Some of my most memorable arguments with my mom during my teenage years were over what I was wearing to church. Growing up in Florida, where the summer days are hot and humid, I especially remember the admonishment regarding shorts. They were never to be worn to church on Sunday nights. I resisted and got away with it a few times, but most of the time I had to insulate my scrawny legs from the eyes of the other attendees.
This isn’t an effort to criticize my mom for carrying on what she and many others had been raised to believe about the dress code at church. Her desire to see me honor God was being played out in those weekly dramas about my clothes.
However, I remember another person asking what I would wear to church if I knew that Jesus was going to be there.
“Wouldn’t you want to look your best?” they asked.
I was always so confused by that question. Why would Jesus care what I was wearing?
These memories of wearing my “Sunday best” beg the question: Must we clean up our act before we can approach God? Are we safe to let God and others see our tattered garments––our weakness and frailty?
The easy ticket to feeling safe at church is to never let them see you sweat… or cry. We could call it the illusion of adequacy, or the effort to convince others and myself that I have very few needs or deficiencies. Too many times, this kind of posture before God has left me numb, not only to my own need for God, but also to the needs around me.
Putting on your best smile, your best dress, and your best set of teeth will not win God over. Sunday or not, God’s invitation is to come as we are.