Saturday, November 1, 2014

Playing Dress-Up

Beth and me in at Bethel's Trunk or Treat.
Also our costumes for the Wicked 10k
Children love to play dress-up—and there’s no better time for dress-up than right now.  Halloween stores have opened where storefronts have stood vacant the rest of the year.  Other stores have stocked costume items, accessories, and other things to make your dress-up holiday more fun.  Even  those who don’t celebrate Halloween per se often dress up as Bible characters or some other non-scary persona.  According to US economy expert Kimberly Amadeo, the average American spent $77.52 on Halloween this year.[i]  And, of course, dress-up isn’t just for kids.  Adults make up a huge percentage of those who will go costumed this year, either on October 31 or some other day.  Whether it’s Trunk-or-Treat or the Wicked 10k fun run in Virginia Beach that we ran in October, I love to play dress-up as much as the next full-grown adult. 
            Of course, dress-up doesn’t end with Halloween.  This is just the beginning of the dress-up season.  We deck the halls for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  Plates and cutlery aren’t enough for our Thanksgiving tables anymore—now they must be decorated and dressed to impress.  Kids put on plays, dressed as pilgrims and Indians.  We put on living nativity scenes and costumed Christmas pageants.  And don’t forget how fun it is to get a coat and tie on your six-year-old boy, and ruffles on your three-year-old girl, for the obligatory holiday pictures in front of the fake hearth at the photographer’s studio!
            Yes, we love our dress-up—mostly because we enjoy pretending we’re somebody that we’re not.  If you’re a meek underachiever, you can put on a mask and cape and become a superhero for the day.  Or, if you’re the underling who constantly gets kicked around, you can put on a zombie outfit and become somebody’s worst nightmare.  There’s a societal reason why people love to play dress-up.  There’s a lot of emotional fun and relief when we get to act like we’re someone we’re not. 
            I knew a family that struggled financially on a long-term basis.  Most of their clothes were shabby, yet whenever they loaded up the car to visit the grandparents the kids dressed up as if they were going to church.  Why?  Because the parents wanted to impress the grandparents, and convince them that they were doing better than they really were.  They were playing dress-up for the same reason we do at Halloween—it’s often more fun to pretend you somebody you’re not than it is to just be who you are. 
            Holidays, events, and other fun reasons for dress-up are great ways to put on a show, blow off a little steam, engage in harmless fantasy, and just have a lot of fun.  But when our dress-up becomes a way of deceiving ourselves and others, perhaps we need to rediscover who we really are. 
            Sunday mornings are one particularly popular time for dress-up.  This is fine for those people who were always raised to show respect for God by wearing their best.  Yet there can be a lot of opportunity for deception in our church attire.  For example, we might convince ourselves that we’re good Christians just because we look like Christians.    We say the right words, wear the right clothes, know all the right catch phrases, and refrain from all the wrong behaviors—and by this masquerade we convince ourselves that we’re okay with God and He’s okay with us.  Yet, if we look beneath the mask of our religion, many of us would be afraid to find that there’s not a lot of reality there.  Christians who play dress-up might have everybody else convinced that they’re fine, upstanding pillars of the community, or even that they possess some sort of spiritual depth.  However, while we may deceive ourselves some of the time and fool others all of the time, we can’t trick God any of the time. 
The Bible says, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Sam 16.7 NLT).”  God knows who you truly are, inside and out—no matter what you wear.  He knows that everybody’s clothes are only a costume, a put-on to convince people of what you want them to believe about you.  Whether you wear jeans or a three-piece suit to church, whether your shoes match your dress or not, what matters is that you’re genuine with God, who sees you as you truly are.  So come to church as you are, or as you aspire to be at your genuine best.  But come to church honestly.  Take off the mask.  Be who you are.

[i] Amadeo, Kimberly.  “What Are the Trends for Halloween Retail Spending?”  October 17, 2014.

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