A guest post by Dave Hingsburger
I've never understood the relationship between clothing and faith. Long before I became aware that we lived in a multi-cultural world, I questioned the very idea that God cares about what we wear to church. The high holidays of Easter and Christmas had my family getting dressed up and trotting off to church. There in the pews I saw everyone else from my small town dressed differently than they did normally. Tough, hard, miners hands stuck out of uncomfortable suits. Strong backed, strong armed mothers looked somehow wrong in pinks and pastels. I remember, wearing shirts that hurt to wear, wondering if God were looking down on us approvingly for dressing up for him. It seemed like we were playing 'pretend' and trying to trick God into thinking that clean clothes meant clean hearts and that well combed hair meant well ordered lives. It didn't make sense to me.
It still doesn't. I see people, in my modern and fast paced city, wearing clothes that tells me of their faith. It seems to me, always, to be a statement more about culture than faith. It strikes me odd, to suggest that God has a dress code. What you wear on your head and what you carry in your heart seems to be two very different things. But then, the other day, I saw something that made me question my thinking. I saw a beautifully dressed couple and from their clothing, I knew that their faith was real and that God was, indeed, smiling and approving.
We had stopped for lunch on a long road trip. We headed to a mall to find a food court. These are places that offer travellers both speed and choice. Joe and I have very different Food Court favourites so we go our separate ways and then meet up at a table. I had decided on having an A and W Swiss Veggie Melt. I lined up and then, in time, ordered. The veggie burger takes a little longer so I pulled to the side to wait. A young couple, the couple in question, were in the line up behind me. They were notable primarily because of how they related to each other. In a place of bustle and hurry, of rush and pressure, many snap at each other and grow impatient with choices taking longer than a second or two. These two were easy with each other and easy on each other. Behind them was a mother with a fussy child. When it came their turn, they turned to her and offered her to go first. She did so, without thanking them for their kindness, and they only glanced at each other with understanding for the mother's plight.
When they got to the counter and placed their order they asked the clerk how her day had been. She looked up in shock and appreciation and said, 'Really busy today.' He said, 'Well, know that it's appreciated.' His girlfriend nodded. The clerk looked at them as if they were from Mars and thanked them. They waited aside with me. We chatted briefly about the day. At one point the young woman offered to hold a small baby as a father, more used to balancing a checkbook than a baby, tried to find his wallet. She giggled with the child until Dad was done and then handed him back. By now several people had noticed them.
My burger was ready and I grabbed it and headed to find a table. Joe and I sat three tables down and one over from the couple. I was just telling him about them when they came into view and Joe looked over to see them. What he saw was, for a moment, quite ordinary. They were in their early twenties. She wore jeans and white embroidered top. He, too, wore jeans and a pull over jersey. They sat across from each other, pulled their burgers out from their wrapping and then set them down on the paper. They then each, quietly, bowed their heads and said grace. Done, they went to their meals.
'Ah,' I thought, 'that explains it.'
Their difference was marked not by the clothes on their backs but by the behaviour they wore. They had cloaked themselves in humility and service, kindness and consideration. And I swear to you this, no Easter bonnet had ever looked as beautiful. They needed no costume to set them apart. They needed only to be what they believed, act what they felt and wear what they found true in order to demonstrate what God meant in their lives. It takes work to clothe actions in belief and it takes courage to wear one's faith on one's sleeve.
'Hmm,' I thought, to myself. 'Perhaps it's just easier to buy a hat.'