My senior high and high school days were full of angst, polyester, flare legged pants, first crushes, acne, and platform shoes. I was a young teen in the late 1970’s and Farrah Fawcett of “Charlie’s Angels” fame was my fashion idol. I had my hair cut into the feathered or “winged” style in an effort to look like her.
I remember a favourite outfit of mine was a pair of dark brown corduroy flared pants with a striped cardigan sweater – tied at the waist, a brown mock neck, and platform shoes. (How was it that brown ever became a fashionable color? It just makes me think of November or April when all is brown and dull.) I loved the fact that if I stood in a particular way, my pant legs would cover my whole shoe. Another advantage of these wedges was that they added much needed inches onto my height-challenged frame.
The goal of most young girls at that time in life was to look fashionable and attractive to all of the young men that we were finally noticing. I have journals that witness to the ways my friends and I would agonize over every glance or word that one of our “crushes” would bestow upon us. How easily I would be devastated, or elated by the most insignificant interaction.
Jeans were a staple of the wardrobe, and the true test of a good pair was that they required you to lie down on the bed in order to zip them up! They must be tight at the top, hugging the butt just right, and large at the bottom. This was pre-stretch-denim days which often made sitting for any length of time very uncomfortable.
My poncho was another piece of clothing that I was extremely proud of. Again, it was in the brown tones, a plaid brown and orange pattern with a fringe around the edge. When I wore it, I really did think I belonged on the fashion runway!
Tube tops, one of the most unflattering pieces of clothing of all time, were also popular during this fashion heyday. I had very little to hold up these tops but I was bound by my desire to be fashionable and to fit in to don one of these from time to time.
When I think of the articles of clothing I used to wear, without a doubt I would not wear these fashions today (even if they did still fit!). Despite some of those styles coming back in vogue, I would look ridiculous at 55 years of age in a tube top and my flares. I would look like someone trying to deny the many years that have passed. I find it sad when I occasionally see middle-aged people seemingly stuck in a time warp, unable to move beyond the fashions or habits of high school.
I have outgrown those fashions – in more ways than one! As I have aged, matured, grew into new roles as career person, wife, mother, and mentor I have outgrown the clothing I wore as a young teenager. The way I choose to dress today reveals the ways I have grown and changed. I dress in ways that reflect that I am married and a mother – even though I don’t wear “mom jeans”! The clothes I wear are no longer dictated by peer pressure or the desire to attract my “crush”. I dress in ways that are appropriate for my age, yet still aiming to be stylish.
This reminds me of the ways my life with God can either be stuck in the 70’s or moving forward - changing with the times along with my fashions. Early in my relationship with God I would come to Him in simplistic and immature ways, and He was happy to receive me in that way. But just as it is not good to stay stuck in the fashions of my youth, I also need to avoid being stuck in the simplistic faith of my younger days.
Hebrews 5:12-14 reads:
“Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
The journey with God should be characterized by growth and maturity, just like our fashions. If, after 10 years of following Jesus, I am still only reading the Daily Bread as my way of connecting with Him then something is wrong. These little devotions are fine in the younger years but those that are further along on the journey need to have more to go on. I am not saying that God cannot speak through simple truths, but as any maturing relationship, we must incorporate ways to go deeper. As intimacy grows, we would expect a greater investment of thought, time and effort in our interactions.
When I was young, I would wear those uncomfortable ill-fitting jeans, but now I put more thought into choosing ones that leave me room to breathe. Early in our walk with God we can adopt ill-fitting beliefs without questioning them, and we can become restricted by them, caught in legalistic rule following. As we grow, we can instead be free to question and wrestle with these views and find ways to believe that allow us to breathe easily. Jesus says, “I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you”, instead He will lead us into His “unforced rhythms of grace”[i].
Perhaps I need to spend more time listening to God, instead of being the one doing the talking. I could try to practice some of the disciplines such as fasting, silence, solitude, or confession. What if I experimented with new ways to pray, like breath prayers or the prayer of Examen at the end of the day? You might protest and think that incorporating some of the disciplines of the spiritual life is restrictive and legalistic. Admittedly it could become so if we allow it to rule us, but the intent of these practices is to open up space for God to meet us. It is a way of making ourselves available to Him and giving Him space to speak, and adopting new postures toward Him so we can see a different perspective. What would happen if I spent more time with God in the morning than I did getting myself dressed and made-up? Even something simple like reading the Bible in a different translation or paraphrase could open up its meaning in a new way. I am free to try on new things as ways to deepen my friendship with Jesus.
God has much more for us than we can imagine. He longs for a deep, intimate and mature relationship with us; He comes close, we only need to move toward Him. He longs to take the old and ill-fitting rags we have been dressed in and clothe us instead in garments tailor-made for us His beloved.
[i] Matthew 11:28-30