I have a child that is highly sensitive to certain external stimuli and in particular, how they make her feel. She lives with a chronic health condition that causes her to not really feel all that well most of the time and consequently, anything else that creates discomfort for her is not received very well.
One thing she is very particular about is the clothes she wears. She appreciates function over form. She values comfort over looks. This often means that if she has an outfit that feels good to her, she will wear the same things quite frequently. And it drives me absolutely nuts. Not only because I’m tired of seeing the same t-shirts and leggings but also because she never wears any of the newer or nicer things we provide for her and would like to see her wear. And while this bothers me on an everyday basis, it especially bothers me when it’s time to get ready for church service on Sunday mornings.
Last weekend she invited a friend to spend the night and attend church with us on Sunday morning. This is a friend who normally doesn’t attend church. But because she learned she would be attending church with us she and her mom made sure that she packed some nice clothes so she would be dressed appropriately for church.
This morning I found myself using that example as a way to try and influence my daughter’s outfit choice for church. “Did you notice what Reagan’s* mommy packed for her when they learned she would be attending church with us? It’s normal and expected that people dress up nicely and respectably for church.” As I listened to the words come pouring out of my mouth I realized I better add in, “but of course, God loves you just the way you are. He cares more about your heart than about what clothes you are wearing.”
Bam! Instantly I felt the twinge of conviction. I realized what a pharisaical, legalistic hypocrite I was. If God doesn’t really care how nicely my daughter is dressed, why should I? Well, if I’m being honest, it’s probably because having her dress in a certain way for church makes me feel more comfortable and causes me to worry less about what other people are thinking. Very selfish and shallow.
Although only a brief interaction this morning, it was a reminder of how judgmental and legalistic I can be; especially as it relates to determining what is acceptable and pleasing to the LORD. It also caused me to reflect on how I have been discipling my daughter? Have I been leading her to wash the outside of the cup so that it looks clean to everyone else while meanwhile the inside remains full of all kinds of filth and gunk like greed and wickedness? Have I been encouraging her to simply be like a whitewashed tomb which outwardly appears beautiful but within is full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness?
I may cringe sometimes when I look at my daughter’s clothing choices on Sunday morning but I should be more concerned with what God thinks and how He feels when He looks upon her heart.
I’m all for an air of reverence and awe in approaching the LORD but I think I’ll focus more on the posture of my daughter’s heart than her external appearance.
*Name has been changed for privacy.