What I think about when I get dressed on Sundays
“We’ll get you squared away with some food in a moment, but I wondered if I could pray for you first,” I softly said to the tall, kind man who had come to our church’s food pantry.
Leaning in, as if confessing a sin, he said to Matt and me, “I’ve been wanting to come on a Sunday, but this is all I have to wear. I don’t have anything nicer.” (He was wearing faded pants and a flannel shirt.)
Matt, my good friend and a new volunteer, was learning the ropes of our system. Having him there was perfect. He is great with people, and he also happens to dress quite “comfortably” on Sundays (his wife, jokingly, has a few other words to describe his casual attire on Sundays which often includes shorts, flip flops and Pittsburg Steelers jerseys). Matt is a welder. He’s a tough guy. But, mostly, he’s so overwhelmed by God’s grace in his life that he doesn’t sweat the small stuff.
Taking advantage of the situation, I quickly exclaimed, “I promise you, no matter what you wear, you’ll always look sharper than Matt!” We laughed, but he wanted assurances.
“I am sure you say it is fine, but will I fit in? Will people really be OK with me wearing this?” I assured him that he would be just fine. We have folks who dress-up, others who dress very casually, and lots in between. No one will say a thing to you about it.”*
One week later, I would have almost an identical conversation with a young mom and dad, struggling to make ends meet.
Conversations like this have shaped my thinking, and sharpened my awareness.
Those who can’t dress-up don’t just want to know if people will be OK with them; they want to know if they will fit in.
Ever been to an event in which you clearly were the most under-dressed? Whether anyone is noticing or not, it sure feels like everyone is.
As best I can tell, as long as we are not showing off riches, trying to attract attention, or lacking modesty and decency, God is OK with our Sunday wardrobe. I can’t imagine that the early Christ followers bought fancier tunics to wear on Sundays.
Some people’s solution would be to offer to buy the poor person new clothes, but this sends the wrong signal. It indicates that their current clothes are unacceptable in our presence. There may be a great time to give someone new clothes, but this would probably not be it.
Some people dress up on Sundays, because they feel that it honors God. Great. Those dressing casually (by necessity or choice) should not look down upon them, and vise-versa. I am so thankful that my church models this grace.
I have heard it said that the preacher should dress up in order to be respected by the audience. I have certainly dressed up more in some settings. That makes sense. And, yes, I wear suits for most weddings and funerals, if appropriate. I’ll never make everyone happy,** but I can usually wear something that helps me look neither fancy (and intimidating) nor ridiculously sloppy (and distracting) to most people.
I have a knack for connecting with “outsiders.” I often notice them in a crowd, sense how they are feeling, and feel compelled to connect with them. This has been true all of my life. I believe that it is a gift from God, and I want to be a good steward of it. One simple way that I can help them feel comfortable (whether they are poor, or just an average Joe coming to church for the first time) is to wear something that probably won’t separate me from them. The people who might get upset with me already know Jesus.
So there you have it. That’s what I think about. I’m sure you’ve been dying to know.
*No one did say a thing about it. But tons of people welcomed him warmly. He loved being around everyone. He was even invited to share a Christmas meal with a family. How awesome is that? I love my church.
**There is only one lady who regularly gives me grief about my wardrobe. She believes that everything should be tucked-in. If she had her way, I think I’d tuck-in sweaters, suit coats and ties. Nothing I said ever worked. I even told her how entire countries understand that some shirts do not need tucked-in (like anywhere in SE Asia, Africa or other warm environments). Now when she brings it up, I say, “Well, I asked my wife about this one, and she said that this shirt is not to be tucked-in. So I can listen to you or to her. Guess who I choose?” (Which is true.) She laughs and calls a truce. And when I do have a shirt tucked-in, she says, “You are really doing well and growing up. I’m so proud of you.” Oh well. Ha ha.