By Tony Stith
Examining Our Spiritual Wardrobe
I heard a comedian joke the other day that when it comes to clothing style, we men are hopeless. Basically, most of us pick out a point of time in our life when we felt we looked our best. When we felt our style and looks were at the top of the game and then we just ride it out for the rest of our lives. You can walk down the street and see a guy over 40 and pretty much pick the year: ’79, ’82, ’68. It’s funny but often true.
There was a time when you would probably look at me and say…”Ah…1986.” But that all changed about three years ago when I came home from work one day to find my closet empty and all my clothes sitting in garbage bags on the floor by the door. To my dismay, while I was at work, my wife and daughter had performed a “What Not to Wear” on me. Frankly, I was a little distraught. Gone were my pleated and cuffed dress pants. Gone were my favorite mock turtle necks. Gone were my sear sucker sport shirts. And gone was my collection of beloved sweaters and sweatshirts I’d accumulated over the years. Everything gone.
Admittedly, I wasn’t all that much into fashion. In fact, for the most part I could have cared less. But, even so, I was shocked at how my self-image took a hit that day. I didn’t think I had looked that bad. In fact, I kind of liked the way I dressed. The 80’s were good years.
It took me awhile to recover from the shock. Any confidence I had in my ability to dress myself went immediately down the drain. For some time after that I was afraid to leave the house without first getting the thumbs up from one of my two self-appointed fashion consultants. Now, in looking back, the whole thing makes me laugh. I’ve come to appreciate the women in my life who love me enough to make sure I don’t look like a throwback from the 80’s.
As Christians living in a physical world, focused on physical things, it’s easy for us to get a little too wrapped up in maintaining a certain image sometimes. We walk around wearing remnants of our old man, focused on self-image, self-preservation, and self-promotion. Remnants of pride or human fearfulness at times cause even converted people to go to great lengths to cover up their blemishes, to dress up their faults, to keep up the image they want others to see. Publicly hiding behind facades of wholeness, they privately nurture areas of brokenness and pain.
James 5:16 instructs us to “Confess your faults to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
I Thessalonians 5:10 tells us to “…encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
This Church thing that we are a part of isn’t some spiritual fashion show. It’s not so we can parade around displaying how put together we are. God put us in the body to do just the opposite. It’s a place we share our hurts, we share our weaknesses and our burdens, so that we might together find strength and encouragement to overcome and grow up into Him, Jesus Christ, in all things. We can’t do that if we are protecting an image.
You know, it might not be a bad idea, if, as Christians, we all did a spiritual “What Not to Wear” on ourselves occasionally. In fact, going through our spiritual closets and cleaning out some of the outdated remnants of the old man is something scripture tells us we are supposed to do from time to time.
Romans 13:14 encourages us to put off the remnants of the old man and to “clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ…”
We are to put on the attitude, the heart and mind of our Savior who we are told in Philippians “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7)
If only, we as His disciples could lay aside our facades, lay aside our pride and be clothed with the kind of humility that would allow us to share our weaknesses. If we could carry one another’s burdens rather than hiding and shielding them from others. God could heal us. How much more powerfully could God’s Spirit work among His people to grow us and mold us into His image? If only we had the courage to open our spiritual closets and start tossing.
When I came home to find my clothes in garbage bags three years ago, I must admit that I did rummage through to reclaim a couple of my favorite old sweatshirts. I only got away with it after promising my two fashion consultants that I wouldn’t wear them in public. It was a small price to pay to hang on to some sense of my former identity. Now, they too, have found their way to the garbage. I’ve finally let go of the 80’s and moved on.
My spiritual wardrobe is still a work in progress. There is still some cleaning out to do. I know the same is true for all of us. The more we strive together to put on Christ, in humility sharing, encouraging and building up one another in Him, the clearer we will see to discard the remnants of our old man. Clothed with His heart and mind, we’ll never have to worry about going out of style.