They looked too cute. They really did. The preparation for this day took months, but, it paid off, for they fit the part of what to look like when you go to the prom. There was a lot of “bling” and jewels on the dress and shoes, beautiful flowers on the corsage and boutineer, a gorgeous dress and a tuxedo vest that actually matched. (This was no small deal in and of itself because when we went to get order his tux, we just had a photo of the dress and there were about twenty shades of teal, and we ended up taking a shot in the dark and just choosing one, and it matched!) Yes, they looked amazing, and the sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze, and there were smiles on their faces. All the preparation had been worth it. They smiled and posed for pictures and looked every bit of beautiful. And I think they felt every bit of beautiful as well.
The Bible talks about dressing up in a different way. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Yes, it says to ‘clothe’ ourselves…to dress up…to make an effort to put a certain thing on. The verse first reminds us of our identity: we are “God’s chosen people.” We are reminded of the incredible gift, privilege and responsibility of being chosen,picked, and belonging to God. We are not just chosen, but “holy and dearly loved”. Dearly loved. That kind of makes me want to sit a little straighter and smile a little bigger. I’m chosen. I’m dearly loved. I’m called to a life that reflects the holiness and integrity of the One who has chosen and loved me well.
The second part tells us that we are to clothe ourselves, or “put on” compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Not pride? Not arrogrance? Not “I am chosen so I am better than you”? No, it tells us to put on ways of treating people that put their needs before our own. It’s been my observation in life, that oftentimes those who know they are deeply loved are able to love well. They don’t have the need to be “me first”, but can love another because their identity is so not based on another person’s actions or reactions to them.They can be ‘clothed’ with humility and kindness because they know they are loved and indebted to one and are full of gratitude.
So what does this have to do with the prom? Well, I think it has a lot to do with the prom! If my son were to have ‘clothed himself’ with jeans and a t-shirt to the prom, would his date have felt honored and cared for? No. She would have felt as though he just hadn’t made an effort. She would have wondered if he even wanted to be there. But when she saw him drive up dressed in the fanciest outfit he had every worn, she felt valued. Special. Extraordinary. And I am sure that the look on her face and the way that he was treated would have been a bit different if he had shown up dressed in jeans and a tshirt.
So here’s the thing. Sometimes we make excuses for being dressed down spiritually. We say, “this is just me”, “this is how I’m clothed”, and we make no effort to clothe ourselves, or put on attitudes and behaviors that would show kindness or compassion to those around us. We can be comfortable in our jeans and t-shirt, so to speak, relaxed in the way we speak, relaxed in the way we treat others, and all the while, those around us wonder if we even really care at all, for it appears that we make no effort. Christians are called to ‘clothe ourselves’ in a way that loves others well. It takes total effort. It takes total effort to show preference to another who may or may not ‘deserve’ it. It takes effort to “dress up”, to use self-control, to put our own needs aside based on what we think another may prefer. But the responses of those around us? They will probably respond so much differently if they are feeling cared for and preferred and loved based on our choice and determination to clothe ourselves with kindness and compassion and humility.
The funny thing is, when we make an attempt to clothe ourselves, things don’t just change on the outside, but change on the inside as well. When my son Chase put on a tuxedo for the first time, you should’ve seen the kid slide in those shiny patent leather shoes! He smiled really big and loved how it felt to be ‘dressed up’. He felt special, even extraordinary if you will. And that’s the cool thing. Just as putting on fancy clothes can make us carry ourselves in a different way, when we ‘put on ‘ these awesome character traits, initially with a great deal of effort, the more we put them on, the more they become a part of us. Making the effort to ‘put on’ things on the outside, impact the way we feel on the inside. Just as my son stood a little taller and had more of a spring in his step when he had on the tuxedo, we can find that the outer ‘clothing’ becomes more than just something that we attempt to put on, but becomes a part of the fabric of who we are.
So, maybe “dressing up” is more than just what we wear on our bodies. Maybe even more apparent than our clothes, others can feel and sense our attitudes. Maybe the effort that we put into “looking good” should be focused on less, and what we ‘put on’ in how we care for one another should be focused on more. But before we can ‘put on’ those traits, maybe, just maybe, we need to be so tapped into the fact that we are CHOSEN, DEARLY beLOVEd. Valued. Just hearing those words fills my heart with hope and makes me want to stand a little taller and genuinely smile a little brighter. Hope has a tendency to spill over and light up the world around it. And more than bling and fancy clothes and shoes and accessories, the world needs to see and feel genuine compassion and love that comes from a heart that is responding to the love of Christ. Not a fake replica, but the real deal that is a conscious choice and determination to respond to situations in a way that honors God. And that? That truly is beautiful.
Here’s to ‘dressing up’!
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”