Let me just start out by saying that no one saw anything.
This information will decrease the scandalous rating of the following story from sketchy to side-splitting hilarious. If you are reading this anecdote and happened to be present at this unfortunate event and DID see something…please do not tell me. (I would like to go on with my life under the illusion that I have retained at least some measure of my dignity. Thank you.)
If Cinderella were to be re-written based on my personal experience, the royal ball would have ended on an unexpected twist. The damsel in distress would not have lost her shoe…she would have lost her dress..or at least the back part of it.
NOTE: Please read the following in your best Shakespearean accent until you can no longer contain your laughter. It will make for a much more enjoyable experience.
Never have I felt more like a princess than the night of the Christmas Ball during my sophomore year of college. The event coordinators had rented out a gorgeous dance hall complete with sparkling chandeliers, moonlit verandas, and a live string ensemble to provide us with the perfect “royal” atmosphere. My dress even LOOKED like the Cinderella dress from the cartoon movie!
Light blue, long, and be-studded with just the right accent of pearls…surely no hot-blooded gentleman would be able to resist asking me to dance.
As we entered the hall, I remember being overwhelmed by it’s general “fairy-tale like” feel. The evening began to progress much like I had imagined. A few male friends asked me to dance and I willingly obliged, tangoing and twirling incessantly about the floor like a graceful swan. (A princess must always twirl. I think that is an official rule written down somewhere.) I am also going to assume that I looked like a graceful swan, when in actuality I may have looked more like a pregnant hippo on roller skates…
Wildly romantic thoughts swayed through my mind with the music. Perhaps my prince was watching me now, hopelessly entranced by my swanlike-ness. Overcome with passion, he would ask me to dance and we would be engaged by the stroke of midnight.
When a particularly good friend of mine asked me to dance, my romantic fantasies were in full swing, imagining that my would-be prince was watching from somewhere.
I remember clearly that the dance was a tango. I had to concentrate to execute each step with precision.
Slow, slow, quick, quick, slide.
Oh dearest prince, does thou noticeth me?
Slow, slow, quick, quick, slide.
Won’t thou come and rescue me?
Slow, slow, quick, quick, slide.
Sweepeth me off of mine feet?
Slow, slow, quick, quick…
The noise was loud and penetrating, shaking me from my reverie.
I immediately recognized it as the sound of tearing fabric and chuckled inwardly.
Some poor soul’s dress had just ripped.
My legs felt freer than ever, moving uninhibited by the confines of my gown.
Wait a minute…
Suddenly, I felt a rush of air tickling me in areas that moments before had been shrouded by the safety of blue silk.
Areas that should NOT have been exposed to open air.
The poor soul was ME.
The unthinkable had just happened.
My dress had just ripped straight up the back while I was standing in the middle of a crowded dance floor.
Well, my prince,….I had seen this moment happening quite differently. Most notably, not until our honeymoon….
Mortified, I held perfectly still, unsure of the extent of the damage and unwillingly to cause further exposure. One hand was still raised in a half-turn position, (sort of like I was doing the robot) and I stared, unspeaking, at my friend, eyes wide as saucers.
He stared back, brow raised in confusion and concern. Thankfully, he was facing me from the front and was oblivious to my perilous situation.
Everyone around us had continued to dance as if nothing had happened.
This was a good sign.
I half-whispered, half-hissed, afraid to attract attention to the spectacle of my accidental exposure, “My dress …just…ripped.”
He paled, “What should I do?”
Still frozen in my robot-like state I hissed, “Give…me…your jacket!”
He quickly and silently removed his suit coat and I threw it over my shoulders. He was tall enough that it covered any danger areas, and I made an awkward turn to go towards the lady’s room.
I then began what could accurately be compared to the shuffle of a wounded penguin across the crowded dance floor, praying desperately that no one had noticed anything regretful.
As you know, the cardinal rule concerning women and restrooms is that when one goes, all follow. Within minutes, nearly the entire female population of the ballroom had joined me in the restroom, ooing and aahhing over the impressive damage done to my once-beautiful gown.
How had I done it?
How was this sort of thing even possible outside of the movies?
The answer: My klutziness was simply that spectacular. In a single, misplaced step I had crushed my romantic hopes and lived out one of every woman’s worst nightmares. There would be no fairy-tale ending tonight, only cowering in a bathroom and wishing that I could puddle into the floor and die. My fairy godmother would be ashamed.
The real answer though, did not lie in my ability or lack of ability…but in a God who knows exactly how to make me laugh, and is good enough to reach down and get my attention when intervention is needed.
You see, the part of the story that I didn’t tell you is even more shameful than a ripped dress. At this point in my life I had been living exclusively within the confines of my college’s vibrant Christian community.
It was truly wonderful. We had daily chapel services filled with solid Biblical teaching and sincere worship. In and out of class I was immersed in rich theological discussions and was constantly challenged with new and exciting ideas. I was loving every minute of it!
Somewhere along the line, however, a subtle shift began to occur in my attitude. It happened slowly, like a corset gradually tightening, squeezing the air from my lungs before I could realize I was suffocating.
(Let it be noted that it is NOT a bad thing to be inside of Christian community, and that this attitude shift was no one’s fault but my own.)
Instead of responding humbly to the wealth of knowledge being thrown my way, I skipped the whole, “storing things up in my heart” command and let my new expertise go straight to my head. (As you know, when one continually sticks things inside of a closed space such as a head, it will inevitably become inflated.)
I began to take pride in my new status as a theologian, feeling as if I belonged to some sort of elite “holier than thou” club, as if I had somehow earned my admission into this upper echelon of Christianity. I became so concerned with climbing the ladder of social status that I forgot to draw near to God.
Even in my quest to locate my “prince,” I was hoping to find someone who could better my ranking within my Christian circle.
How utterly upside down.
The whole point of marriage is to serve as a living Gospel drama.
There’s this thing about the Gospel. At its core, center stage, is a cross.
It’s not pretty. It’s crude, and rough, and blood-stained, and stands for all the things I did to wrong God. Those nails were my fault, hammered through by my own two hands…my sin reaching back through the centuries.
The point of the Gospel is understanding how much we NEED Jesus.
Listen closely! If in our pursuit of spiritual truth, we ever begin to believe that we need God less, we have begun going backwards, not forwards.
As pastor and author Judah Smith says in his book, Jesus Is… “[Jesus] lumps all of humanity into two groups: people who think they are righteous and people who know they are sinners.”
The people who are closest to God’s heart, are the ones who most clearly recognize that they are unworthy of being there; and openly acknowledge that Christ’s righteousness alone has allowed them to draw near.
In my arrogance, I had become like the wayward Jerusalem described in Ezekiel 16.
I had forgotten that I had been rescued from certain death.
Forgotten that God had spoken, “LIVE!” into my bloody, broken mess of a soul and carried me home.
Forgotten that He exchanged my dirt for HIS perfection and my shame for HIS splendor.
Forgotten that He had clothed me in Himself, that when people looked at me, they saw the handiwork of the Creator, not the created.
I had begun to “trust in my own beauty,” and play the spiritual harlot, wooing thirsty souls away from the cross and towards myself.
Life Lesson: When we try to clothe ourselves in our own self-righteousness, and begin to flaunt it around like a pretty gown in a land of peasants, sooner or later…it is going to rip.
We are going to be left standing exposed and naked (in my case literally naked) for who we are…ordinary people continuously in need of a extraordinary Savior.
In retrospect, I’m kind of glad my dress ripped in half. It was what I hope, a once in a lifetime experience. Luckily, the gals in the bathroom were able to combine their resources of about 30 safety pins and several pieces of fabric tape to construct a makeshift fix. I was able to waddle to a chair in the ballroom and watch the rest of the festivities from a distance.
It was totally worth it.
I still have the dress. I keep it in my closet at home as a constant reminder of the fateful events of that not-so-magical night and the enduring faithfulness of God.
“Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you…then you shall know that I am the LORD.” Ezekiel 16:60, 62b