February 4, 2015

The Maternity Dress That Wasn't

When my friend Anne was pregnant with her first child, my mom and several ladies from our hometown church hosted a baby shower for her. My mom's house filled to the brim that day with women I'd known since childhood, some of whom I hadn't seen in years, and many who were moms, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers to the kids I'd grown up with.
As Anne opened little boy onesies and baby blankets, I stepped into the dining room to grab some punch and said hello to the two older women standing in the corner whose names I couldn't quite recall. They hugged me, we exchanged pleasantries, and then one of the ladies said, "That's a cute maternity dress you have on", as they both scanned down to take me in.

Unfortunately, I wasn't pregnant and I wasn't wearing a maternity dress. I inwardly scolded myself for not losing more of the weight from the baby I'd birthed several years (!) before and for not wearing a belt with my loose (ish) dress. Not wanting to embarrass her, I simply said, "Thank you", and tried to steer the conversation elsewhere. But the other woman persisted: "Congratulations! When are you due?" Meekly, so as not to hurt her, I said, "I'm actually not pregnant." Awkward pause. "Well, good to see you both!" And I walked off.

I still have that dress. Every time I pull it out, though, those insidious thoughts come up: It looks like a maternity dress. You look fat in it. You could stand to lose some weight. I look at it on the hanger, and I remember that awkward moment and their voices. And then I put it on anyway, because I know they were just trying to be nice and strike up conversation, and because I really do like the dress. It's just become a funny story to tell.

I've thought about that awkward exchange lately because there are other words that play in my head from far weightier conversations. You're not...You can't...You're too... Words that, just when I'm ready to step out in faith, hold me back. It's like I pull the dress out and consider wearing it, because I once loved wearing it, but it's hard to forget that someone said it made me look fat. It's hard to keep wearing something that feels natural and beautiful when the reaction hasn't been positive. In other words, it's hard to embrace who we really are and how God has gifted us because words have been said negating what we thought or we fear words will be said. You're not...You can't...You're too...

You've got it all wrong. Everyone is thinking it but no one will tell you. 

I'm starting to hear different words, however. I know God is asking me to pull the figurative dress out of the closet and wear it. And I know what that means. It means that it's possible that some people will think it looks like a maternity dress when it's not. It means that it's possible that people will say something less than positive or not notice it all. Mostly it means that I'm going to have to put it on, not put it back in the closet.

I have to listen to God's voice urging me forward and forget the You're not....You can't...You're too. And that can be a difficult thing to do.

But when we seek and listen for God's voice in Scripture, we find that He calls us Beloved. He doesn't ever say to anyone He's called (and He's called us all if we are His saints), You're not...You can't....You're too.... He says, "I AM. I can. I'm enough." And that God, our God, calls us Beloved. We don't need any further validation. That is a love that sets us free to be who He's made us and to quiet any voices that speak otherwise.

I'm going to wear the dress. I hope you'll wear yours too.