Someone recently told me that I am too concerned with how I dress. It took me a moment (a moment of me being aghast, shocked, hurt, annoyed…you know…like someone had just insulted my mom, or the names I gave my children!) before I recognised the opportunity this criticism presented. Ok maybe more than just.one.moment. But let’s fast forward to the part where I am all perspective and grown-up impartiality!
This year I will be 40 and I had always assumed a high degree of self-knowledge. But a throwaway (throw-at-you?) kind of comment on a frivolous (fabulous?) issue such as my love of fashion started to represent an opportunity for some soul searching, and hey, who am I to shy away from that! What if this was true about me….? We all have blind spots and when the light falls on them we are always all the better for knowing what was really hiding there. And how well we know ourselves helps us in every area of our lives, and most especially in our faith. And isn’t God always busy creating opportunities for us to conform to His likeness? Using our likeness to do it certainly isn’t beyond Him! I know – I am writing about fashion and about faith, at the same time! Queue mike drop! Stuff’s gonna get real girls!
Socrates said that in order to be wise, one must know oneself. Sounds simple yes? No! Why? Because the heart, our very own hearts, are deceitful above all things (Jer 17 v 9) and it doesn’t just deceive others but it deceives us. Jesus spent so much time in the Gospels, just talking about people’s hearts! Because it’s what goes on there that truly matters.
The Bible continues to point to the fact that “the human struggle happens within a single entity – the human heart. The main human struggle is not between the heart and something else, but between the forces that tear it in different directions. The great battle is deciding to what your hearts greatest love, hope, and trust will be directed.” (Tim Keller)
Anyone can establish an argument cerebrally, ask any political science major! But if I wanted to get to the bottom of my heart motivations around the issues of clothing and appearance, more drastic measures where called for. And so in January of this year I decided to not buy any new clothes for 10 months. Ok so bear with me here, I’m not crazy I promise. If I really wanted to know my own heart and motivations, I had to fast, so to speak, from indulging my love of fashion. This is what Richard Foster says about fasting: “More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. Anger, jealousy, strife, fear, idolatry, if they are within us, they will surface during fasting.”
So with a special focus on exploring what truly motivates me, on asking difficult questions regarding my shopping habits as well as how I feel about my clothes, my appearance and the possible impact this has on my faith walk, I have embarked on this self-imposed season of shopping celibacy! Maybe I am overthinking this (it wouldn’t be the first time I heard that either! Sticks and stones people!). But I would rather know the truth about myself, confront it and come out stronger than be unaware of something that could be standing in the way of me truly growing, truly glorifying God and responding authentically to what He has called me to do and be. If you are ready to explore some hard questions with me, like is it wrong for Christians to be fashionable, and why do I shop and a whole trolly full of others, then watch this space! Welcome to the Wear What’s There Challenge! Tune in next week to find out what I found out about retail therapy!