The Hole In Our Gospel: What Will They Think?

I admit, I considered trying today’s Hole in our Gospel Action Item – to wear the same clothes two days in a row – but I chickened out. I thought about how that might feel: to wear the exact same shirt, skirt, shoes and jewelry two consecutive days to work. And I knew I couldn’t do it. Not because I’d feel unclean or rumpled, but simply because I’d be embarrassed.

If I’d been able to explain exactly why I was wearing the same outfit two days in a row to my female coworkers (I suspect many of the men wouldn’t have noticed the wardrobe repetition), I might have forged ahead. “It’s a poverty experiment for my church group,” I imagined myself saying. “I’m experiencing what it might be like to own only one set of clothes.”

But I knew that would have defeated the point. After all, people living in dire poverty don’t have the option to explain why they wear the same clothes day after day. Nor do they have to...because it's a given for them and most of the people they know.

For people living in dire poverty, owning a single set of clothes isn’t an experiment – it’s a reality.

The reason I chose not to wear the same outfit two days in a row is because I was concerned about my coworkers’ judgment. Would they think I was slovenly? Forgetful? Lazy? Would they suspect I’d had a wild night? Would they talk behind my back?

“…Let not the rich boast of his riches…” (Jeremiah 9: 23).

I’ve never considered that my clothes and accessories might be a badge of pride or a form of boasting. After all, I’m not particularly label or brand-conscious. But the fact that I was unwilling to wear the same outfit two days in a row tells me I am prideful indeed.

Lord, thank you for helping me recognize my prideful and boastful ways. Please help me better align my priorities with you, rather than with societal norms and expectations. Help me value kindness, justice and righteous over material possessions, and desire only your delight rather than the shallow praise of my friends.

What about you? Do you think you could wear the exact same outfit two days in a row to work? Or might you chicken out like me?

::

This post is the last one in the series on The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns. Six other writers and I wrote a post a day for six weeks as part of my church's small group study. Want to read other reflections? Click here. And thanks for coming along on the study!

Image: Pedro Mae, the Bolivian boy we sponsor through Compassion. I suspect he doesn't have multiple outfits to choose from every day.

Mary Bonner  – (November 1, 2011 at 6:29 AM)  

Ouch!  There is no way I would wear the same clothes two days in a row...for the exact reasons you state here.  Now I feel like that is so wrong!  I never, ever thought about my clothing being a source of pride, but I realize that in some ways it is.  Thank you for opening my eyes to this.  While I won't wear the same clothes to work on consecutive days, I will be more mindful of those less fortunate and more thankful for my closet.

What a PLEASURE it was to have precious fellowship with you & get to know you last weekend.  I am so glad you found me Thursday night in the lobby.  Isn't God's timing just PERFECT!

David Rupert  – (November 1, 2011 at 7:26 AM)  

Wearing the same clothes isn't nearly the fashion incident we think it is. It's likely that no one really notices

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 8:40 AM)  

Really? I don't know, David. I guarantee I'd notice if a woman in my office wore the exact same outfit two days in a row. But one of male colleagues? I wouldn't notice that -- a suit is a suit is a suit!

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 8:41 AM)  

I'll wear the same pants two days in a row -- especially jeans. But the exact same outfit, from shirt to shoes? I couldn't do it.

God's timing IS perfect indeed. I couldn't believe when I looked down and saw your name on your nametag -- the woman I had been seeking for the whole evening!

Sheila Seiler Lagrand  – (November 1, 2011 at 8:55 AM)  

If I put half the effort into trying to meet God's expectations of me that I devote to trying to meet society's expectations of me, I'd follow Him so much better.


Thanks, Michelle. 

Sara  – (November 1, 2011 at 10:17 AM)  

Definite food for thought.  I chicken out all the time!  Is it any wonder that some of the most repeated messages from God in Scripture are "Be strong and courageous!" 

Stephen Porter  – (November 1, 2011 at 10:40 AM)  

I have an advantage here since I telecommute and can work in my PJ's most days, so yes, I could wear the same outfit two days in a row.  No problem.

Patricia W Hunter –   – (November 1, 2011 at 11:00 AM)  

I had an advantage, as well. I've worked at home for years, and when I did work away from home, I wore a uniform. No one could even tell it was the same set of clothes. So this exercise would not be a challenge for me, but I'm certain that others would. I loved that book, Michelle. I wish more Christians would read it. 

JosephPote –   – (November 1, 2011 at 12:06 PM)  

I suspect it would be much less of an issue for me than for you, simply because of the gender difference.  Men are simply less conscious of such things.

I often wear the same slacks, shoes and belt as the prior day, with only the shirt as visible change.  Wearing the same shirt two days in a row would be slightly uncomfortable, but not a huge ordeal.

Now, if I had to wear the same socks and underwear?  That would be an issue!  I know I could do it, because I have before when I had no choice due to airline issues.  Even then, I washed and rinsed them in the sink, before hanging to dry overnight.

You make a very good point, though.  So many things that we would be incredibly embarassed to do are a simple reality of life for so many.

Thank you for the reminder!

thefisherlady –   – (November 1, 2011 at 12:11 PM)  

when I lived in Mexico we had a flood sweep through our village and many had nothing. I was a new Christian and had just cleaned out my wardrobe to four changings, and three pairs of shoes before I left Canada( my sleeping bag I had already given away to a street person in El Paso) and here I was in Mexico... I chose to keep white pants, a white cotton shirt and one pair of runners... the rest I gave to others. Through the weeks that followed I was delighted to see my rugby shirts on handsome young boys in the flooded section smiling as they ran off to play, and my two pairs of shoes looked awesome on the young men(I have size ten feet) that I saw wondering through the town.
In the shower each night I would bend down and on the tile floor scrub my clothes, set them up to dry for the night and put them on again the next morning. It really wasn't so hard... we were all in the same boat :)
I think the important thing is to think what Jesus would say about all that we do.
You would have fun wearing the same thing a week in a row, just waiting to see how long it takes someone to notice, and then have opportunity to share your hope of glory and His working in the lives of the poor...
try it with a smile... I bet they don't notice the clothes but they will ask themselves why you are so darn happy!

Peggy  – (November 1, 2011 at 12:18 PM)  

Blessings Michelle,

Pedro looks pretty neatly dressed (must be from his Compassion sponsor)!!! And another sad fact, many of them sleep in their clothes that they wore that day.

Sad to say, now that I live in Mexico, I frequently wear the same outfit daily, but it'd be a different story if I was going to work. 

However, I love the wonderful points that this makes! You articulate so well the difference from our choice to 'that's how it is'
What a wonderful self less idea for your church's small group to examine the "hole in Our Gospel", now I'm intrigued to read the rest.
And I love your prayer...very humbling.

I came to read about "Hear It, Use It" and when I could not leave a comment there (the page not the post)to tell you what a great idea to apply the sermon or what we're reading and studying, I opened to HOME and had to read this after seeing little Pedro. I see many of him daily... all the way to 'big ones" that need Jesus and a bath and new robes of righteousness. It is very sad.  

Beautiful blog! So glad I came via Sharon's blog (#41) to visit here.
Write on, Michelle... and keep inspire others to CHANGE (not just our clothes,  but our lives and our thoughts about other's lives and our perspective of the Gospel and living it out ACTS...) Bravo!

Peace and love in Christ,
Peggy

Angela Dively –   – (November 1, 2011 at 1:18 PM)  

Same here.  I remember once inadvertently wearing something on Monday that I'd worn the previous Thursday because I pulled it from the dryer that morning.  I was worried all day someone would notice I'd worn it 4 days ago!!  Talk about pride.

Gaby  – (November 1, 2011 at 2:41 PM)  

Nope. Could not do it if I could not explain. I'm not proud of this but if I'm honest with myself, it is the truth. It's embarrassing to admit, though...

Ostriches –   – (November 1, 2011 at 2:49 PM)  

I think I could do it, but only because I have a reputation for being crazy anyway, even when I worked. I am so glad you brought this to attention though, because I was just thinking that I needed to go shopping...and really I don't NEED to. I just need to feed my pride. Ow.

Jen  – (November 1, 2011 at 3:51 PM)  

What an amazing journey, "The Hole in the Gospel"....life changing for me, Our Home Group, & Our Church.  I love your honesty about not wanting to wear your clothes two days in a row.  I am with you...and struggled with this.  And to think if I was inside my house & no one could see me for two full days...I could probably do it.  It's just that fear of man thing....a terrifying thing to break.  So thankful to God for His grace.  Boy do I need it!  Many Blessings this day Michelle, ~ jen

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 5:26 PM)  

I kind of want to go shopping, too.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 5:27 PM)  

I hear you. I felt really sheepish when I realized I was not going to do the challenge. Once I realized I would broadcast the reason to everyone, I knew there was no point.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 5:28 PM)  

So nice to meet you Peggy -- thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment. I hope you come back some time to link up to the Hear It Use It community (and I'm sorry you had trouble with the comments on that page -- Blogger gives me a hard time sometimes).

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 5:30 PM)  

I'm so grateful for your story and experience here today. And you are so, so right...what would Jesus say about wearing the same clothes two days or more in a row. He certainly wouldn't give a hoot that I have a hang-up over it! He has bigger fish to fry.

joan taylor –   – (November 1, 2011 at 6:56 PM)  

Wow, "The Hole in the Gospel" sounds like a profound like changing journey.  I've added it to my must read list. 

Thank you for sharing your honesty.

I believe that I could wear the same clothes boldly two days in row because of the journey that God has led me through.  Losing many earthly possessions has really put life into perspective.  I have learned that less is better, and that includes clothing.  Without my journey with God, I am certain that I would have pridefully said in the past, no way.  However, today, I can say yes...

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 8:38 PM)  

Definitely read this book, Joan -- it changed my life and continues to change my perspective. And thanks for sharing your story here -- you inspire me to say yes, yes!

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 8:39 PM)  

Yup, I second that: thank God for his grace. Because man do I mess up. It was such an eye-opener for me to realize that even my clothing could be a source of pride and boasting. So I have so much to learn -- grateful for his patience with me!

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 8:42 PM)  

That's so right: what we consider an inconvenience, so many deal with as a fact of life. I take a whole closet full of clothes for granted, and millions would consider my closet an amazing luxury.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 8:43 PM)  

Totally laughing over this comment, Stacy!

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 8:44 PM)  

Oh yeah, I've been there, too. Wearing the same pants twice in one week and wondering if anyone would notice. I hear you, Angela!

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 8:45 PM)  

I think the uniform would solve all my problems (not really, though!).

And I agree...I think everyone -- Christian and non-Christian alike -- could learn a lot from Stearns' book.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 8:46 PM)  

Gotta admit, I'm kind of jealous of the pj workday, Stephen.

Michelle DeRusha  – (November 1, 2011 at 8:47 PM)  

Good point, Sara -- I was just noticing the repetition of that particular phrase in the Old Testament. It does take courage to live biblically, doesn't it?

afamilytreehouse –   – (November 1, 2011 at 11:25 PM)  

While I don't have an office to jet off to each day, I visit libraries, museums, grocery stores, see the assortment of neighbors that changes regularly. A lot has changed for me in the last 8 months. Since we began our journey as full-time RVers for a while, our perspective has definitely changed on what our needs are. We have much fewer clothing items and I have learned that I feel blessed by this "less." I do where my clothes several times before washing (I wear undies and socks only once... persnickity, I am!) and I often wear them "in a row," so to speak. When I was assessing my fall/winter wardrobe I realized that I have several of the exact same shirt! Not just a plain white T, mind you! They are long sleeve t-shirts that are screen printed with a benefit walk we did... in 2007! YIKES! But, I love it - so, I might wear that one shirt for two days and then grab its twin for the next two days! BUT, no one has EVER called me fashion-forward. Pretty much anything "trendy" was given to me by my mom! Sigh... Funny, I have never heard anyone mention the shirt that I seem to wear for days on end!! But, maybe I am in the "eccentric" category anyway!!

Nancy Franson  – (November 3, 2011 at 11:44 AM)  

If you only knew how many days I sat here on the other side of this screen in the same old jeans and baggy sweatshirt! What really struck me about this post, Michelle, is not the conversation about how often we might wear the same clothes. I think if I were out in the workplace I would have had the same response as you, chickening out from embarrassment. You presented a powerful reminder that, for many, embarrassment is yet another luxury they can't afford.

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