It’s been said that, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” And as much as I’m inclined to grumble about rain, slush, and cold (or high heat and humidity for that matter), I generally ascribe to this way of thinking.
I think about this quote when I decide whether to ride my bicycle (easily my preferred mode of transportation) or take the car. I think about this sentiment when I decide to visit the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (a favorite spot to get extended time with God) or sit in some cafe, instead, to practice spiritual disciplines.
Recently, though, I’ve been starting to think about “suitable clothing” for spiritual, emotional, and relational development. Especially these days, during the Christmas season.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I tend to live with one set of attitudes and behaviors that tends to be exhibited when the “weather” is fair (well-rested, happy, healthy, wealthy, and at peace with others), and another set of attitudes and behaviors that tends to be exhibited when the “weather” is foul (tired, stressed, sick, cash-strapped, in conflict with others). The trick with this way of thinking is that it assumes my ability to exude a pleasant demeanor is dependent upon my circumstances. It assumes that there’s such a thing as “bad weather.” But could it be that it’s actually an issue of “unsuitable clothing?”
The New Testament book of Colossians talks about this idea of considering — and intentionally changing — one’s spiritual, emotional, and relational clothing, in light of our faith in Christ. In the third chapter, verses 9-10 say it most clearly: “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
But what does this mean, practically? How should this dictate my thoughts, words, body language, and tone of voice in real-world situations? When I’m stuck in a long line at the store? When that one relative at the family holiday celebration does that one bothersome thing which has triggered me since my childhood? When I’m backed up in traffic? When other stressed-out people come at me with angry words or gestures? The preceding verses talk about unsuitable clothing: immoral behavior, self-centered actions and attitudes, varying levels of anger, and negative speech patterns… Honestly (embarrassingly), these verses read like a police report of all the negative actions and attitudes which characterize my typical response in these real-world situations.
Fortunately, there’s an alternative. More-suitable clothing. Almost like the spiritual, emotional, and relational version of a festive, warm Christmas sweater.
Colossians 3:12-15 says, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
Just think about this in light of the holiday season (perhaps a stress-reliever for some, but more likely current stressor for many): How amazing would it be if our actions and attitudes could be marked by this wardrobe change?!?
If someone says something mean to me, I can respond with kindness. If I end up doing more than my fair share of the household chores to keep all the “Christmas machinery” running, I can practice patience. If I’m challenged to an argument or face any kind of aggression (active or passive), God’s Spirit can give me everything I need to react with gentleness and forgiveness. Love and gratitude go so far at this time of the year! I need to be regularly seeking God in order to maintain a freshly-laundered set of suitable clothing for these situations — but that option is available to me! I just need to stop myself when I feel my emotions rising, yield my heart to God and ask for His Spirit to fill me, and then “rock the runway” with the new clothes God’s given me.
That’s what I’m asking for Christmas, anyway — and something tells me I’m going to get it, as long as I keep asking.