Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. - Colossians 3:12 (NIV)
When I was a teen I loved to dress in costumes, not just at Halloween, but all the time. Monday might find me a bohemian hippie, Tuesday a Goth, Wednesday a 50s hausfrau. Thursdays, I’d show up to school in a vintage satin baseball jacket or grungy gas station attendant uniform. Fridays were always Pajama Day (and still are).
Was I trying on identities, insecurely reaching for acceptance and approval from my peers? Or was I expressing a kaleidoscope of potential, the infinite variation in “becoming” that God made me to be? (Or a little bit of each?)
Colossians asks us to clothe ourselves with virtues. Does this mean character is something we can put on and cast off as easily as a thrift store find? When it comes to being good, can we fake it till we make it—and is there integrity to this fashion show?
We don’t always want to be kind, compassionate, humble, gentle or patient. They are not feelings or actions that come naturally to us when we are wronged or under stress. And we are entitled to the whole range of feelings that God gives us. My first spiritual director said simply, “All feelings are a gift from God. It’s what we do with them that matters.” I’ve believed her ever since.
That said, we can choose what affect we will wear when we get up in the morning. We can reach for the feelings and actions that are more likely to make for Christlike encounter as we move through our day. And just maybe, the masks and costumes we choose to wear, in God’s remarkable alchemy, will work on the wearer as well as the witnesses.
God, you have given me so many feelings, such a wide range of ways to be in the world. Let me own it all, uncloseted, and yet—let compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience be my go-to favorite outfits. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church, Standing Naked Before God, and her newest baby, Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World.