Wearing Our Shame to Church

Call me old-fashioned, but I think it’s still important to wear our Sunday worst to church.

Open that drawer—you know, that one, the one you haven’t opened in months—and reach way in the back to pull out the shirt you wadded up the morning after that night. The one that’s an un-aromatic concoction of spilled liquor, cheap perfume, and stale motel room sex.

Go ahead, put it on. Wear your shame to church.

Rummage through your closet until you find that pair of jeans. The ones you thought looked so good on you. The ones you thought would catch his eye, rekindle a flame from the ashes of a relationship that once burned hot. The ones you were wearing when you came home to an empty house, an empty bed, a now-dead marriage.

Go ahead, put them on. Wear your bitterness to church.

Dig through your shoes until you find that pair. The ones you wore on the job interview that landed a position you never dreamed of getting. The same ones you were wearing when your boss called you into his office last year to inform you that you no longer worked for this company. The ones you walked in to your car, head down, screaming and crying and cursing all the way home.

Go ahead, put them on. Wear your anger to church.

It’s nothing but a religious charade when people saunter into churches as if their lives have come straight from the dry cleaners. Shiny lives. Pressed lives. Buttoned-up, spotless, smiling lives that inside are a dark and stinking swampland of the soul.

God has no interest in you showing up to church like that. He has no desire for you to wear your Sunday best, the costume of a plastic Christianity, complete with frozen smiles and obligatory handshakes.

Wear your grungy, filthy, nasty selfishness to church.
Wear your raw, lustful, pornographic addictions to church.
@@Wear your deep, bleeding, ulcerous shame to church.@@
Wear your worst. The worst you have. The worst you are.

The God in church has never been afraid of dirt and grime. Good grief, he made man from dirt! He’s used to filth under his fingernails. He washed the stinking feet of his first students. He was nailed to a cross stained with the urine, feces, blood, and vomit of other victims before him. @@Christ is accustomed to the obscenity of the human condition.@@ He’s lived it, died it, and become the source of humanity's renewal.

So he’s there in church not to ooh and aah over the best-dressed religious mannequins, but to run up to the unrighteous, the befouled, the besmirched—to you—and to do his life’s work. The work of stripping off your Sunday worst and replacing it with his Sunday best.

God in Jesus takes off your shirt of shame, your bitterness, your anger, your guilt, your hopelessness, and drapes these rags on himself. He looks like a comic fool, a divine clown, all dressed up in your hand-me-downs. But his is a foolish love, lavished on the unlovable, that they might be lovely in him.

And on you he places his own clothes. Regal robes that smell of heaven’s hallways. Shoes that walk in freedom from accusation and gleefully kick down the fences of legalism.

It takes some getting used to—wearing Jesus’s clothes.
But it grows on you. And you grow into them.

Enough with faking it in church. Enough with dressing to impress. Wear your worst. Wear what you think God would never stomach. And in Jesus he’ll gladly take it off you and put it on himself. Indeed, he already has. @@Jesus may have been crucified naked, but he was clothed with the rags of a world gone wrong.@@ And now he stands ready to clothe that same world with the robes of a love gone right.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think it’s still important to believe in a God who makes your worst his own, and his best your own.

My new book, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, will be available October, 2017. You can read more about it here and pre-order your copy at Amazon. Thank you!