A literal layer of dust has piled up on the dress shoes in my closet as a result of the many months of pandemic casual, and my hangers are full of clothing I don’t remember buying. Aside from the half dozen flannel shirts I’ve been dutifully rotating through, I’ve had very few opportunities to wear anything with a collar for nearly two years.
That’s why the shirt was just a little tighter and a little shorter than I remembered – a byproduct of the pandemic, no doubt. And a less-than-meticulous observing of the wash instructions, too.
But it was too late. My youngest daughter and I were accompanying my parents to a baby shower, and we were several states away from our Baltimore home. We were staying at a relative’s house. My luggage was filled with diapers and dresses, milk bottles and Daniel Tiger books. I’d committed most of my mental energy to remembering the giraffe pacifier and well-worn, not-quite-white-anymore stuffed bunny rather than worry about trying on my own clothes.
“What do you think?” I pulled at the tails of my shirt, trying to get them past my belt. “Look alright?” One eye on my daughter running around the kitchen, the other assessing my mother’s reaction to my not-quite-perfectly-fitted outfit.
“You look nice,” she said.
“Shirt’s not too small?”
“It’s a little short,” she replied, not missing a beat.
I scowled, tugging at the shirt again, grabbing the toddler before the chair fell on top of her. “I think it’s fine.”
“It’s fine,” my mom agreed. “Just a little short.” Then, a shrug: “You asked.”
But that’s not the answer I wanted.
At the risk of comparing my mother to God, how often do we approach our prayer life in this same way? We know the things that are weighing us down, distracting us, tempting us to take up habits and practices we’d do well to avoid. Like an ill-fitting shirt, we tug and pull and pretend it’s all okay – even when we know it’s not.
And we turn to God in prayer, hoping to get an answer we know we don’t deserve, justification for something we know we should change. Remember: Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:6). He doesn’t say, “Come to me, all you who desire easy answers.”
What is it about your life that’s ill-fitting and causing you spiritual discomfort? Perhaps it’s time to try on a new way of living: a new habit, spiritual practice or renewed self-discipline. Lent is just around the corner – and the Holy Spirit will keep nudging until you do.
But there’s one more thing that’s particularly illustrative here, and I don’t want us to miss it. At the risk of comparing my mother to God again, you’ll note my parents didn’t send me home or force me to sit the baby shower out. My mom said, “You look nice” – and she’d meant it.
No matter our spiritually ill-fitting shirt, God still delights in us, still loves us, still gazes upon us and says, “You look great.” But God doesn’t leave us there. God sees the person we may yet become and invites us to take up that challenge.
Leave those old clothes behind, God says. I’ve got something that will fit you perfectly.