Lessons from a Black Dress

Want to change the world and be a hero? You might not think so at first, but as you read Bethany Winz's words below you may find, as I did, that there are many moments when we slip in to defining ourselves solely by the impact we think we have on our world.


Lessons from a Black Dress

By Bethany Winz

When I was sixteen, I armed myself with a blog and a black dress and set out to change the world. Inspired by two other women who had done similar projects, I decided to wear that dress every day for a year to raise awareness about and money to end human trafficking. The idea was simple: like a walkathon, I would wear the dress and others would donate.

I wanted to do something that would make a difference, but I also wanted to be seen as a hero. So on I marched. 366 days to raise $100,000 seemed reasonable to me. Every day, I posted a photo of my dress on my blog and used social media to spread the word. People responded. They donated, they shared it, and they seemed to be excited about what I was doing. It was amazing.

Still, by the end of the year, I felt like I'd failed. I'd raised $8,600. That was exciting, but it was less than 10% of the goal I'd started with. Why didn't my project go as well as I'd hoped? What was I doing wrong?

A few years later, I can see the mercy in failing to meet that goal. If I'd raised as much as I'd wanted to, it would have reinforced my hero complex. Instead, my "failure" reminded me that it isn't my job to save the world. It taught me that my worth is not in what I do.

That's a lesson I'm still learning and relearning every single day. These days, life looks a little different than it did in high school. About a year ago, I was diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease. My energy is extremely limited, and I'm finding that it's hard to do anything heroic when I can barely get up off the couch some days.

When I let go of being a hero, I can let myself rest. I'm finding that God's calling often isn't big and dramatic. Instead, my calling is to be quietly faithful to what's in front of me. A few months before my diagnosis, I asked God what it was he might be calling me to next. Visions of a trip I wanted to take and an internship I was looking forward to danced in my head, but what I heard was a call to live as best as I can in the body that I have.

I'd hoped for a more impressive answer to my prayer for calling, but I'm learning to live with the one I received. Some days I spend my free time cooking food that will nourish my body. Other days I make phone calls to the insurance company or spend hours in waiting rooms or organizing bills and receipts. There are days that I can accomplish what I want to, but there are also days when my most important job is to rest.

As someone who still struggles with trying to find my worth in what I do, it's been frustrating. Maybe one day, though, I'll look back and be able to see the mercy in this, too.

Bethany Winz is studying social and environmental justice at Trevecca Nazarene University where she's learning to love Nashville. She already loves Jesus, hot tea, good books, and bacon. She is the coauthor of One Dress. One Year: One Girl's Stand against Human Trafficking. She processes the world by writing and blogs about the adventure of growing up and what she's learning about justice at www.bethanywinz.com. She grew up in Orlando, Florida, with her parents and her brother.

© Elisa Morgan 2020

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