Years ago I was invited to attend a formal event. It was an end-of-year business function where awards would be presented and employees were to be honored for their efforts with a grand celebration. At the time, I lived in a small, country town and worked in an old building that had been renovated and made into a health club. My employer had graciously offered this newly become single-mom the opportunity to live on-site in return for managing the club (i.e., being the one to open the doors every morning at 6 am and be the last to lock up in the evening). He and his family had previously inhabited the very small living quarters in the back of the building, and I had no hesitation in jumping at the chance to live rent-free. But as you can imagine, this reduced my income to whatever I brought in from the aerobics classes I taught.
My club manager schedule left little time for social events, so the opportunity to dress up and go out was planned with the utmost care. My date had informed me it was very formal and I had little to spend on a new dress. I carefully designed the perfect dress I could make myself. Everyone at the gym knew I was making a new dress for a big night out; like I said, it was a small town… Friends offered jewelry to complete the ensemble and showered me with compliments as the dress came together. It was beautiful, if I do say so myself.
The first clue that something was amiss should have been that my date arrived in a suit rather than a tuxedo. Not having been treated to formal events beyond high school prom, I thought perhaps this was acceptable. The second clue was when we arrived at a dinner-theater rather than a ballroom. Well….ok….again, what does this little country girl know?? As we entered the reception area it seemed as if all eyes were on me. This would have been a wonderful moment if everyone had been looking at my beautiful dress as if I were a movie star that had just graced their presence. That, however, was not the case. I was the ONLY woman there in a formal. To better understand this experience you must also know that dinner was a buffet and I went through the line behind a woman in shorts. Yes, shorts.
I can still feel the sting of the embarrassment of that evening. I couldn’t wait until we sat down in the dimly lit theater so that I was not in view. I just wanted to go home. (Still in the early stages of learning to forgive quickly, I did not speak to this man for months afterwards.) The next few days brought the reliving of my mortification as everyone that knew I was attending this event anxiously anticipated my retelling the evening’s wonders. It was weeks before I could talk about it without crying. And it was years before I could laugh about it.
I wonder at the level of embarrassment and shame we may experience when Jesus returns to find that we’ve lived our lives inappropriately attired. Oh, I’m not speaking of our literal clothing at this time – that’s a whole other lesson in itself! But rather how the Bible says we should be clothed:
“For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on (clothe yourselves with) Christ.” Galatians 3:27
“Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones…by putting on behavior marked by tender-hearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways and patience. Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also forgive. And above all these put on love…” Colossians 3:12-14
“And put on the new nature – the regenerate self – created in God’s image.” Ephesians 4:24
When I wake up in the morning, being clothed in love isn’t what first comes to mind! With the extremely busy schedule I’ve had lately, I find myself waking in the morning still tired – patience is not my first response to anyone or anything. I have to think about it and purposely put it on. When someone offends me, I have to decide to forgive quickly, remembering how very much my Lord has forgiven me.
Just as we cannot stand at the closet and expect the appropriate clothing to just jump on our bodies, we cannot expect that there is no effort in putting on the attributes of our new nature. The old nature is well established in its habits and desires. We can’t carry our Bibles and sit in church and think we are going to be clothed in this new nature by osmosis. We must learn what appropriate clothing is and we must put it on!! We are His representatives in this earth and everything in our lives is to reflect His glory.
We take time to decide what to wear each day because we know people notice how we are clothed. So, what are we wearing today?