Manifest plainness? What does that mean? I read it on my friend’s blog. She had it as part of a header and it just grabbed my attention. The header read “Manifest plainness. Embrace simplicity. Reduce selfishness. Have few desires.” It reminded me of a book about Saint Francis of Assisi that I read with a book discussion group several years ago. He was the epitome of humility. In fact, if he were alive today and heard me say such a thing about him, he would return to his monastery and have his “brothers” stand on his face so that pride would not take root.
Saint Francis wore a brown habit, owned no possessions, and worked hard at maintaining humility. I struggle with all of these things and at different times I get my thinking very twisted here. I want to “manifest plainness” so that others do not see me – but Jesus in me. I don’t like flamboyant clothing and jewelry, it feels too conspicuous. But I know other Christian women that are completely different in this regards – in fact, Beth Moore, my absolute all-time favorite Bible teacher is from Texas and she says things like “in Texas we believe, the higher the hair the closer to God”. (Now before you go off thinking I am saying Beth Moore is flamboyant - I want to clarify - I think she is a very classy, beautiful woman, who dresses immaculately and is a first class teacher of the word of God. What I am saying is "style-wise" we're different.)
I had it right between the eyes this Sunday. I walked into Sunday school and immediately felt under-dressed. Now mind you, I’ve been wearing jeans just about every single Sunday since we started going to this new church (about 3 months now) and haven’t felt awkward about it yet. I figured it was one of those things that the enemy was using to keep my mind off of what might be gleaned in the spiritual realm by diverting my attention to my shoes, my pants, and the sheer overwhelming elegance and sophistication of every other woman in the room. Ugh! I sat all the way through feeling very, shall we say for lack of a better word *dumpy*. After Sunday school I met up with Kaitlyn telling me “so-and-so’s mother makes her wear a dress every week and so-and-so’s father makes them at least wear dress pants – but that she’s glad I just let them be the same as they are every other day”. DID THE CHILD READ MY MIND? While her thoughts give me comfort now, they did little at the time to lift the oppressive feeling of being very shabby in contrast.
I have always had a big issue with hypocrisy. The people I knew growing up who called themselves Christians were always cleaned up on the outside – and after church (in the rare times that we actually attended), as soon as the car doors would slam to take us back to the reality of our lives, they were no different. In fact, in my experience, those who called themselves by the name of Christ were frequently more evil than the “non-Christians” who were often more kind, and loving than the Sunday school teacher looking down her nose at the rowdy little children with uncombed hair, boys with half tucked shirts and girls with soiled dresses because they were obviously “unsanctified”. These kinds of people did everything short of push me absolutely and totally out of the church – however, they could NOT push me too far to be gripped in the loving arms of my Savior.
As an adult, I walked through the doors of a little chapel on a mountain in West Virginia. My life was in utter shambles. I looked for God and I found him – among people wearing jeans and tennis shoes and t-shirts. I learned the reality of the verse that says “man looks at the outward appearance, while God looks at the heart”. I learned that real sanctification touches and purifies the blackness of our hearts – and often changes the outward as well – which has little to do with real spirituality. I take the verse to heart that says that instead of outward adornment we should be concerned with the “beauty of a meek and quiet Spirit that is of great value to the Lord”.
I know that I have many areas in my heart yet to be transformed. I know that when the Lord looks at me he sees past the tennis shoes and blue jeans and see that Julie needs to work on envy, pride, malice, idolatry and thinks of little else other than making me more like Him. The next time the enemy tries to get my eyes on these things – I am going to remember that my goal in life is to be more like Jesus, so that when others see me they can see Him. Modesty aside (believe me this body was MADE to be covered!) what I wear really doesn’t matter.