CYBERCOLUMN: I dress for success_duncan_82503

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Posted 8/25/03

I dress for success

By John Duncan

I am sitting here under the old oak tree, watching the early morning sun rise, preparing for the day ahead and longing for Cambridge, England.

Just this morning, I biked on a golf course near the lake. The ducks waddled and paddled along. Birds chirped, fluttering effortlessly into the morning air. Workers mowed the grass, trimming and cutting the golf greens in preparation for a day of bogeys, sand traps and “fore!” I stopped on a wooden bridge near the golf course and watched an orange sun slowly rise to greet the day.

John Duncan

The old Apostle Paul told the Romans that creation groans like a woman in childbirth (Romans 8:22). Creation grunts, grinds and groans with the pain and excitement of the birth of a precious child. On this day, though, creation does not groan. It hums. It sings. It makes joyous melody that starts the day with freshness. The sun births a chorus of praise to the Almighty. God conducts the choir of creation.

While the sun rises, I am perspiring and thinking about “next.” Next week has come. The next thing to do must be done. The next project lay ahead. Life is full of “next.” On this morning, I watch the sun, and my mind rolls toward “next.” I must get home, shower and dress for the day to come.

Paul held in his mind the importance of clothes and dressing for each new day. Paul knew all too well that the Roman garb of veils, head coverings, mantles, tunics, togas and togas with the identifiable purple stripes. The Romans, they never left home without the right clothing. After all, the purple stripers wanted everyone to know of their status and importance in the Roman world. Graceful, bald-headed Paul, he urged Christians to “put on Christ” each new day (Romans 13:12). Don’t leave home without him!

On a cold January day in 1996, men stood in line for five hours to purchase San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s old clothes. The mayor donated eight Italian suits, an Italian tuxedo, eight designer jackets, a slew of silk ties, 18 dress shirts, a vest and 12 pair of slacks, one of which was black leather. Guys waited in line to buy the mayor’s clothes. One man quipped, speaking of the mayor: “He’s a wonderful, self-made man. I’m proud to be a member of the Willie Brown clothes horse association.” One guy spent $379 on Brown’s old clothes. I guess that guy wished to dress for each new day like the dapper mayor.

I never hear the words “clothes horse” without thinking of Trudy Woods, who, in her nineties once told me as she lay in a nursing home bed: “I’m a clothes horse. I buy all my clothes at Goodwill.” Amazing how different we all are: One guy rises with the sun to put on an Italian suit and one woman rises with the sun to dress for success with clothes from the Goodwill rack. The sun still rises, but, remember, God looks at the heart.

I once heard a preacher ask, “Do clothes make the man, or does a man make the clothes?” I think he was trying to say that life is more than clothes and that God does look past clothes and straight into the heart.

We preachers, we say stuff that is not always what we mean. The day that preacher asked the question, I figured he forgot about all the women who listened. Should he not have asked, “Do clothes make the woman, or does a woman make the clothes?” All I could think of is that clothes are made in factories by people with sewing needles and machines with foot pedals. The preacher, though, he recovered and got me back into understanding when he used a cliché. He thundered after his question, “The clothes don’t make the man, the man makes the clothes!” Hallelujah! God looks right past Italian suits and Goodwill dresses and locks his eyes on hearts. I think that’s what the preacher was trying to say. So dress up your heart.

Tom Wolfe writes long books. An interviewer once asked him about his clothes. He replied: “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t even drink coffee. I don’t play tennis, I don’t even play golf. I found when I was working on the Herald Tribune making $135 a week, that as long as you don’t do those other things, I had enough money for fancy clothes.” I do not know Tom Wolfe, but he would make a good Baptist because Baptists like “don’ts” quite a lot. I would like to ask him about his “do” list, not to be confused about your “to do” list. Tom Wolfe, tell me what you do. Do you smile? Do you sing happy songs? Do you buy your clothes at Goodwill? Do you dress your heart with Jesus? Old Paul again suffices, “Put on the armor of Light.” I hope Tom Wolfe’s “do” list includes dressing for each new day with the Light.

So, here I am, sitting near the old oak tree, thinking “next.” The sun rises in a panorama of color. A fish swirls in the water below the bridge. A turtle pops its head from beneath the water’s surface. A blackbird perches near the bridge. And I must dress for the new day. What will I wear? How will it look? What color shall I choose? Will the colors match?

Old Paul keeps whispering, “Put on Christ.” Old Cambridge scholar C.S. Lewis understands my morning clothes dilemma. He whispers, “That is very much like the problem with all of us: to dress our souls not for the electric lights of the present world but for the daylight of the next.”

John Duncan is pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church in Granbury, Texas, and the writer of numerous articles in various journals and magazines

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