So, it all started with a Bible study in the book of James. If you know anything, anything at all, about the book of James, it’s not for the faint of heart. No bumper sticker platitudes, relatively few options for Pinterest-happy memes. Meaty. Challenging. Convicting. Keeps you real. Much like looking in the mirror, first thing in the morning, without even having brushed your teeth. Yeah, THAT kind of real. James, the writer, doesn’t mince words. He was not a Marketing major. Or Social Work. He puts it plain.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness…” ~ James 1:2
He goes on to encourage the readers, us—if you will, to remain steadfast under trial (v.12) and recognize that temptation is not from God. You can’t blame your own inclination towards sin, no matter how pretty it looks, on God. We are “lured and enticed” by our own desires (v.14). Those desires when conceived give birth to sin, and fully grown sin becomes…death. Yeah, not on the Oprah Book Club selection list.
James reminds us not that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” There is no shadow, due to change. He is immovable. Unshakable. Steadfast.
Then, as if that weren’t enough, we are told—imperatively—to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger”. This is not a suggestion. Nor can I flip around the verbs and adverbs to make it more like me—“quick to speak, slow to hear, and warp speed to anger”. Dressing ourselves in His clothes is hard. And, that’s when she said it. My honest-to-the-core sistah-friend put it plainly.
“Sometimes, the clothes don’t fit right. They’re heavy. Like a polyester choir robe that belongs to the towering gentleman who sings bass, down the row from you. And, you can’t trade it in,” says she.
Wow. Ill-fitting clothes. Garments that I, as a Christ-follower, am called to wear. But, sometimes, I just don’t feel like it. The polyester is itchy. The robe doesn’t hang right. It’s too long, I think. I’m rather petite (or fun-sized, like those Hershey miniatures that you get on Halloween).
“Quick to hear”. Yup, I can listen. Most of the time. But, am I just hearing other people speak? Or am I really listening? Am I listening in such a way, that I understand? Or am I just waiting to put in my two cents, or to add a witty comeback? Zoinks. That robe is uncomfortable.
“Slow to anger”. Not my best fruit of the spirit, folks. I am a “spitfire”, as He Who Is Now WAY Taller Than I says. It’s genetic, I say. The biological fuse with which I was endowed is microscopic. I can be feisty. Particularly at perceived injustice. Or something that should work a particular way; but, alas, it doesn’t. Stupid robe. The zipper gets stuck and constricts my movement. Ill-fitting clothes. Again.
And let’s be honest. Sometimes, we simply don’t want to wear it. Or, let me drive this car closer to home—I don’t want to wear it. I want to be snarky without remorse—or quick-tempered without regret. Later, our friend James says that the tongue can start a fire. Not a romantic, “chestnuts roasting on an open” kind of fire, but a relentless white-hot blaze, destroying everything in its path. We “let it fly”, as it were, and all that’s left are the ashen remains of someone’s heart. Or someone’s delight. The damage may not be visible to the naked eye—but, down deep, you know it’s there. And so do they. You both know who lit the match. The hem of that robe just tripped me up.
Yet, He gives grace and mercy, the Tailor who remakes us. And, then, piece by piece, seam by seam, the clothes seem to fit a wee bit better. It’s not a quick fix—it’s lifelong. Lest we “get the big head”, it is not because of anything we’ve accomplished or earned. It’s all Him.
It’s that “good and perfect” gift that’s come from above—growing us, stretching us, taking in a bit here and there. Generally speaking, fittings are uncomfortable and revealing. You might even get a pin stuck in you here and there. It gives new meaning to “Extreme Makeover”.
Or better yet, "What Not To Wear".
But, one day, those clothes will fit. Just right. As though they were Hand-crafted for us.