Getting ready for church was a major event at the tail end of the 1960′s. I often went to bed on Saturday night with a head full of foam rollers, ready to dress up Sunday morning in my dress, anklets, patent shoes, and gloves.
A lifetime later, as the mother of teens, we had set a tradition of wearing nice clothes on Sunday to church. Gone were the gloves, hats, skirts, and stockings. But we still tried to dress nicely and never let our kids wear jeans to church.
A couple of years ago, one Sunday morning, I felt terrible. I barely made it into church and was wearing jeans because I just didn’t feel up to changing into something nicer. They weren’t dirty or torn. But when we walked into church, there was a Church Lady who looked me up and down and glared at me with the Death Stare.
As she stared at me with disapproval, I thought back to a lifetime ago, when I was in a community theatre production of Godspell at the age of 18. Godspell‘s author had struggled with addiction issues, found Jesus, and stumbled into church one Sunday (wearing jeans and looking scruffy) and also got the Death Glare. He was then inspired to write Godspell, a contemporary musical of the life of Jesus, based on the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Yes, it was very 1970′s.
Then I thought back to my own days as a struggling college student when I was lost and hurting, and the occasional Sundays when I would quietly slip into the back pew of a church, desperately hoping for something that could fill the gap in my heart. As I sat anonymously in those back pews, had I gotten a Death Glare for wearing jeans, I might not have returned. I might not have realized that we go to church to worship God, not to seek the approval of other people.
That resulted in my change of Sunday clothes. My family is dressed well, and I usually wear jeans – coordinated with an outfit, but jeans. If my clothes offend someone, I would rather get the dirty look than risk someone lost and hurting in the back pew gets it instead.
As a Catholic, Christian believer, I know my job is to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus – to reach out to those who are lost and hurting and show them someone cares. I know how they feel because I was once one of them. Sometimes I achieve that goal better than others and merely hope each day I can do a better job at it than the day before.
Paul said he would be all things to reach all people.
For me, in this season, that means I wear my mom jeans to church.