Growing up in the country in a family of seven, my father self-employed, we were accustomed to receiving previously owned clothing, otherwise known as “hand-me-downs”. I was fortunate to have a cousin who was just a couple of years older and the clothes I received from her were always anticipated with excitement. I thought she was so cool! The clothes she wore were almost all store-bought, as opposed to the homemade ones I had hanging in my closet and folded in the chest of drawers (most often referred to as the “chester drawers” – I suppose we thought that someone named Chester had invented drawers…).
My favorite hand-me-down, remembered to this day, was a white, drop-waist dress with large blue and red polka dots. It had a two-tiered, ruffled skirt that danced beautifully as I twirled. I was sure I looked just like the pictures in the magazines when I donned this garment.
As children, we participated in the necessary chores around the house such as dishes, dusting, vacuuming, etc., however, my mother most often did the laundry. We routinely placed our dirty clothes in the hamper, next to be seen hanging in our closets or with Chester. As the household chores were a never-ending activity for my mother, our clothing would quickly be washed, dried, ironed if necessary, and placed in our rooms ready to adorn us again. Except my dress. It would mysteriously disappear for weeks on end, removed from the hamper, yet nowhere to be found. And somehow my questions as to its whereabouts were most often averted by my mother, as she would suddenly have something that needed her immediate attention…
She strongly disliked the dress and would tuck it away in some secret place until she could no longer ignore my inquiries. She would finally launder my most treasured dress, enduring until it would be soiled again, thankful when it was back in the bottom of the hamper. She thought it was “tacky” (ugly and ill-fitting). She much preferred a dress with a full skirt attached at the waist – the kind she made for me. Looking back, I can appreciate how insulting it must have been to her as she labored over the perfect construction of clothing for me only to have it rejected in favor of a poorly constructed, and most likely, ill-fitting store-bought garment. Her talent as a seamstress, combined with her perfectionist tendencies made her the envy of other women, who had no other choice than to let their children out in public with clothes that may or may not have fit properly. We were always fitted perfectly.
We learn a lot about God from others. We attend church, Sunday school classes, and bible studies. We listen to Christian music, watch Christian television programming, and read Christian books. We watch the video series and complete the workbooks. We have access to so much information from so many people who have walked with Him and readily share their stories and experiences! We can learn so much from what they have to say. But if all we know about God and Jesus is what we’ve learned from someone else’s study and experience, we have a “hand-me-down” faith.
While the things we’ve learned from others have increased our knowledge of Him, their walk with Him and their experiences don’t fit us exactly. They may even be ill-fitting! He has a plan for each and every one of us, conceived before we ever existed and designed to fit us perfectly. He wants to teach us and lead us into His perfect plan Himself! Imagine the insult as He sits waiting. He paid a great price to lovingly create the perfect “fit” for us, yet we prefer taking a plan designed for someone else and try to wear it as our own.
I love the understanding King David had of God. David knew that he could do nothing without Him, and he trusted in and depended on God to teach him. The 119th Psalm is replete with David asking God to:
- Teach me
- Open my eyes
- Make me
- Raise me
- Restore me
- Help me
- Hold me
- Look upon me
- Establish me
- Deliver me
- Hear me
- Save me
Why do the teachings of others receive more of our time than bible study with God, one-one-one? Often, we are afraid we won’t understand His word or we won’t hear Him when He speaks. Perhaps we’re just lazy – it’s easier if someone else does it. We need to take hold of the 119th Psalm and start asking God as David did: Teach me!!
1 John 2:27 says “But as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you; then you have no need that anyone should instruct you. But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in Him, just as His anointing has taught you.”
I don’t believe this is saying we don’t ever need teaching from other godly people. But we are never supposed to listen to teaching and take it as truth without examining the scriptures on our own and asking God to reveal His truth to us. We have the responsibility of testing what others say, not for the purpose of controversy, but to make sure we are listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through God’s word. I love attending bible study. I teach bible studies! My goal as I teach is to create in those present a hunger for an intimate, personal relationship with God. A relationship based on the confident trust that He will teach them, He will help them understand His word.
When my mother took us out in public she was proud that we looked nice, that our clothes fit properly. It wasn’t arrogance, it was the fact that when people looked at us they would see we were well taken care of. They would see that she didn’t want us to wear just any old thing. We were each fitted perfectly for our individual sizes and shapes.
When we let God speak to us directly through our bible study and prayer time with Him, we begin living out the life that is perfectly fitted for us. We display to the world that He takes care of us very well, and we become an invitation for others to go to Him and find the right fit. It makes our Father proud.