As many of you know, I home school my children. But don't think for a minute we don't love a good back to school clothing sale. We are girls after all, and new clothes thrill us just like anyone else. I recently received a catalog that featured clothes my youngest girl would love so I had a little shopping spree for her. Fall is my favorite time of year and I love seeing my girls in denim jackets and leggings with warm dresses and soft sweaters. I got to thinking about clothes and how God tells us over and over in His word, when we trust Jesus, we are clothed in His righteousness. Isaiah 61:10 says "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness". No matter how ill fitting, ill repaired or downright dirty our own clothes are, when Jesus is Lord of our life, we get to wear His clean clothes. Such an awesome picture.
Thinking again about "Back to School" clothes, I thought of a few parallels between our new earthly clothes and those given to us by God:
New Clothes Don't Excuse Bad Behavior
I remember being a kid and thinking I was pretty darned cool once I got the latest and greatest fashions. Sometimes, I would put on some new persona and act like the cool girls (see also "mean girls"). That attitude only got me so far and before too long my mother or a teacher or another kid would remind me I wasn't such hot stuff.
Similarly, I see a lot of Christians, including myself at times, walking around with their beautiful clothes of righteousness and seeing that as a free pass on judging others and frankly behaving badly. What a disgrace to their own testimony and the love of Christ. When Christians yell nothing but "murderer" at the abortion clinics instead of opening their arms to embrace women and love them, there is nothing to draw them to Jesus, only condemnation.
The Christian business person who treats people unkindly or rips them off ends up showing off their torn and tattered self instead of the upright person of Christ whom they represent. It's a big responsibility to put on the new clothes. First, we must remember that ALL have sinned and fall short, yes that means us. We must remember where we once were and only by submitting to the spirit of Christ within us can we walk in the white garments He hands us. It is His grace that saves us, not our own goodness.
Back to School clothes don't always fit just right and are sometimes really uncomfortable.
Growing up in Virginia means there is still quite a bit of heat and humidity into the month of October. I remember my mom taking me back to school shopping in August and I would get new jeans, corduroys (it was the 80s, give me a break), and wool tights and skirts. She also would buy some of my clothes a little big so I would have room to grow into them and they would last all fall and winter. I loved all the new fall clothes and was bound and determined to wear my new jeans or wool tights and skirt on the first day of school to make my best impression. By lunchtime, I would be an itchy, sweaty mess and by recess, I felt like I had plunged into the depths of hell.
The Christian walk is quite often the same. Even if you became a Christian as a small kid, when you start walking the walk and living your life for God, it doesn't always feel right or comfortable. The Bible study group might sound like they are speaking a foreign language to you or the music on Sunday morning might not be familiar. Sometimes, we give up an activity or a relationship because we are convicted by our new clothes and that means having to say, "no thank you" to the invite from an old friend. Here's the beauty of all of this, seasons change. Those sweaty summer afternoons, become cool and crisp and suddenly those jeans and tights are just right. Don't be discouraged because the new life you've chosen for yourself still doesn't fit quite right. With Christ by your side, you will grow into the life God has for you nicely.
New clothes don't mean an instant transformation.
I always believed all of my new outfits meant I would certainly make better grades, have a better seat at the lunch table and I'd catch the eye of the boy I liked. Well nothing could be farther from the truth. Even with the best new clothes I still struggled with math and the boys I liked had other ideas no matter what I wore. While it's true that some people experience radical life change upon accepting Jesus, many find life to still be ho-hum. It can be disappointing not to feel or look different right away.
Remember that God is described as a vine dresser and also a potter. (John 15 & Jeremiah 18) Vine dressers take years to grow and prune their vineyards by carefully cutting away what is dead or not fruitful and gently encouraging what is healthy to grow. Potters are skilled in their craft but work with their mound of clay slowly and gently so it does not collapse on itself. Turning the clay too fast, results in a weak vessel. God aims for us to be strong vessels for His Holy Spirit, not just something beautiful on the outside. God is faithful to work in our lives but it means that we must have faith in what is not seen. We must rely on Him and His word and believe that He will complete the good works he has begun in us! (Phil 1:6)
I can't wait for my kids' new clothes! I love that change from bare arms and legs to cozy, colorful outfits. As they put on their new things that are maybe a little oversized or scratchy, I will remember my own clothes of righteousness - washed white by my Savior.