Garment of Praise (by Erica Green)
by Erica Green
Dressing God's Way
I would like you to think back to when you were a teenager. Yes, I know that is a while ago for some of you, but give it a go. Conjure up some key words that represent what life was all about for you when you were at this delicate age. (Eg: Confusion, Hormones, Conformity, Individuality, Rebellion, and Clothes.)
There are two concepts that featured very heavily during this period in my life, (and yes, I can remember back that far, thank you very much) clothes and conformity. Of course my mother had no idea whatsoever that these two concepts needed to be related to each other. Well, that was my perception at the time. I vividly remember refusing to wear some 'hideous' thing that mother had produced from goodness knows where. What more can I say? I was a shallow, self-centered teenager. (Is that a tautology?) I am sure that all families with teenage girls will have similar stories to tell. Please … tell me that I am not alone.
One of the best things that happened to me, as a teenager, was that my sister left home. Now I know that sounds horrible of me, but just hear me out. It was not because I hated her, or because of some sibling rivalry or anything like that. My sister is somewhat older than I am and she moved to Sydney to train as a nurse. Those were the days when you were immediately thrown onto the wards and completed your education in block courses rather than getting your degree first. She was therefore earning money straight away and going through the usual binge of clothes shopping, which naturally accompanied a girl's first taste of financial freedom in a big city. She also tended to move from one trend to another quite quickly and therefore had still reasonably trendy clothing (by my standards anyway) that she no longer wore. Consequently when she would come back home on holidays, she would bring back a care parcel for her little sister.
Normally I would have been quite mortified to have to wear my sister's 'hand-me-downs', but in this case no one in my home town would have know. So I was more than pleased to accept these parcels and the sentiment behind them. I am sure that she saved me from being psychologically scarred for life, well, more than I already am. Mum didn't seem to mind that I was wearing "weird stuff" either. After all it stopped the debate over clothes and as an added bonus, saved her housekeeping money for something else. So problem solved all around.
I look back now in horror at some of these clothes. Mum must have been a little more tolerant than I had given her credit for. The only consolation is that I have been there, done that and need never do it again.
- One foot flares.
- Jeans that were so tight that you had to breathe out to get the zip done up.
- Platform Shoes. Although quite an aid for the vertically challenged amongst us, or those wishing to walk through puddles, they had many other down sides, like twisted ankles.
- Vinyl Boots with embroidered patterns up the side.
- Purple and yellow Midis. Thankfully I was too late for the Mini that would have made for some sad family photos.
- Short sleeve swing tops with long sleeved skivvies underneath. Make up your mind, for goodness sake! Are you hot or are you cold.
- Indian Cotton dresses that made you look like you were pregnant at the ripe old age of 13.
But that is all beside the point. I thought it was great. When I put on those clothes I really felt good about myself.
There usually is a point to these stories, so where am I heading with this one? This story reminds me of a bible text. Actually a song came to mind first and then the text. Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV "… the Lord has anointed me to preach good news … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour."
God has provided for us a garment that will cover our despair, or as another version puts it, lifts us from our spirit of heaviness. It does not matter what is underneath, when you put this garment on, you will be lifted up. God is not glorified through miserable Christians. John 10:10 (NIV) tells us that "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
That is not to say that there aren't times when it is appropriate to mourn or be sad. As human beings sometimes we need to go through these emotions, but I think of people like Paul and Silas. If anyone in the Bible had the right to be despondent, surely they did. They were going about God's work in Philippi when they were dragged off into the market place, stripped, flogged and thrown into prison. Pretty heavy stuff really. Granted, what they were doing was a little flashy, casting devils out of young women and the sort.
So what do we find them doing? Acts 16:25 (NIV) "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them." Amongst the dark and damp of the prison stocks, where every movement would send shafts of pain through their bleeding wounds, amongst all this they traded in their gloominess for praise.
This garment of praise is not like a uniform. It is not like a shapeless choir smock, one size fits all. Everyone's praise garment is individual to them. It takes on each unique need and expression of praise.
- You can praise God by showing appreciation when you see a little glimpse of Him in others.
- You can praise God by lifting others up when they are down.
- You can praise God through admiration of his creation.
- You can praise God through prayers that uplift.
- You could praise God through singing. (My husband and I were responsible for kids' bible classes for some years. Every week the kids would put so much effort into their singing. If I arrived at church in a grumpy mood, it would only take a few songs and I couldn't help but be happy. It didn't matter if we sang off key, and many times we did, the most important thing was that it lifted our spirits and glorified God.)
So go out and find the garment that works for you. No one can squeeze you into a size 8 mini, however there may be some of you who can carry that one off. Nor can they force you into 'Nanna' clothing. Although a high percentage of us turn into our mothers eventually, you know. But you really need to find a form of praise that works for you.
The purpose of praise is to lift you from your spirit of heaviness, to make you feel good, to give you a little taste of what God originally intended for you before Satan took over this world, and in so doing, glorify and honour God. So whether your garment is:
- Soulful blue;
- Flashy sequins;
- Comfortable blue jeans;
- Ridiculously impractical high shoes;
- Pure and sweet white cotton;
- or my personal favourite … hot pink with shoulder pads
it is acceptable to God so … find out what it is, … wear it, … enjoy it, … and start glorifying God by living life to its fullest.
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