Today, I was asked, “as a favor”, to change out of the cute little capri pants I had on and into my jean skirt. To clarify, nothing was showing. I had a Peter Pan collar top that left covered my bust, decolletage, and shoulders and came down over the waistband of my pants. The capris were dark denim and came down past my knees. The reason I was asked to change? So I could meet the current principal of my old school–where I will be giving the commencement address on Friday evening–and “avoid any conflict” that might come from me being seen in pants. I did it; I changed. I did it because I don’t live here anymore. I don’t have to live with these people and their talk and their (more-than-sometimes vicious) gossip. She (the person who asked me) does and I want her life to be as easy as I can help to make it. But, honestly, I’m angry. I am angry and disappointed. Not at the person who asked me but at the fact that she felt like I had to be asked to do this. I am insulted by the very idea that my worth or the validity of my faith or my respectability could be compromised by an article of clothing. Could be questionable in the eyes of someone who has never even met me, simply because I showed up in their presence wearing pants instead of a skirt. The idea that anyone’s clothes determine their worth or respectability, especially when you don’t know them. This, frankly, angers me to a degree that I cannot quantify.
What I put on, what I wear, is not me. Now, I know all about first impressions so don’t feed me that line. This isn’t about first impressions. This is about me not being Christian enough when I wear pants for people who have known me all my life but obviously know nothing about me or who I am at all. It makes me angry and makes me sad that this has Not changed in thirty-plus years, and I refuse to be that kind of Christian! I refuse to deny someone’s worth or faith or right to be respected because she wears pants or he wears a skirt or they wear whatever they choose to wear. What I put on is not me. What I do, how I speak, how I act, how I live out what I believe. That is me. A woman came to Jesus with her head uncovered and used her hair to dry his feet after she anointed them with the dearest and most expensive thing she owned. Did he scold her for coming to him dressed immodestly? No! In fact, he told the others with him, who started berating her for “wasting” the perfume, to leave her alone because her sacrifice was heartfelt and true and made out of love for him. Somewhere, somehow, I think that woman knew in her soul that Jesus was going to go through something terrible, and she refused to let him experience pain without knowing that he was loved. Her lack of hair covering didn’t matter; her actions did and still do.
You cannot judge someone heart and soul by their clothing. You cannot judge their intelligence, their gentleness, their faith, their belief, their convictions, their journey, or their capacity for kindness and love based on what they wear next to their skin. What clothes our outside does not matter. In fact, in the New Testament, Colossian 3:12-15 says:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”
I believe that we are all holy and dearly loved. We are all beloved of God. What makes a person important, what makes them indispensable, what makes who they are valuable and valid is how they have clothed their spirit, not how they have clothed their body. How that person over there dresses doesn’t make them any less of a person, any less capable of kindness and compassion and love and care, of courage and determination and strength. You haven’t seen how they live their life. Don’t judge them in this one snapshot moment because of what you haven’t seen. Please! The fact that I wear pants on a regular basis as well as skirts and dresses doesn’t make what I will have to say to these graduating students any less true. It doesn’t make my testimony any less powerful. And it doesn’t make me any less respectable, any less worthy, of a person. And it definitely does not make me any less of a Christian.
If you judge me unworthy or less than just by looking at me, then I would dare say that it’s possible that you might have a much bigger and more serious issue than a 33-year-old woman in pedal-pushers.