Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
My Fair Lady
My friends Geri, Jan, and I went to see the 55th anniversary movie theater presentation of the Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady, an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalian. According to a Wikipedia synopsis, “The (MFL) story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so that she may pass as a lady.”
In the meantime, she falls in love with him.
In the meantime, the Edwardian era set designs, fashions, and musical numbers provide non-stop visual and audio delights to movie goers…
This musical has been one of my family’s favorites from the sale of its first record album. I’ve seen the film many times, since. But this time, along with once again enjoying the gorgeous early twentieth-century fashions of the English upper class designed by Cecil Beaton and the lush sets designed by Beaton, George James Hopkins, and director, George Cukor I was struck with how long it took, and what grueling work it was, for Eliza to not only improve her pronunciation–and acquire the proper grammar–of the English language (in an upper-class manner and accent) but also to improve her “presentation” as one of that social set.
In short, her makeover in Higgin’s little experiment was a 180 turn-around. Every aspect of who she was externally was re-done, re-shaped, and re-formed. It took many months, as illustrated in poignant as well as funny scenes–as Eliza slowly transforms from a low-life “guttersnipe” to a “lady” some even thought a European princess, to change from one of her low social status to one of the upper crust.
However, Higgins came much more slowly to an understanding of her internal self, the workings of her heart, her feelings (and eventually his own). But with a little help from Eliza, he gets there.
The ending leads one to conclude that the two will likely marry, despite his firm (and funny) protestations against “never (letting) a woman in (his) life“, and despite Eliza’s initial misgivings as to Professor Higgins’ character and his intent.
“My Fair…Bride of Christ?”
So in the spiritual context, it occurred to me how much effort has been–and is even now being–put into us, you and me, as the “Bride of Christ” who “with unveiled (anakaluptó: of a mind, not blinded) faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV).
We are, in an allegorical sense, being transformed spiritually (like Eliza Doolittle was physically and culturally) from a class “poor of spiritual status,” as it were, to the image of Christ, rich in His Spirit.
Like Eliza’s transformation from pauper to princess, we are transformed from a poverty of spirit to a “kingdom of priests” (Revelation 5:19) by the shed blood of our Savior, also known as our Bridegroom Who awaits His (spiritual) Bride.
We are clothed not in the haute couture of the world’s finest topped with jewels by Winston, Cartier, or Tiffany, but “with garments of salvation,” wrapped “with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10). All bought and paid for by Jesus Christ on that ignominious cross…that day, covered in the blood-red of His payment for our sins…
But unlike Henry Higgins whose focus was on only external youth, beauty, and social class, Jesus sees in us, no matter our age, race, status or poverty of body, mind or spirit, His beloved in whom He invested all. And for as long as it takes for our own makeover, our transformation from spiritually poor to inestimably and eternally rich, each little step forward spiritually, even each step in reverse–from which He gently guides us back as we yield to Him–He is there. Fully aware. In love. With us.
P.S. Do you know how beautiful you are to Him?