"Mom, there's going to be a Balenciaga exhibit in Dallas, Texas, starting in February - do you think there's any way possible we could go see it? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I would so love to see his work." Emily made her impassioned plea while home from college on winter break. The oldest of seven children, Emily is a girl who constantly does things for others and who very rarely asks anything for herself. I knew this must be something really important.
"There's going to be a what? Who in the world is Balenciaga?"
"Cristobal Balenciaga, Mom, THE Cristobal Balenciaga!" The earnestness in my daughter's voice tugged at my heart, but still, I had no clue what she was talking about.
Okay, folks, I live in a very rural community, a patchwork of wheat fields and hay fields and pastures dotted with fishing ponds and cows. "Dressing up" means pulling on a clean pair of jeans and trading the dust-caked garden flip-flops for the new pair with the shiny gold thongs. The biggest fashion sensations here for several years running have been MossyOak camouflage and Carhartt coveralls. So maybe it's understandable that I didn't recognize the name of the most famous haute couture designer of the 1900's. Emily gave me a crash course in high fashion, during which I learned that Cristobal Balenciaga had created beautiful clothing for the likes of Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, and a host of royalty and social elites during his career as a designer with shops in Paris, Madrid, and Barcelona.
Two months later, Emily and I loaded into her purple mini-van and hightailed it to Dallas for a whirlwind trip to the Meadows Museum, located on the campus of Southern Methodist University. When the museum doors opened early that Saturday morning, this fashion illiterate stepped from the common world of traffic and noise and fast food joints (wearing my nice jeans and flip-flops, mind you!), into a fantasy land of exquisite beauty and elegance. I stood wide-eyed and speechless, absolutely stunned by the magnificent artwork displayed on mannequin after mannequin. A quote by Balenciaga - "My clients do not have to be beautiful. My clothes will make them beautiful." - would have seemed arrogant, if not for the irrefutable evidence of its truthfulness, documented in picture after picture, gown after gown. I think any woman on the planet would have felt like and looked like a goddess, dressed in one of his creations.
A year later, back at the business of tending tomatoes and weeding the herb box, I still enjoy occasionally pulling the over-sized museum book off the shelf and looking through the pictures of all the lovely garments Emily and I saw that day. (Thank you so much for sharing this experience with me, Emily!) And, as with everything in life, I must ask, "What did this exhibit, this man Cristobal Balenciaga, teach me about God? Myself? My need for a savior? Christ?" The answer: very much indeed.
The prophet Isaiah writes, "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God." WHY, Isaiah? "For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness..." (Isaiah 61:10) David writes, "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered." Whose sins are covered by WHAT, David? "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27) Do you know what this means for us as believers? We are each clothed not in a fabulous Balenciaga original, but in a garment of infinitely greater beauty and worth - a Christ original! God, in His unfathomable mercy, dresses a frumpy, rough-handed, totally unsophisticated farm girl in a robe made of the pure and holy righteousness of Christ. A dirty and sinful pauper is transformed into a dazzling princess!
Maybe because God's wonderful provision seems like something out of a fairy tale, something too good to be true, I often find myself wanting to add to it, to tack on my own little "decorations" to make it seem more tangible, more real. I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ - but maybe I'll be even more beautiful to God if I agree to teach a Bible study at church. I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ - but maybe I'll be even more beautiful if I keep my house spotless and demand perfect obedience from my children. I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ - but maybe I'll be even more beautiful if.... You get the picture. Obedience to God's word, service to my family and my church, giving my time and resources to those in need - these are all good things, but I am believing a lie if I think these things will make me more beautiful to my Father. I am called to do these good things, not because they will make me beautiful, but because I have already been made beautiful by Christ. Trying to embellish the righteousness of Christ with my own good works would be like wearing my shiny gold Wal-mart flip-flops with the ermine-trimmed, black silk ball gown designed by Cristobal Balenciaga for the elegant Claudia de Osborne. Or like topping off the fuchsia pink silk brocade cocktail dress he designed for Bert de Winter, with a MossyOak ball cap. Aaaaack!!!
So, what are you wearing to the ball? Let us celebrate God's good provision and revel in the fantastic beauty with which He has clothed us - the beauty of Christ. Come, Princesses, your garments are glorious: let us join in the dance!
1 month ago