My wife is working on a large scale clothes swap. Hundreds of articles of clothing have been donated and are now filling the void in our home that we have created by trying to live simply. As my wife sorts through the clothes, she can’t help but try some on. As she tries on clothes, she can’t help but notice her body. As she notices her body, she can’t help but point out imperfections.
“God attached my legs on crooked”
I think she then attempted to lift her spirits by pointing out my lack of fashion sense, and that hairy white men are nasty. And that got me thinking. Well not my fashion sense or being a nasty, hairy white man. The other thing about God attaching my legs on wrong.
You don’t really need that
I have been shocked at the amount of clothes that women have been donating. Nice clothes. New clothes (with tags). Expensive clothes. There was a moment where each article of clothing was looked at and someone thought, “I need that.” So we make money to buy clothes. We exercise to fit into clothes. We feel better about ourselves in our new clothes. And in a short amount of time, the item we couldn’t live without, and worked so hard to get, is easily handed over as an unwanted donation. Why?
To live content
I spend much of my leadership time in the church. We hold dearly to the teachings of the Bible. The apostle Paul is one of the significant New Testament authors. He offers these words: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” and “If we have food and clothing we will be content with that.”
Simple, but not easy.
We don’t like our crooked legs. We want new clothes. The very ones, church leaders, who should be leading others in the way of contentment that Paul is speaking of may be the worst offenders. It’s subtle, and easy to spiritualize – but its there. Our longing for more, for bigger, for better reveals our distance from being content. Could our Godliness without contentment be great loss? Is godliness without contentment even godliness?
Your legs look good. Your clothes are fine. The size of your church, the quality and style of your preaching and every other thing that pastors get wrapped up in are things you don’t need and will fight against you living a life of contentment.
In need of a third point
So here it is. There are more important things. Things more important than crooked legs, new clothes and better ministry (whatever that is). That thing is you. The real you, what we call the soul. The essence of your existence. The you beyond any role, job, success, failure or relationship that defines you. And the warning: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world yet forfeit their soul.” What good are straight legs, nice clothes and a thriving ministry if you sacrificed the real you to get there?
Ruth Haley Barton (an author I wish I would have paid attention to years ago) wrote this, “When a leader loses their soul, so do the organizations they lead…when a church loses its soul it begins to slip into mediocrity and is unable to give life.”
Most people I meet live with a bit of restlessness. They are looking for something more. Maybe not a “gain the whole world” more, but something beyond what they have. A different body, nicer things, better performance…we are not content. I agree whole heartedly again with Ruth Haley Barton, “I am convinced that the More that we are looking for is the transformation of our souls in the presence of God.”
We may not phrase it that way. You may not fully understand what that phrase means or how one goes about experiencing it. You may chose to disagree. But I believe this (transformation of the soul, spiritual formation, discipleship) is the antidote to the crooked legs and unwanted clothing in our lives.
May we be full of life and become life givers to one another. May we replace, “How does my butt look in these jeans?” and “how was church today?” with, “how is your soul?” And may this clothing swap come soon so I can get my floor back.