Can You Hear Me with That On?
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV
This chapter is probably the one I have most been looking forward to writing. This church culture experience is the one most people in the body of Christ are convinced they are absolutely correct about judging. It is a culture that we quickly evaluate simply at first glance. Ironically, it is this church culture where I received my greatest freedom and deliverance.
Say this with me… “Rajatabla!” This word is a Spanish word that loosely translates to mean strict. Another way to translate this word for the purpose of this writing is legalistic. Still need more of a definition? Ok, let me try painting a picture for you. The ladies at this church could be found only wearing skirts that were floor length, maybe calf length during the summer. Blouses and shirts had to have sleeves. Sleeveless attire was not an option. Makeup was preferred close to none. Men were required to wear ties, slacks and dress shoes. Shirts were to be tucked in. This dress code had to be adhered to at all times. For the women, this dress code was expected to be fulfilled even when not at a church service. If you were part of this congregation, pants were NOT an option for the ladies at any time. Let’s try it again, “Rajatabla.”
How did I find myself in a place like this? Remember that dating relationship that I mentioned in the previous chapter? This was the church that this person’s parents were Pastors of. When I would visit him, I would visit their church. Out of respect for his parents and the culture of the church, I of course would dress accordingly. I do remember though the day I found out first hand that it wasn’t ok for women to wear sleeveless shirts. I never made that mistake again! Even though the church was legalistic, the members were very welcoming and loving. I made some great friendships during that time.
I recall a service once where they were speaking about how a woman should dress. As I sat listening to the Pastor speak specifically about women I couldn’t help but wonder, how was this truly helping people grow in their relationship with the Lord? Wasn’t this putting them in bondage rather than setting them free? Yes, I would adjust my attire when I was there, but that didn’t mean I agreed with it. Well, let’s just say I was about to learn just how true the scripture “You perceive my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:2) really was.
A short time later, I was on the phone with my boyfriend at the time discussing the dress code at his parents church. He never once asked me to adjust what I wore, but after the before mentioned service, I had to bring it up. Did what you wear affect your ability to hear from God or have relationship with Him? As I was making my case as to why I disagreed and was so sure this wasn’t of God, suddenly the Holy Spirit spoke up. The words He spoke next would forever change me and my perceptions. He said… “You are so quick to judge what these people wear, but what you don’t see is that these people love me so much that they are willing to change the way they dress.” Needless to say, that phone call ended quickly and I was left wrecked on my living room floor.
The next morning, I awoke ready for the work day ahead. I grabbed my clothes, got dressed and looked in the mirror. The reflection I saw was nothing I had ever seen before. I was covered from head to toe with a long-sleeved shirt and a floor length skirt. As I continued to stare at my reflection all I could think was that I had never felt so beautiful before. If I am to be honest, I don’t think I can recall a time up to present day when I have felt more beautiful than that moment. Was it the clothes? No. If I am to sum it up best, it would be in the verse below…
I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
And arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.
Proverbs 61:10 NIV
Did this mean I was somehow taking steps backwards from the freedom I had found in my new life in Christ? Quite the opposite. See, what you don’t know about me at that time in my life is that I struggled terribly with my self-esteem and self-worth. While I always took great care in what I wore, I often chose things that would draw attention to myself. In my mind I had allowed attention to equate to worth. Though I had been walking with the Lord for a few years at this point, He was still working out some core issues. This happened to be one of them.
I went on to maintain this manner of dressing for a little while until the Lord worked on my heart enough to release me. As He released me from my “uniform”, He also released me from shame, low self-esteem, low self-worth and a mountain of insecurities. My identity was becoming grounded in Him. His attention was all the attention I needed.
This is not where it stops. In this little legalistic church is the very place where I was ministered to in the area of deliverance and set free from some lifelong demons. Seriously! There were things that came out of me that I didn’t know were there. There were open doors in my life from things that had taken place when I was younger that I didn’t even think were an issue. After an intense but beautiful process of renouncing my past and acknowledging harbored sin, I became a new person. I became freer than I have ever been.
These experiences were paramount in my walk with Christ and they happened in a place that most of us judge because of appearance. We see bondage, but I found freedom.
Lord give us eyes to see as you see. Help us to see past a persons appearance and see straight through to the heart. Let us see as you see.