My friend and I were trying so hard not to laugh hysterically. They called me “fat” upon our meeting, but really? Regardless, look at that detail. They do this by hand, ya know. It’s strikingly beautiful and overwhelmingly intricate.
My favorite part of an American wedding is when the bride finally stands at the back of the friends and families, and everyone rises to their feet. I sneak a quick glance at her, because she’s totally beautiful, but I’m most interested in looking at the groom’s face. The pure thrill and love that exudes from him is what I most adore. “Finally. She’s gonna be mine. Foreva-eva.” [I’m sure that’s what grooms are thinking...] All that happiness, hope and pride is the same in a groom as it was in the sweet woman who presented us these dresses. The hours she and others poured into this handiwork, this potential future family heirloom, is immeasurable and completely invaluable. And that’s what I was watching: their faces as we touched and examined their great skill, blessing their hands and gasping at their attention to detail.
[And they also prayed for husbands to come quickly to us,
etc. etc., inshallah, inshallah.]
These women make these handcrafts, sometimes in secret from their husbands, as a means to support and feed their families. They’re incredibly poor. They’re caught in very short and rapid cycles of marriage and babies. Lots of babies. Preferably, boys. They usually don’t work, because it’s not really respectable for a woman to work or spend much time outside of the home or provide for her family, even if her husband can’t. [This gender attitude also influences the limitation of the education of girls and that breaks my heart and puts me on a soapbox that is my master’s thesis—not my Yellow Dress blog.]
And as a twenty-seven year old woman, these women [and many others], worried for me. They worried that I might never be married and might never realize my full potential as a woman: that of wife and mother. In their minds, I am too pretty, too funny and definitely too good at making cookies to not have a husband and children of my own. And I had better hurry up, because my eggs were dying and I was getting fatter and less desirable by the minute. But not really. But kinda, yeah. [More emotional whiplash.] In most of their minds, my worth and contribution to society and the world as a woman can really only be in the home. And while I’m not some post-modern, liberate-the-women, feminist, I did often struggle with their picture of me, that I was only approaching, inshallah, my completion.
The obsession with a bride and groom, for wedding festivities, for a formal union, served as a heavy and prevalent backdrop to my days in the desert. And then I got to thinking: “Yes! This is good... It’s so symbolic and beautiful of the anticipation, hope, preparation for what’s ahead!” There will be a big wedding someday soon. He’s preparing rooms and a feast for us, places at His banqueting table. A strong, pure and faithful bridegroom is coming for us—I should be consumed with this.
What really sent my heart spinning was that the ladies know their pieces well. They know all the loops and stabs personally. They have truly woven these threads together, creating beautiful tapestries, pillows, wallets, wedding dresses. My friend talks to them about future products and these women, looking at a blank piece of fabric, begin to see a beautiful, intricate finish. And I am confident, that this is exactly what our Father sees when He looks at us. He is a Craftsman and a Creator, an incredible Sustainer and Redeemer.
And as I searched for potentially hidden pockets in this dress that now hangs in my bedroom, my friend snagged this picture of me. Missing are henna-ed hands and feet, a few other ceremonial rites of passage, my family actually present and a beaming groom. But present, in these ladies’ eyes anyways, was a bride, awaiting her groom.
May it be said of me, of us,
that we are, indeed, anticipating and preparing for Him,
with all our hearts and with all our days.