"Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that". ~ Hamlet Act 1 Scene 3. Shakespeare
For the past few weeks in the Contemplative Service we've been considering clothes as metaphor. Here is Part 1 and Part 2
This week I've been reflecting back on the first appearance of clothes in the bible.
In Genesis chapter 3, Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. There first response after swallowing is to realize that they are naked and and sew fig leaves together to make coverings for themselves. They hide their naked selves from each other and then proceed to hide their nakedness from God.
In their original state Adam and Eve had no concept of Right and Wrong, and no concept of naked or clothed. Every animal they were surrounded by was naked, and they saw themselves as no different. After eating the fruit they suddenly become self conscious about they way they present themselves to each other. Being vulnerable and naked is suddenly no longer an option because the wisdom gleaned from the fruit tells them it it wrong. Not only does it feel wrong to each other but it feels wrong to be that way before God.
Adam and Eve can no longer present themselves to each other or God as truly themselves. The knowledge of Good and Evil has removed that possibility. They craft an image of themselves that is not who they really are. Their real selves are not acceptable to each other any more, and they believe they are not acceptable to God either.
I find it interesting that God in his rebuke does not demand that Adam and Eve remove their clothes and become naked again. After God curses them He chooses to re-clothe them in animal skins. Once you become aware of Good and Evil it seems that you cannot forget it again.
And so we have dressed ourselves ever since.
Clothes; that began as a way of hiding our 'bad parts' from God and from each other have transformed into a way of presenting our 'best selves' to God. They become a way of crafting an image ourselves. They become a way of altering our mood. We dress to impress, to intimidate, to conceal weakness, to protect ourselves from harm. I have so many different versions of myself that I present. The Sunday Best, The Gym, The Hang Out with Friends, the Conference. I subtly dress different at these places and present myself different as well.
Naked I came from my Mother's womb, and naked I will return - Job 1:21
All these thoughts of clothing and metaphor over the past few weeks can be paralyzing. I can spend so much time obsessing over what image I am presenting to the world that it becomes an excuse for inaction. I need to do the best I can and trust that God sees the intent behind the clothing.
The gospel writers say that Jesus was stripped of his clothing at the crucifixion. Most pictures of Jesus on the cross put some kind of loin cloth on him. It was Roman practice to strip the prisoner naked however. God, stripped of power and might, of majesty and glory hangs naked before the world.
Where we could not become naked before God, God became naked before us
God invites us to him, clothes and all. God accepts not just our best selves, but our worst. Not just who we desperately want to be, but also who we are afraid that we might be. There is not a single part of ourselves that cannot be hidden in God.
And as God clothed Adam and Eve, he offers to clothe us in Christ.
My work is not critique others of their Right and Wrong, I have too many beams in my own eye for that. My work is to slowly exchange my clothes - the many layers of my false self, for the life that God is building within me.
If Mark Twain and Shakespeare are correct that the 'clothes make the man', then I need God to be my Master Tailor.