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Sabrina Gauer

Faith, Life & The Journey

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I Don’t Care if Your Wedding Dress is White…And You Shouldn’t Either

Several years ago, a young woman in our church community was getting married. The dress was a beautiful, satin white Vera Wang, and she was going to look radiant walking down the aisle for one of the happiest moments of her life. And let’s be honest, Vera does have the reputation of making any bride even more stunning…She was excited as she prepared for this big day, as she should have been.

Then, a few weeks before her wedding, I overheard a very self-righteous and judgmental comment from someone who attended her church; “I can’t believe she thinks she has the privilege to wear white on her wedding day! What a hypocrite!” I still remember the feelings that terrible, careless comment triggered even inside myself. Anger. Doubt. Remorse. Indignation. More anger. And being the curious, over-zealous, fact-hoarder that I am, I started where I usually do in situations like this- the Bible.

And guess what? The Word of God (which I believe is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but) does NOT include any passages dictating the color of your wedding dress.

I have been told my entire life that the white wedding dress is a symbol of ultimate purity and saving yourself for your future spouse (and I’ll leave the tangent alone about what a double-standard that happens to be…), while the world celebrates and nods in approval at your public declaration through the color of the very expensive dress you chose for your special day. I’ve heard countless youth group sermons preached on this subject, and a very vivid memory of a Sunday morning service where the pastor began his teaching with a skit depicting a wedding where the bride wore white…but had the names of all her former lovers tattooed on her back. And her unsuspecting husband-to-be left her at the altar in disappointment and disgust when he saw how “unfaithful” she had been. ptg01672836To this day, I have no idea what the actual point of the sermon was.

Being misguided with this legalistic information from a very young age, and by almost every single church or young women’s group I ever attended where we studied books like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” or “And the Bride Wore White“, it’s not a mystery to me why I was so confused and missed the boat on mercy, grace, and forgiveness for myself as I got older. Or why my theology on this topic was so off-base. This may come as a shock to some, but you’ve been lied to. And if you’re anything like me, that destructive lie (passed down from only a few generations!) caused you to question your worth, your faith, and your identity. Sure, there was always a quick, glossed-over disclaimer that said, “Confess your sins and Jesus will forgive you, and THEN you can wear white again!” But it wasn’t until after you had been told what a crummy, regretful, condemning life you would live if you ever crossed that line before marriage.

But with age comes wisdom.

Google “the history of the white wedding dress”, and the first thing you’ll see is this statement:

A wedding dress or wedding gown is the clothing worn by a bride during a wedding ceremony. Color, style and ceremonial importance of the gown can depend on the religion and culture of the wedding participants. Most brides choose a dress of white to symbolize purity of the soul.

If we dig a little deeper, we find that weddings happen all over the world, all the time, in many different and diverse cultures, and the brides wear brilliant shades of red, gold, green, purple, or even black! I have several friends who incorporated their various cultural backgrounds into their own wedding day, and the traditional dress was (gasp!) definitely not white. And it was beautiful.

Traditional Chinese Bride
Traditional Chinese Bride

In 1840, Queen Victoria married her Prince Albert in England. They were the 19th century version of William & Kate. Everyone wanted to emulate the Queen. They looked to her for fashion, speech, and etiquette- even here in the states. And lo and behold, she wore a white wedding dress for her well-documented day. “European and American brides had been wearing a plethora of colors, including blue, yellow, and practical colors like black, brown, or gray. As accounts of Victoria’s wedding spread across the Atlantic and throughout Europe, elites followed her lead.” (read more here) Universally, the color white symbolizes purity, joy, and interestingly enough, wealth. But the tradition of the white dress here in the U.S. didn’t really take hold in society until after a British queen made a fashion statement.

So…just to recap…we’ve been using a fashion statement from the 19th century as our excuse to judge our own worth and to condemn others, and to hold an impossibly high standard over our heads as women? In essence, guilting us all into

Brides in Spain wore black, with tall, intricate veils
Brides in Spain wore black, with tall, intricate veils

desperately trying to answer the impossible question: “Are you pure enough to wear white?” We write books on the subject, preach sermons about it, listen to our mothers remind us about it…and it’s all because of a famous wedding in 1840?!

Enough of this shaming. Enough of this guilt and condemnation. Is purity important? Absolutely. But purity isn’t just physical. It isn’t just the color of your wedding dress and if people secretly (or, as in the sad case above, publicly) think you’re worthy of wearing it. It isn’t whether or not you’re a virgin on your wedding night, whether you ever owned a purity ring, or whether you planned on saving kissing for the altar! It’s about your heart. “Create in me a pure heart, Oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” -Psalm 51:10 (click here for one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read on this subject)

Someday, when it’s my turn, I do plan on wearing a beautiful white gown for my wedding. Vera if I can afford it. But the dress won’t be some ridiculous symbol- it will just be a dress. And for every woman out there who has believed the lies, who has let herself be labeled or identified as one of those “unworthy” ones…stop it, right now. You are more than enough. You have been bought at a price- the sacrifice at the cross- and have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Your worth doesn’t depend on anyone’s opinion of you. Your worth is beyond measure in the eyes of God. And He doesn’t care about the color your wedding dress. He cares about your heart.

Maybe Not Soulmates, But…

“And now these three remain; faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Cor. 13:13

Love is in the air, according to every email blast I’ve had in my inbox from various companies this year. From Big Lots bombarding me with Valentines Day coupons, to Free People reminding  me to stock up on dresses for all of the parties I’m supposed to be at this month, the subject title has something to do with love, being in love, or looking for love. Thank you, February and St. Valentine!

And it’s got me thinking a lot about “meant to be”, “happily ever after”, and the highly controversial term “soul mates”.

When I was younger, I believed in the fairytale. There would be one prince, one adventure, one spark. There would be a story, a clear “he’s the one” from God, and then a wedding and a future. I believed it would be easy, because how could there be more than one person for you?!

But as I’ve gotten older, experienced a lot of life, and fallen in and out of love over the years, I’ve discovered a very important fact- it’s possible there is more than one person that you could be “right” for. This time last year, for example, I was in a relationship that at the time had a lot of promise for the long haul. Sitting across from him on our first date at Starbucks, I actually thought that for the first time in my life, I felt that inexplicable “meant to be” feeling all the married couples swear by. So when that relationship ended (or more like crashed and burned and went to Crazy Town before I even had time to blink…), I sat back thinking, it is possible that the much idealized concept of the “soul mate” is the  40006-Vector-clip-art-couple-Valentinefairytale. And yet, I still want to hold on to that dream; I still want to believe that somewhere out in this great big world, there is one person that I clearly haven’t met yet, who is meant to be my future, and will be that perfect match for my soul that I haven’t found.

It’s funny to me that the human concept of love is so complicated and so shallow all at the same time. We idolize finding “the one” in movies, music, and novels, but we always stop at the “happily ever after”. Or we convince ourselves that it’ll happen when we least expect it, so stop looking because it will find you. Do I ignore the feelings inside me that say it’s good and right to be with someone you love? Or do I seriously just don’t care about it?

A few years ago, I decided that I fell into the “stop looking because it will find you” category. And it was the best decision I ever made for my heart. I was tired of riding the emotional rollercoaster that came with believing in the power of the “spark”, and thinking that my emotions were telling me something different than my head was logically screaming at me. Wanting to be married, to have a family, and to build a lifetime with the right person is not a wrong desire, and quite frankly, it was God’s design for human beings to have loving, lasting relationships. But the moment I realized that you can definitely hit it off romantically with someone and they will always be an important part of your story, but that doesn’t mean there’s a future involved, I discovered a very important fact about life- attraction (even if it’s deeper than physical) doesn’t equal “the one”. As obvious as that statement is, how often have we found ourselves confused and broken over it? And God is actually protecting you, even if you feel devastated at the ending?

Maybe “soul mates” really means the deep connection of souls in a right, loving, and lasting relationship– not the glamorized, romanticized, emotion and attraction-driven version of “the one”. Perhaps you’ll marry more than once, because of the way life takes your story, and I have to believe you’d also have a soul connection with your second spouse…otherwise you’d be living in a loveless, second-best marriage, which is definitely not God’s design. But the reality is, no one can ultimately fill that need in your soul for the perfect connection and complete relationship. That’s where Jesus comes into the picture. That’s where the Creator of our souls allows us to be fulfilled and made complete through His love, which then allows us to pour into and connect with others. Until we are truly in love with Him, everything else is just a futile way of trying to satisfy a weary heart.

And a relationship rooted in the love of Christ is better than anything Hollywood can conjure up for us.

 

 

 

Church and the Single Girl

After a few comical conversations over the past few weeks, a friend of mine told me I should write a post about being single, female, and in ministry. So. Without further ado…here are my Top 5 responses in regards to this subject:

1. You are correct- my ring finger is bare.

I had a very nice, well-meaning, elderly woman say to me once, “Oh honey, I noticed your ring finger is bare! Don’t you have a special someone yet?” Correct, you would definitely notice my ring finger on my left hand, being that I am a guitarist as well as a vocalist, so it’s an innocent observation…but not even my response of “Not yet…in God’s timing” was enough to shake her off the scent. I think that sometimes, those who have been married for many years (and were married so young at that!) don’t think about how they’re coming across in these more sensitive situations. Fortunately, I tend to be the type to smile and nod when needed, and try to divert the conversation into more shallow waters at that point, but the implication that I was obviously lacking something (or in this case, someone) stung just a bit.

2. My leadership capabilities are just as strong as the married guy my age.

While this would never be an issue in the corporate world (in fact, this would be frowned upon and considered highly sexist), it’s a reality in the church world, that men are still often regarded as spiritually stronger, smarter, and more leadership-oriented than women (a hold-over from years of misinterpretation and misuse of Biblical truths!). I know this is dangerous territory, and I honestly don’t feel like defending my Jesus-based feminism at the moment, but just know that I stand firm against inequality and spiritual abuse of power. And women are called to look, live and love like Jesus just as men are called. God uses the 29215_All_alonesingle, young female in ministry in powerful ways…just as He uses the married young man, the widowed elderly lady, the divorced mom, the seasoned male pastor…people from ALL walks of life, with different gifts and abilities that He can use for His purposes. We ALL have important and valuable input in ministry.

3. No- I do not need you to “claim” me for your unmarried son.

The fact that I even need to say that…!

4. Yes, women are actually allowed to be leaders in the church.

I take being a Worship Director very seriously, and find myself in some situations that are considered “pastoral” at times, which serves as a HUGE reminder that I do not do any of this on my own…it’s the Holy Spirit working through me and God using me, even when I honestly don’t understand why…and I feel very privileged to be where I’m at in this season of my life.

5. Yes…actually, I am happy. Thanks for asking.

Ten years ago, I was sure I’d be married with a baby on my hip by this point. I never saw my life turning out the way it has. I can honestly say that yes, I sincerely hope that being a wife and a mom is in my future, but I am also at the point in my life where God’s will is really all that I want. I want His guidance, His direction, and His perfect plan. He knows what’s best, and all I need to do is trust and wait on Him. Is it easy? No. Some days are very hard, lonely and trying of my emotions. But the opportunity that I have right now to be used by God in ways that He couldn’t use me if I was in that next season is what I focus on and put my energies into.

So. Are you a young, single female trying to navigate ministry and the pressures of fitting into the old-school box of “church” expectations and culture? Don’t let it bother you. People will always have opinions and ideas of how you should be living your life. But if you’re following God’s tug on your heart, and walking in your calling…then stand up tall and proud, girl. You are not incomplete or any less important in His eyes! He’s got you right where you need to be.

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