The Paper Bag Dress

My mama raised me to find beauty in unexpected places, like rust and dust and the way an onion cuts in half. Lots of odd places, but the last thing I was able to call beautiful was my reflection in the mirror. Thankfully, I believe that now. And not really based on what I look like, oddly, because I know that it will keep changing. I can now say I am a beautiful woman mostly because I finally believed God when He told me that. I finally believed that someone else wasn't fibbing when they said so.

After several parables about clothing, I haven't really hit on the subject of beauty yet, the outward appearance kind of beauty. Guess that just shows how deeply I value the inward beauty of our character.

However, every woman needs to know she is nice to look at too. I think this is a spiritual need for us as women. And it usually takes quite a bit of healing wounds to get to that place.

My little girl, she is pretty focused on her appearance right now. Age four and all princess. This girl plays with her jewelry and her tulle and velvet dresses, announces her entry to a room, and bats her eyelashes like a hummingbird until we declare she is lovely. And she is incredibly lovely.

Yet I want so deeply for her to understand that her beauty is not because of the dress and plastic pearls. It's because she has a servant's heart, a nurturing spirit, and ...drop-dead gorgeous eyes.

I try to teach her that the dress doesn't make the princess. That the King makes the princess. You have to be a daughter of a King to be a princess. And she is.

Other times, I just tell her, “Baby, you'd be beautiful even in a paper bag!”

And then one day, my mom made a paper bag dress and sent it to her in the mail. Mom drew pearls and ruffles and buttons. I flashed back to my paper bag dresses growing up that looked exactly like it. Possibly drawn in the same glittery magenta crayon she used back then!

Now let's jump to Luke 7. (I'm so excited!!!) That is the chapter I photocopied and put by my sink for the two years that God focused on redeeming my beauty (how I saw myself). It still holds a very special place in my heart and always will. The entire story is captivating, click here to read it.

Here's the gist of the scene. Jesus is enjoying an intimate meal with some people who love their rules and religion more than a relationship with their God. A woman known for being a “sinful woman” comes and weeps at Jesus' feet, washing them with her tears and wiping them with her hair (hair that was shameful to let down in public). The outraged host of the dinner snarled about the woman. And Jesus responds beautifully as ever:

Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?”

He goes on to affirm the woman and proclaim her great love for him and how her faith has saved her. But I just can't get over that one single question:

Do you see this woman?

It rocked me to the core.

You already know what they saw. They saw a poor, tattered and dingy woman. A loose, ungodly woman. A woman not worthy of being in their company. A woman who was a nuisance to their social gathering. She might as well have been dressed in a garbage sack, one step down from a paper bag dress. Can't get any lower.

Maybe that's how you see yourself sometimes. I know I did.

This woman had no money nor reputation nor anything of value. She knelt at His feet and poured out the one thing she could offer him. Her worship.

You know what I think Jesus saw?  (Oh! It brings me to tears.)

He doesn't look on outward appearances remember? He sees with eyes eternal. So in her act of sacrifice, her intimate act of worship, I believe he looked on her and saw a woman dressed in dazzling white linens. A beautiful wedding garment. A garment embroidered with praise. He saw silken locks of hair and a face that shined radiant as the sun. He saw her in her coming glory when Christ returns for those who have humbled themselves before Him.

One day, I realized that I could be that woman. That Jesus sees me just like He saw her.

Some dear friends of mine washed each other's feet in their wedding. It was beautiful to watch him care for her and wash her feet. But something about a woman in a wedding dress, humbling herself, kneeling down on the floor to wash his feet... forever etched in my mind. It is the perfect picture of Christ and His Bride on that glorious day.

So of course, on our wedding day, we wanted to do the same thing. During the foot washing, my husband surprised me and gave me this song.  I didn't realized it until I wrote this post how perfectly it compliments this message. Even just the title! "If you could see what I see."

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I love you, honey. Thank you for seeing me the way Christ does.

And ladies, I pray you can see your reflection differently now and see what He sees. The Beloved of Christ.

I'd love to hear how the Lord has been redeeming your beauty. How has he taught you to see what he sees? And if you're not there yet, I'd love to hear what Luke 7 does in your heart. Thank you for swinging by!