Fine Linen, White and Clean: The White Gown Motif in My Work

“And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, white and clean” (Revelation 19:8a KJV).

It came to my attention this weekend that a white gown has snuck its way into each of my books. In The Field, Lilly wakes up one day in a white gown. In A Year with the Baptists, Emma tells a story about a girl who is given a white gown from a prince. And in my work-in-progress, The Sisters Woods, in an after-earth scene for which I will be labeled a heretic for years to come, Rachael is led to a wardrobe where a white gown is hanging, just for her.

It’s there, but I’d never considered its significance. As I began to ponder it, this verse that my family had long since memorized from Revelation popped into my head: And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, white and clean…

Of course, the her in Revelation 19:8 is the bride of Christ, the body of believers brought back to God by Him. I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately, as God has been speaking to my heart about abandoning the spirit of widowhood.

Here in Revelation, the tone is celebratory, “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Revelation 19:6-8 KJV). I’ve also been meditating on Psalm 45: “All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold. In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her—those brought to be with her. Led in with joy and gladness, they enter the palace of the king” (Psalm 45:13-15 NIV).

So, part of the significance is obviously celebration, but there’s more to it than that.

On Wednesday night at Bible study, my pastor taught from the book of Ruth, and while it’s a well-worn story for us single ladies, I was reminded again of the concept of a kinsman-redeemer. For those who don’t know, Ruth was a widow from a cursed country working to support herself and her mother-in-law. It just wasn’t done, you know? Then she meets this distant of her deceased husband, Boaz, and for some reason, he takes a liking to her. Unfortunately, there’s a relative closer to Ruth who stands to inherit Ruth’s deceased husband’s property first, which he is more than happy to do. Until he hears about Ruth. You know, the widow from a cursed country, working to support herself and her mother-in-law. But Boaz – God bless Boaz – wants Ruth, so he marries her.

And that is the entire significance of the white gown: being given something beautiful and new and valuable, even when it seems like everyone tells you that you’re not worthy. To the lost, cursed, and laboring, Jesus comes and says, “I want you.”

Let me tell you something, God counts you worthy.

But imagine. Imagine on Christmas morning, there’s a present under your tree. You open it up, and inside is an epic white gown of wedding-like proportions. It’s breathtaking, but you look down at your T-shirt and sweats and think, “I could never wear something like that.”

God counts you worthy.

Or maybe. Maybe you put it on, but you don’t live like you have it on. You’re out doing yard work in that beautiful gown, because you don’t realize this dress is for a bride, not a gardener.

God counts you worthy.

Dress like the bride. Act like a bride. Celebrate.

God counts you worthy.

And that’s the best news I can give myself this Christmas season.

I celebrate because even though it took me forever to put on the white gown, God tells me I am worth it and worthy of it. I celebrate because even though I haven’t taken the best care of it, God still tells me I’m worth it and worthy of it.

And…

He tells me I am celebrated, too. The cause of joy and excitement in a white gown.

Yes. That’s the significance of the white gown.

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