Dressing Up

I hate buying new clothes for myself. It always seems like there's a better way to use the time and money — like buying new clothes for my wife . . . and she agrees. But sooner or later it's inevitable. Socks wear holes and collars fray. And my wife's idea of darning socks is to throw them in the wastebasket and say, "Oh darn!" Since it happened to be my birthday, I claimed that as an excuse and had my family take me shopping.

   The first shock, which usually comes at the cash register, came earlier: I caught a glimpse of myself dressed up in the mirror. Fear of the unknown gripped my heart. I looked good. In fact, I looked downright terrific! I stood there torn in two, half of me wanting to enjoy it, the other half wanting to retreat to the comfort of a flannel shirt, a pair of jeans, and hiking boots.

   Where does this come from — my propensity to blend into

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the woodwork? My high school and college days were different. I can vaguely recall pressing my shirts in the dormitory wash-room; even my blue jeans had creases then. But that had all changed in 1969 when I threw off my good-little-Christian-boy act, as best I could, in search of reality.

  While angry students fought minor skirmishes with riot squads in Berkeley, I was growing my hair down to the tops of my ears and wearing my old gray-green sweater — you know, the one with the holes in the sleeves. And while my less fortunate peers were escaping the establishment's grip by flowing their minds on LSD, I had unplugged my iron and begun to wear wrinkled shirts.

   There was purpose in my sloppiness. It was my own way of throwing off the demands made by my parents, church, Christian college, girlfriend . . . and even myself. It was as close as I ever came to hippiedom; hardly radical by the standards of the sixties, but it was important to me.

   It even had spiritual significance. I was telling God that He had to create something in my life: I was tired of trying to do it all myself. Not realizing that this was what He had always wanted to do, I embarked on a liberating and learning experience for several years. For the next decade I wore wrinkled shirts and watched Him create.

   He's done well. A lot of good things have developed on the inside—confidence, peace, hope . . . and lately even a little daring. Enough to get me into this store and put this stuff on. But was there enough to make me walk out of there wearing it?

   Much of this has to do with the struggle of being a Christian artist. I've detested flashiness for a long time. I've consciously avoided anything that would draw attention to myself. I've wanted truth to shine and Christ to be seen. I had agreed with John the Baptist: He must increase: I must decrease."

   But does that really mean "He must increase; I must look sloppy"? Must I put myself down in order to raise Him up? Or in the end, am I putting Him down, too?

   Maybe it's time for all that He has worked inside of me to work its way out. The wrinkled shirt may not tell the whole story. Amid the dead wood that God prunes out of a life, there is also a lot of new growth, and new growth signals its arrival with beautiful blossoms. Maybe it's finally time to present this human

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being as an exhibit of praise to its Creator. He is redeeming — not destroying — the value in our lives. There just could be something to celebrate here.

   Well, I'm now on my third day in light-tan Italian shoes. (Maybe I should say "Italian looking shoes", since they are "Made in the U.S.A"). I still give a slight shudder when I look down, but then it's followed by a growing smile — a twinge of the old fear, a rush of the new confidence.

   Either I'm totally deluded or I'm actually starting to feel good about myself all the way through. I have this strange and wonderful desire to venture out of the woodwork. I don't want to blend in anymore. After all, I'm worth a whole lot to someone very important — which gives purpose to dressing up.

Part II  ||  Table of Contents