body feels like a mistake. Will you let Him speak louder than the clothes? Because the truth is that because of Jesus, there is no jail cell, and Shame holds no keys because you are FREE from its grasp. Through Jesus’s finished work on the cross, God has spared His children from the death and judgment we truly deserve. How good it would be for our hearts if we paid better attention to His greatest gift and to all the little good gifts along the way?
When the dress doesn't fit, may you remember that you're safe, seen, and cherished, forever wrapped up in the beautiful, costly fabric of the gospel.