Part of our summer plans has been devoted to our church and vision planning. My mom’s church is going through a similar process in the Tampa area. We were swapping stories one day on the phone when she shared an analogy with me that has been bouncing around in my head ever since. Naturally, I had to take it a step further (again, my biggest strength is my biggest weakness) and for our purposes, I am going to us the analogy for our own faith rather than the idea of the church body as a whole.
Now I’m not sure about your children, but mine (if given the choice) would run around naked until the cows came home. In fact, there was a time when they were super young that we finally just started initiating “naked time” so they understood that there were times when it was appropriate as well as times when it wasn’t appropriate (cooper hypothetically in the front yard waving to those driving by). A toddler does not know any better, they want the freedom of being naked and running carefree. One of our jobs as parents is to teach them that it is important to wear clothes, especially when leaving the house. J They don’t know how to get dressed though, someone has to do that for them. As they get older, we continue to pick out their clothes, yet this time the independent toddler sees you coming from across the room and quickly protests, “I do it myself”. I can confidently say, both of my children have left the house with shorts on backwards and shoes on the wrong feet; however, their shoulders were pushed back ever so slightly and there was more of a kick in their step. Why? Because they did it themselves and literally wore it with pride. So naturally, we continue to allow them to pick out their clothes and leave the home in mismatched outfits with shorts that are on backwards. It’s their first steps to independence and fostering that “I do it” mentality.
So where does this idea of getting dressed connect with our faith or the life of the church? The Bible says that we “all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We don’t know that we are in need of something much larger than ourselves. Just like we need to be taught that it’s important to wear clothes, we also need to be taught that it’s important to know Jesus as well. We too, start off running around free and naked until someone comes along and takes us by the hand and leads us to get dressed or as I like to say, “to get Jesus”. As our faith grows and we take it on as our own, we travel down the “I do it myself” road. Our faith is now our own. Is it always perfect and seamless? Not exactly. Like learning to get dressed there will be valleys and hills and you can most definitely bet that our shoes will land on the wrong foot a time a two. But, just like getting dressed, it becomes more comfortable as we grow in our faith and understanding. The shoes eventually find the right foot and the color patterns begin to match better each day.
This is about where I thought the analogy would end until as if the Holy Spirit was using Cooper to teach me an even bigger lesson through all of this. Later that same day after my original conversation with my mom, Cooper came into the living room carrying a large heap of clothes in his arms (and might I add in an undressed body, go figure!). I watched him as he carefully laid out each piece perfectly on the floor and this was his final product:
He then turned to me proudly and said, “I picked out my clothes and now Mommy you get to help me and decide which outfit I’m going to wear”. It may have been the conversation from earlier in the morning, but I practically fell off the edge of my seat. It was a “God bump” moment when I realized, that’s just it! The next step in getting dressed and getting Jesus is bringing someone else along with you. He knows now what clothing items he needs as he had brought out each piece for me to choose from: shorts, underwear and a shirt. In fact, he could have very easily pulled out each item and put them on quietly and by himself in his own room; however, he chose to come out into the living room and invite someone else to participate with him. It’s the next step in our getting Jesus…it’s now time to invite someone along to start their own faith journey.
I wonder where we might find ourselves in this getting dressed and getting Jesus illustration. Are we still needing to be reminded that “it’s good to wear clothes” or are our “clothes still mismatched and on inside out”. I really want to ask if you have invited anyone to help you get dressed; however, I am concerned where some of your minds might wander.
Allow me to pull your thoughts back and tell you about a childlike faith moment I had this past Sunday at church with Elizabeth. She is a very sweet soon to be 1st grader who had invited her friend to come to church with her after a sleepover at her house last week. Her friend returned the following week excited to participate and was already talking about returning the following Sunday. As adults, we tend to complicate matters when really all it took was one simple question…”do you want to go to church with me?”