My recall has had its blanks filled in by photographs. You know them. The ones that people can’t resist taking of the little girls in matching dresses heading into the church. Accurately I can state that I was that hand-clinging, picture bible toting, dress wearing girl since before I can even remember. We both were. She went her own way for her own reasons so this story does not involve her. My love goes out to my sister. But this story does involve me, and the dresses play a huge role.
So now I wear jeans to church. It strikes some people as disrespectful and others as sloppy. But they are clean jeans. There are no holes in my knees or paint on the pockets, although I wouldn’t look down on them if they were less than perfect. They deserve more respect than that. My jeans have changed style and size and color in the past 34 years. But I still love them and identify with them and they still accept me and parade me around proudly. And they sit in the pew with me as I praise my Lord and they stand with me as I lead my Sunday school teens against the perilous world of stapled on smiles and heads full of verses but no sense of their value.
My jeans sat in my living room with me on Sunday when my husband started putting the pieces together. His wife was only with him 6 days out of the 7. Who was this woman he woke up next to on Sundays? Why was the other woman driven from his company to be replaced by this beautifully dressed imposter? Compassion, patience and joy were erased from the face that pointed at the clock, straightened her stockings and barked orders to the family she used to treasure. Who was this woman in the dress?
And my jeans were there with us as we sat at the kitchen table as young ladies and took in the decision of the household. Two homes now, instead of the one; but it wasn’t our fault. Two sides of the church to sit on, and we could choose his or hers. But we weren’t in any way to blame. And the awkward smiles of those around us, not knowing how to react. And then the worried, clumsy attempts of the youth leaders trying to reach out to the young ladies that were quickly slipping away. They didn’t know what to do. No one knew what to do.
And my jeans caught my tears when I reached the places my mind hated visiting because it was confused by them. They were good places with people I cared for that I no longer had. They were comfortable places with pretty dresses and loved ones all around me and the woman I was training myself to become. And her dress was always lovely. Her hands perfectly placed in the lap next to mine with her round toed shoes crossing over each other. She sang and she praised and she smiled. And jeans had no place in an environment such as this.
So my jeans sat in the closet as I donned my uncomfortable skin. My lips drew color as my practiced smile awoke. And I was her. I was lovely and I was appropriate and I had my bible at my side. And I smiled at those who needed to see me smile and I scowled at those who got in the way. I had a family of my own now so there was a responsibility. An example of who we should be when we are wearing our dresses. A model of church attending normality that required a skin so thick, doubts would be raised as to any concern for her well being. But I wasn’t her. My 6 days out of 7 were spent wearing jeans. And they redefined me for those days and kept out any shell that began to shape around me. And he took notice.
And I was wearing my jeans after he made me get out of my dress and stay home from church that Sunday. And he made me talk until I cried. And he waited patiently for weeks until he made me talk again. And I still cried. And we put the dresses away and my jeans took me to church after that. And my 7 days out of 7 were spent with the same person, and her smile was no longer practiced but genuine. And her bible was still by her side but not as an accessory anymore.
So I wear my jeans to church as I lead worship at the front with him. And I get looks from those who don’t know me. When they scowl, I don’t mind. And I have friends who don’t own dresses who bring their jeans to church, too. They didn’t know they could do that before, and they worship without restraint. And we’re happy being the same people 7 out of 7. And we’re friends with some dress wearers who don’t compromise 7 out of 7 and they’re special to us because they don’t mind the jeans. They know our hearts and worship with us and sit at dinners with us laughing over the trials of our weeks.
Hanging beside my jeans, I have some dresses. I’ve stifled their voices and have taught them how to behave. They are still pretty and I wear them on occasion but my jeans keep them in line as they are the favorites and one misstep from the dress gets it back on the hanger to wait even longer for admiration. They’re learning their place.