As I was sitting in the library in Wausau on Wednesday, I was watching a family play in the kids play area. There was the mom, dad and 6 kids. The mom and the 5 daughters had long hair and dresses on. You could tell they were “different.” The mother, pregnant with their 7th child, was busily stacking books nearby . The dad sat there watching them all with a kind of discontented look on his face. Of course I couldn’t tell what was going through his mind, but by looking at the face of his wife, I got the impression that he was the family watch dog – the one that made sure everyone “toed the line.”
It got me thinking.
For the past 9 years I’ve felt that if I looked the part then I did my duty to show the world that Christians were set apart, you know, somehow by my outward appearance others should “see” my devotion to Christ. I felt it was expected of me, a pastor’s wife – expected by everyone around me. Even though I never held that conviction that God wanted me to be in a skirt all the time, I did feel that compulsion to be in a skirt in case someone in our ministry saw me. After all, I was supposed to be the example, right?
It is true we need to be set apart. When others see us, they need to see Christ. We might be the only Bible they read, so we need to make it a good read. But does it stop at a skirt? Does it begin with a skirt? I began to think about my own reasoning for wearing skirts in public. Why did I do this? What was my motivation? Well, partly, I did it because my pastor at the time, who was also my boss, expected it of me. That’s a good enough answer, I think. But really, it’s more than that. If I could step into a room and immediately show who I was, who I represented, then I was a step ahead of the game. But really, was I? Taking time to think about it, I realized that those of us who chose to step out and be different in our dress probably used it as a crutch.
Let me explain.
If I walk into a room and immediately everyone around can see I’m different, then perhaps I don’t have to try so hard to make an impression in any another way. It kind of lets me off the hook. I look the part, so I can stop there. Everyone in the room saw that woman was probably a member of a church. It was a given. So, her job was done even before she opened her mouth. But really, was it? If our job is done in one glance, then perhaps we don’t have to try so hard from that moment on.
On the other hand, if I walk into a room with average, every day clothing on, then I have to make a genuine, outward effort to make a difference in the world around me through my actions. That places a tremendous burden on me. Do I want to take on that burden? Or do I want to have the statement of my clothing to do it for me? What would God prefer? Would he prefer me to walk into a room and be done with my responsibility? Or would He want me to work at it all day long? Do I want to be the person who goes through my day assured everyone knows who I am just by looking at me, or do I want to be the person who goes through my day proving Christ by how I love others? I’m thinking I’d rather look like everyone else (well, the decent, modestly dressed ones, that is) and show them I’m just like them with something more … Someone more, who will change their lives as He has changed mine. If I look like everyone else, but prove I’m not through the love and caring that He has given me, then maybe I’ll be more approachable, easier to get to know and they’ll feel more comfortable around me – comfortable enough to start a dialogue and hear what makes me different – Who makes me different.
I have been in ministries where there is the facade of holiness. But underneath all that glittered and shined was an unforgiving heart, a judgmental attitude and a general sense of prideful arrogance. I would much rather fade into the woodwork in appearance so I’m out of the way – then I can point others to Christ because they can see Him through His love that pours through me.
If you see me out and about, I’ll not be the one who looks different. I’ll be the one who IS different.
“To be or not to be, that is the question.”
What is your answer?