A couple of weekends ago, I cleaned out our master bedroom closet. Unceremoniously shoved into a back corner sits my wedding dress. My mom had it professionally preserved while we were on our honeymoon but somewhere around move six, the box broke open so it’s preservation has been compromised.
I keep telling myself I’ll pull it out one day and try it on. Because I want to remind myself how far away “41 with two kids” is from “24 and loses weight by eating popcorn for lunch,” I guess.
But the dress did get me thinking. I’ve witnessed some dear, precious, wonderful people recently in the exact opposite of those wedding day glamourous costumes. Waiting rooms and hospital beds and family stress do not make for fancy. They are three-day-old, kneeling-by-the-bedside, can’t-be-bothered-with-makeup sacrificial, surrendered, scared clothes.
And as we march towards wedding season and graduation and my daughter’s birthday, the beginning of so much new, I just wonder what kind of love Saffron will be expecting to find.
You know. 20 years from now. Cause she’s not dating until she’s at least 21.
Before that 21st birthday though, I want her to know some things about love…
Did you ever hear the story about the Dad and his daughter waiting at the back of the church to walk down the aisle? The dad says to his daughter, “If you want to stay married, make sure you can still fit in your wedding dress on your 25th Anniversary.”
No idea if that’s a true story or just Southern belle folklore. We do love a juicy fear-based diet story in the deep South. Almost as much as we love a brutal quarterback sack on a Saturday, Pond’s Cold Cream, gardening as a neighborhood competitive sport, and wearing full make-up to the Piggly Wiggly.
Don’t mess with a Southern woman.
She will take you down with her gardening sheers not smudge a single bit of her lipstick.
Women everywhere, Southern or, ahem, not, respond to the fear in that daddy-daughter story. We all worry how child-bearing and Mamaw’s biscuits and hormone changes and illness will affect the way the people in our lives will see us.
I’m sure if I eliminated carbs and sugar and howled at a full moon at exactly 11:11 pm for a month of Sundays (plus Spanks), I could get myself into my wedding dress.
But the person who wore that dress 17 years ago is as long gone as the fine lines around my eyes are here to stay.
That wedding dress was the window dressing for a body, dust and water and temporary, and it can vanish as fast as a groom lifting the veil for that first kiss.
So even if I got my current body into the dress, the soul inside is not the same.
The love we feel for each other wearing those fancy wedding dresses and tuxedos, that’s the easy love.
It’s a love with butterflies and blushing and bows on packages arriving on your doorstep. It’s stolen kisses and holding hands every minute and dreaming about the future with those rose-colored glasses. In that love, everything is possible, everything is ahead of you, everything is beautiful and sweet.
But love changes and grows as we change and grow.
And if we want to change and grow together, well, that takes work. That takes intentionality, attention, space, encouragement, and a whole lot of prayer.
The easy love of wedding dresses become the sacrificial love of hospital gowns, the overwhelming grief-stricken love of funeral suits, and the sweatpants with top knots of graduate school love, the sleep-deprived forgiving love of parenting babies and toddlers, and the memory-keeping steadfast strong degenerative disease love.
Wedding dress love is easy.
After that, love gets harder.
Before you ever fall in love with a man, that easy, butterfly, soft, early love, know this…
Love is action.
Love is a hard, down-to-your-bones, vulnerable verb.
There is no shortcut to a lasting, loving, God-honoring marriage. Maybe you fit in your wedding dress on your 25th anniversary but if you marry a man who only wants your packaging, he won’t be there to see you in it. He’ll be long gone.
Marry the man who isn’t interested in just a flat tummy but he desires to see your zeal and fervor for Jesus never going flat.
Wait for the man who loves standing with you in worship with your hands raised in full surrender to your Savior more than he loves holding your hands snuggled on the couch.
Find the man who will kneel with you in prayer way before he kneels before you with that ring in his hand.
A man who is as excited at the thought of you with a baby on your hip as much as he is about his hands on your hips during your first dance.
Someone who sees you as the most beautiful when you are doing exactly what God created you to do. Creating, worshiping, loving, empathizing, with a pinch of sass added for flavor. Find the person who sees all of that beauty in you much more than the outward beauty. One grows and thrives and shines for an entire lifetime. The other is subject to change. Without advance notice.
This packaging, it’s a faulty container. Cancer and infertility and grief and ice cream and autoimmune disease and addiction and job loss and sunlight compromise it over a lifetime. We can slather it with creams and drink miracle herbal teas and swallow down vitamins by the handful but at some point, our packaging fails us. Our bodies get exposed to the brokenness of this world.
And if the only thing that holds a marriage together is your ability to keep that exposure to a minimum preserving the container as it was on Day 1, then the marriage will fail.
But if the man you are walking down that aisle to meet, if he loves Jesus, if he wants the soul inside the packaging, if he is willing to change and grow next to you, well, then pick up that dress and run towards him.
Baby Girl, wedding dress love is easy. It’s the love we hold on to and nurture in all the other outfits of our lives that make a marriage. And it has nothing to do with our ability to Spanks our body’s into the first day’s costume. Ever.