Here I will reveal to you a bit of my childhood fantasy, as there were two stories I was a part of when I was growing up.
The first was Charlie’s Angels. My two friends pretended they were Jill and Kelly. I was Sabrina, with her gravely voice and stunning good looks. I was also an official member of the Cheryl Ladd fan club. We were beautiful and unstoppable.
The second story, of quite a different flavor, was Little Women. I read this book until I knew it by heart, and I am quite tempted to watch the movie today instead of doing laundry or anything else responsible. I always considered myself to be Jo, the one with the ink-stained fingers from writing too much and the one who is always saying the wrong thing and being generally uncouth in any social setting.
Meg and Jo are getting ready to go to a party, and Meg wishes she had a silk dress to wear.
Jo says, “I’m sure our pops look like silk, and they are nice enough for us. Yours is as good as new, but I forgot the burn and the tear in mine. Whatever shall I do? the burn shows badly, and I can’t take any out.”
Meg says to Jo, “You must sit still all you can, and keep your back out of sight; the front is all right.”
Now let me speak to you, not from my childhood imagination but from my grown-up role as pastor’s wife.
One by one I have heard your stories. We have sat in coffee shops and curled up on sagging couches at church. We have sipped coffee in my living room. We have found quiet places, and you have leaned forward and whispered to me what happened to you and what you did.
Stories of shame and regret.
Oh how many stories I have heard of sexual abuse, molestation, and lost innocence. I have heard you whisper that your child is in a rehab center or that your husband chose someone else to love. I know you had to file bankruptcy and file for divorce. I know about the addictions, and I have seen the cut marks on your arm. I have listened, and I have come home and buried my head in the pillow to cry for you.
And I see that you have read Little Women, too. You with your scorched skirt. And you have heard Meg say to you, “You must sit still all you can, and keep your back out of sight; the front is all right.”
So there you are with your back to the wall, trying to hide your shame, but everyone thinks you. are. just. fine.
“Look at how pretty her dress is,” they say.
You smile. Take a sip of your punch.
You admire all the other pretty dresses in the room and think, “If those ladies could see the back of my dress, they would never speak to me again. They would find me a disgrace.”
Let me ask you this –have you ever seen the backs of their dresses?
I have. By the dozens.
All those lovely ladies you sit in church with –they got a bit close to the fire, too. Oh my, you think your burned spot is bad? You should see hers.
And hers over there.
Now let’s carry on with the story. There’s Jo all hiding her skirt, and here comes Laurie. What does he do? Scandalous –the two sneak off together, and he overlooks the back of her skirt completely. They find a room where they can dance like crazy children, laughing and enjoying themselves with abandon, and who cares about the skirt anyway?
Who cares about the skirt anyway?
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24 NIV)
Oh my, girls. So much fun we’re missing out on because our shame has us with our backs to the walls. Let’s all just turn around and say together, Oh, you have some scorched places in your skirt, too? A whole room full of women who have messed up and been forgiven by Christ. When we see there’s not a perfect dress in the whole room, then can’t we just kick up our heels and have a good dance on the floor? Twirling all around.
No more hiding.
All we need is one person.
One person brave enough to step away from the wall. One person brave enough to say out loud, “I was a sinner, and I was sinned against –but Jesus loves me and has filled my dance card anyway.”