Yesterday I went to two church services. The first was my home church, where I participated in one of the best services we’ve ever had (oh, Communion was so sweet!); the second was the church of one of my closest and dearest friends. I could have just met up with him after his service, but I decided to go anyway. Why?
I thought I was looking pretty good yesterday.
Of course, this wasn’t the only reason I went (it’s an amazing church and I’d definitely go there if liberti weren’t around), but it was a real factor. People had spent that morning complimenting me, and I both appreciated and enjoyed it. And so, I wanted to be seen. (Surely all of us have experienced this sometime, right? Come on, I’m just trying to be honest.)
During the service, I found myself thinking about this. There is a constant conflict we have with our embodied selves and the garments that clothe them. I’ve spoken of this tension before and how our responses to it often betray a hatred we seem to have for our bodies. Our clothing both reveals and conceals at the same time; it communicates things about us all the while hiding our greatest intimacies.
When we feel a certain “goodness” or “beauty” or “attractiveness” to what we are clothed in, not only does it greatly affect how we feel inside our own bodies, but something in us wants to share this with others–we want to, in a sense, “embody” this feeling and “live it out”.
As I was totally overthinking this entire concept of clothing, my mind turned to that most “good” and “beautiful” and “attractive” of garments we are clothed in–the very righteousness of Christ. If we truly believed and had faith that (as I’ve put it before) our “shoulders [were] draped with that most costly of quilts”, then wouldn’t we want to “embody” this and live this out in righteous living? And yet we don’t.
I’m not trying to draw some simplistic and cheesy analogy between clothing and Christ (I can just hear some really bad southern preacher drawing a comparison between Christ’s righteousness being our “Sunday best”, but for every day of the week!) I’m hoping to convey a much deeper, mystical, and mysterious reality.
Why don’t we find ourselves embodying this righteousness that is very much ours? My best guess here at 1am is that it’s a subtle tendency at work in our hearts that demeans the material world for the sake of elevating some spiritual ideal. In this case, at least, I think this reveals a deep insecurity in us in the “materialness” of our righteousness.
Every religion agrees that what’s needed to reconnect man with God is righteousness. They all erect ways and means to achieve this, but no matter what, this righteousness remains an abstract hope, rather than a concrete reality. And so the practitioner is left with an abiding uncertainty that they’ve done enough.
Perhaps many of us have co-opted a similar mindset? Insecurity paralyzes us from action and freely embodying and enjoying deeper realities, and I wonder if we remain insecure because we see our righteousness as an abstract thing that God has simply bestowed upon us–or just agreed to pretend we have.
But this is not good news to our souls, nor is this the truth of the matter. In the Incarnation of our God–in the story of the Gospel–God has clothed himself in embodied humanity. The righteousness we have is righteousness that was actually lived out, worked out, and earned in real life on real soil with real hands and feet.
God was clothed in Creation and then embodied righteousness so that Creation Itself can taste of real, concrete righteousness that cannot be added to nor taken away from. And so may we rest secure and confident that we have the identity and resources available to us to embody this righteousness in and for the world around us.