Wear It Well
Written by: Paul Lickteig
As human beings, we find ways to mark ourselves. Clothing changes with the mood and allows us to feel comfortable in a particular context. We surround ourselves with things that we associate with a particular function, feel, era or ideal. Tattoos, indelible markers, freeze moments and remind us of who we were or what we thought at one time or another. We alter our hair and our flesh, our outer shells, to reflect something of what we think the world wants to see. Regardless of how we do it, we want to identify and be identified.
I used to hang out with a guy who had a lot of tattoos. In his ears, in place of rings, were nestled two plastic posts about the diameter of a bb. Once, noticing that the number of his tattoos had grown along with the gauge of the pegs stretching his earlobes, I asked him what he would do if there ever came a day when he felt regret for some of his body modifications. His response: “Well, I guess on that day I’ll be one step closer to being the man I never wanted to be.”
He was not a Christian.
I know this lady who does not have tattoos. She wears late 1950’s dresses (with a modern twist) and often looks like she is ready either for croquet or lawn bowling. She has an appropriately attractive boyfriend and a non-descript job doing something artistic. She will be married eventually, when and if she feels like it. Even without tattoos, she has other markers. They let her and everyone else know what she is into, what she has achieved, and where she is hoping to head with her life.
She is not a Christian either.
What fascinates me about both of these people is that they believe they are practicing the maxim “to thine own self be true.” They are people who take pretty seriously their moral choices. They both perform duties and maintain beliefs that are appropriate to their chosen aesthetic. They each belong to groups that consist of fairly exceptional people doing exceptional things. They know what they like, they know how to put together an outfit, and they know how to do those things that get the desired and appropriate responses from their intended audiences.
They are not Christian – but they make it a point to wear what they believe, to tell the world who they think they are without speaking a word.
How does this work when we consider marking ourselves as Christians? Obviously, there is no look or dress that sums up what it is to be a follower of Jesus. And I am not trying to promote the idea that we can size people up based solely on what they wear. Strangely, though, in some ways, we are always advertising. We are always saying something about who we are and who we desire to become. I mean, I have been told by a number of priests that one of the biggest days of the year for church attendance is Ash Wednesday. Is it that the ashes let us wear who we are? Perhaps. And this is hardly a bad thing! However, to be clear, while it is nice to see people dressed in a highly visible way, such a display only goes so far. While we do need to be aware of what Lent reminds us of, that is hardly the entire story. After all, we live for Easter.
We are an Easter people, or so the saying goes. The question is, how would anyone know it? We have been told to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ!” How well do we wear him? It is not as easy showing people what we believe as it is getting a tattoo, or wearing a special dress, or even smearing our faces with ash. We are called, though, to just that. We are called to reveal what we believe to others in a way that is unmistakable. We are called to be a visible sign to the world, a sign of salvation and love, and a sign that challenges the world to live in a new way. We seek to share a promise with others, and it somehow needs to be more obvious than those other external markers. Each of us is called to find a way to reveal to the world not only the promise of salvation in Christ that we profess, but also the reason it matters for us in the present. We have been clothed in Christ. The question is, do we wear him well? Do we reveal our faith in a way that gives witness to the source of salvation? Do we show the world that we are an Easter people?
Photo: “Our Paths WIll Cross Again Someday” by Squaaco on Flickr used under creative commons