Last summer I hit the big 40. I spent the first part of the year rather worried about it, wondering how I would feel about reaching such a milestone, but as it approached I realised I was no different – it was just another day after all!
But passing through that experience, and also having caught up with teenage nieces and nephews over the Christmas break, has made me more conscious of the ageing process. As have the darker circles and bigger lines that have appeared around my eyes… (I 'joked' with my husband that it was the result of almost a year of him being the pastor of our church!)
Certainly stress has played a part and one of the things I did in the sales after Christmas was visit a beauty stand in a department store to ask for advice on creams and make up (something I never do as I've never really been into beauty treatments and make up other than the real basics).
As a pear shape I've always chosen outfits that hide rather than accentuate my shape. And after having given birth to two children I'm now two dress sizes bigger than I was at my early twenties stage! So I do think about what I'm going to wear each morning, choosing outfits that hide the bumps and wobbly bits that my kids take great pleasure in pointing out!
But last year I was really challenged by a set of Bible reading notes that asked whether I ever thought about clothing my spirit. It was a concept I'd not really contemplated much, apart from the obvious passage on putting on the armour of God found in Ephesians 6.
I go through periods of religiously praying through the armour and putting it on every day, ready to face any spiritual battles that might come my way.
But God reminded me of a different passage that day, and challenged me to do something that day and every day since (which I do whenever I remember!). As we are still at the start of this new year I wanted to share it in case it resonates with you too. It's a great habit to get into…
Colossians 3:12–14 exhorts us to 'wear' another type of spiritual clothing. Here are the verses in two different versions:
Therefore, 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. (NIV)
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. (The Message)
It is quite clear that the passage instructs us to 'clothe' our spirits – to ensure our attitudes are godly. Imagine what the world would look like if we each spent as much time focusing on dressing ourselves with these virtues as we do the clothes we wear each day…
To get personal for a moment, I can be impatient – when I'm stressed and tired it doesn't take long for me to get harassed (I am a working parent after all!). I also have a fiery temper, a trait I can often just accept rather than deal with – and am certainly not gentle that often. But here, in scripture, we are being told to be 'even-tempered', gentle and kind. That is the 'wardrobe God picked out for you' – and yes, for me too. I think I fall short quite often – how about you?
So, since I felt challenged by God on this issue I've tried to think about this in the mornings while I'm getting dressed. I consider my attitudes and make a conscious effort to 'dress' my spirit as well as my body. So can I ask you – how well dressed is your spirit today? Do you think you need to take up this challenge too?