by Emily Conrad
I had the honor of taking three high schoolers prom dress shopping last weekend.
I wandered forests of sparkling tulle, beaded gold overlays, and jewel tone satin and longed to try a few on myself, but instead kept track of girls, dresses, three iced coffees that weren’t mine, and one that was.
Prom offers a rare opportunity to dress like a princess. So, each girl hunts for a dress that makes them look and feel like royalty.
That’s a tall order for fabric, regardless how many yards of it swirl around a hanger, so prom dress shopping involves a lot of looking, trying on, rejecting, debating, and trying on again.
Sitting outside the fitting rooms, I got to see a lot of contenders for the girls I was with and for others, as well.
The dresses were made to be beautiful, and by themselves they were. But a dress is not one-size-fits-all, nor does every style match every personality.
But sometimes, a wrong dress would come close enough.
You could tell by the girl’s face or posture that she didn’t feel like a princess in the dress, but she couldn’t easily reject it.
Maybe the dress fit some preconceived idea. Maybe the stunning details in places outweighed the discomfort in others. Maybe after six fails with other dresses, the glimmer of hope in the current one was just too good to set aside immediately.
What if nothing else tops this? Can’t I make it work? Isn’t it pretty?
And other times, a dress would be just right. The color would make the wearer’s cheeks glow, the skirt would have her turning before the mirror and curtsying to her friends, and the price tag came in on budget.
Yet, she’d hesitate then, too. A prom dress is a once- or twice-in-a-lifetime purchase. That’s a lot of pressure.
What about the other hundred dresses hanging in this store that I haven’t tried on? What about other stores and other cities? Is this really the one?
Most of us only pick a few careers or major dreams to pursue in a lifetime. We want to get it right. We understand our days are limited. We believe God has a good plan for us, but with so many options before us, how do we find it?
I’ve been presented with opportunities that just weren’t for me, and yet I’d twirl before the mirror in my mind, trying them on for size, dreaming about what it’d be like if I splurged everything I had on it.
Even though a voice told me the fit wasn’t quite right. Even though, as I admired the opportunity’s strong suits, I cringed at the discomfort I’d experience in other areas of my life. Opportunities aren’t one-size-fits-all. What looks great in someone else’s life may be a disaster in mine. And yet…
What if nothing else tops this? Can’t I make it work?
Sometimes, I manage to put the figurative dress back on the rack. Other times, I make the purchase and regret it later.
I’ve also debated long and hard when a good thing came my way. Saying yes to one opportunity often means saying no or not now to others. Is this really the one I want to splurge on?
As Christians, we don’t shop alone. We often have community, believing family and friends to help advise us.
But we also have someone along whose gentle voice will lead us toward the right decision if we will only listen: our Father.
What a privilege that is.
I didn’t see one dad dress shopping with his not-so-little-anymore girl this weekend. I can imagine many reasons why this might be, but I won’t list them. I’m sure there are as many reasons as there are fathers and daughters.
But God is the ultimate Dad. He wants the best for his daughters, and He never sends us dream shopping alone. His voice is gentle, even as it guides us away from the dream or opportunity that doesn’t fit right.
Jesus has something good for us, and when He gives it to us with a nod of approval, we can embrace it without fear of what we might be saying no to when we say yes.
I write this knowing life decisions aren’t as cut and dried as buying a prom dress. Our motives and expectations, the pictures we’ve dreamed up, the fact that the results will last much longer than a high school dance, complicate matters.
But if our motive is, “What if nothing better comes along?” we’re being guided by fear, not our loving Father. That sense of unease may be the result of not having received His nod of approval.
He is our Father. He will lead us. But we must listen by reading His Word, by prayer, by seeking godly counsel. By putting the dress back when He says it’s not the right fit or look. Even if He speaks those cautions quietly.
We have to trust He has something radiant in store for us. Something that will bring Him glory. Something that, when we look back, we’ll see the beauty we doubted in the moment.
I’m happy to say that I think all three girls I went shopping with chose beautiful dresses that suit them well.
I’m also happy to say that when it comes to the larger matters in life, this kind of shopping isn’t a once-and-done opportunity. Maybe we invested in the wrong opportunity last time. Maybe we didn’t listen to God’s nudging. He’s still with us. He still has more in store. He is the Redeemer of our souls, no matter how many lost, missed, and bungled opportunities we wear.
No matter where we are in this life, it’s never too late to seek His opinion, to don His best for us, to move forward into life like the princesses we are.
Why yes, of course. What else would we call daughters of the one true King?