Recently, I was thinking back on childhood memories and a favorite came to mind. The house our family lived in had a room in the basement only four feet high (we called it “the Little People’s room”). All our toys and games were in it and we spent endless hours there. In one corner we had a steamer trunk which my mother had filled with her old dresses, shoes, and hats. That silver trunk was by far my favorite thing in the room. I could spend hours dressing up in the most outrageous combinations of colors, patterns, and styles as I pretended to be much older – and very sophisticated.
Well, my childhood daydream suddenly ended when a sobering thought hit me. I have been playing spiritual dress up! I was pretending to be years beyond where I actually was in my Christian experience. I was trying to bear fruit before I blossomed.
Presently, I recalled a portion of Scripture which deals with the issue of dressing up. It’s found in the story of David and Goliath. After the young David had determined to fight the Philistine giant, he was taken to King Saul for “screening” and was approved. Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. (I Samuel 17:38 – 40)
What a simple example David has set for me. If the clothes don’t, take them off! Who knows what the outcome of David’s battle with Goliath would have been had David worn Saul’s heavy suit of armor. He could barely walk, let alone fight! But he removed those “sophisticated” battle clothes and instead chose everyday items which were well-known to a young Israeli shepherd boy. Stones and a slingshot, backed by the will and power of God, brought down the armor-clad giant.
Young believers on a large secular campus may be tempted to exchange the simple “clothes” of faith for others that seem more exotic, sophisticated or correct. In reality, what they are doing is stripping themselves of God’s power in order to dress in worldly rags. In the din of collegiate life and battles of principles, we can all slip into this trap. On the other hand, as much as God disdains “dressing up,” He must also dislike having reasonably mature young believers acting like babes. How would the Israelites have fared if David had crawled onto the field of battle dressed in swaddling clothes and clutching a rattle?
What about us? Have we learned to stand on God’s promises? Have we discovered the wonder of being alone with Him in prayer? Have we profited from being with other believers in Jesus, mutually encouraging each other?
If so, let us hold on to the standards the Lord has taught us. Why go back to our vulnerable days in God’s nursery when we can be continually clothed with the armor God has given us?
If not, if our experience of faith and friendship with the Lord are only second-hand or theoretical, we need to read the Bible for ourselves and weigh the evidence it contains. We need to search out people who follow Jesus and whose lives reflect His. Most of all, we need to go to the source, to God Himself, and ask Him to clothe us with understanding and faith. It’s when we come to Him just as we are – without any lofty pretensions or lowly ideas about ourselves – that He can do the most with us, and through us.
So, dear Lord, in this age of “dressing to kill” and “dressing for success,” help us to dress spiritually in a way neither flashy nor forlorn, but appropriate to where we are in You. Help us not to concern ourselves with next season’s “fashions,” but to grow day by day with Your help.
© 1991 The Yale Standard Committee