October 22, 2007

Sunday Shirt – Sunday Shorts

I can't tell you how many times in my life, especially in the last ten years, I've had the conversation with someone about what attire they should wear to church on Sundays. I have always held to the firm conviction that it doesn't matter what you wear. Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart. Because of that, I have always encouraged folks to come just as they are. Forget about how you look, how others think you should look, or any other artificial expectations you may have about getting right before God before darkening the doors of the church.

So imagine my surprise and dismay Sunday morning when the words came out of my mouth that went completely contrary to all of that. I was taking a shower, and my son walked into our bedroom dressed in clothes he had picked out himself. My wife observed what he had on and told him she had meant a different pair of shorts and shirt when she gave him instruction on what to pick out of his closet. And then these words came out of my mouth: "Get A Sunday Shirt – And Sunday Shorts"….

And it hit me immediately. "Why did I just say that? I don't mean that do I? Did I really just tell him to look differently on Sunday than he does the rest of the week? Am I really that kind of parent? Am I that kind of person?" And a hundred more questions lining up from there. And it stuck with me so much that it was the only thing I could write about for this post.

We are so wired as fallen people to dress ourselves up for others to see. It is so ingrained in us and is such a default mode for us that many times we don't even recognize that we are doing it. From the very beginning when Adam and Eve realized that they stood naked in the Garden, man has sought to improve his appearance before others and hide his shame through exterior means. And if you'll think long and hard, you'll begin to see in your own life little ways how you do this:

  • When someone asks you what you do for a living, especially if they have a vocation you believe is somehow superior to yours, you "dress up" your job a little in the hopes that they'll think more highly of you than if you just told them what you really do
  • You buy a car that you really can't afford because you don't want to be seen driving in the church or work parking lot with your Honda Accord that has 175,000 miles on it and a few dents in it. I mean seriously, how could you ever expect people to take you seriously if you're driving that old clunker around.
  • You spend way too much money on a house in a neighborhood that you feel will give you a little extra stature because of the prices of the homes there. Think about it, if you lived in one of those "track home" neighborhoods, you would be just like every other commoner out there. But since you live in a "nice" development, you can be sure of only positive reactions when people ask you where you live.
  • When someone asks how you are doing, you always respond with the safe and practical words "I'm good". Because you couldn't possibly let them know what is really going on. Think about it. You're a highly respected professional who has the nice car and the nice house. You're not supposed to struggle with the same problems as the "average" person. Your education and training have insulated you from actually experiencing those poor person issues. If you really let people know what was going on behind closed doors, they might begin to question what business you have being the professional that you are.

And the list could go on. But you get the point. It isn't just that we dress up for Sunday mornings. We dress up our whole lives. We want people to think we are someone that we are not. Vulnerability and truth are hard. We always want to feel like we are doing more than the next guy. And therefore if we can look, act, dress, or live better than him we can feel worse about him and better about ourselves. It's our default mode. It's how we are naturally wired to operate apart from the intervening grace of God.

I'm just thankful that God always reminds me through my own actions that I'm still fallen and still imperfect. No matter how far I think I've come, I still have a bent towards Sunday Shirt – Sunday Shorts.

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