** I wrote this post several weeks ago, and didn’t like it enough to publish it (which is not an uncommon occurrence). Today, though, I feel like I’ve taken six steps backwards in this regard and have forgotten that it is true and right to clean out the closets in my life. So I am finally posting this as a reminder to myself. And know that today, the last sentence does not feel true. I am not learning to throw away old clothes or put on new ones, but I am trying to remember. **
This is my favorite blue dress.
I love this dress. It has gotten me through a lot of hard times, scary times. I trust it. I trust that when I wear it, it will be a good day. I wore it on my first day of student teaching, my first day of American teaching, my first day of Mexican teaching.
The zipper on the dress has been sticking for a while now. I’ve started wearing it less frequently, saving it for special days when I feel like I need a little extra luck to make it through.
About a month ago, I wore it to school and one of my students squirted a whole ketchup packet onto the back of it during lunch (casualties of being an elementary school teacher: your clothes). I grabbed another teacher to watch my class and quickly ran to the bathroom to wash the ketchup off, and to deal with my fury while not so close to the offending student (he was really, really sorry, for what it was worth). The ketchup mostly came out in the wash, but I was even more careful about when I could wear it and risk it being damaged.
And then last Thursday. I had planned to wear the dress because it had been so long and I was bored with the clothes I always wear (seriously, my class can name all of my outfits). And I put it on and started to zip it, and exactly halfway up… nothing. It wouldn’t go up, it wouldn’t go down. I struggled with it for ten minutes, the whole time cursing the fact that it wasn’t stuck lower, so I could wriggle out of the dress, or higher, so I could just pin it and call it good for the day. Finally, I knew I had to finish getting ready for work and could waste no more time, so I took my scissors and I destroyed my favorite dress.
As I looked at it, ruined on the ground, I was upset that the zipper got stuck exactly in the middle. Higher and I could have worn it one last time, lower and I wouldn’t have had to cut it. But what a ridiculous thought! It would be ruined anyway! Why would I hang it in my closet ruined? Why am I upset that this is where it broke when it would be broken regardless?
I still haven’t been able to bring myself to throw it out. It’s sitting in a heap at the bottom of my dirty clothes pile.
Like sinful habits and old complaints and long forgotten sufferings, I will hold onto things that I know have a stuck zipper and a rip down the side because subconsciously I’m thinking, “What if I run out of clothes and this is the only thing I can wear?” I love this dress. I know it’s good for first days and parent teacher conferences and maybe someday I’ll need it for one of those things, stuck zipper and all.
I hold onto past pain and sinful habits because I trust the reality of what happened, the tangibleness of my former suffering and sin, the truth in my memories. I trust them more than I trust that God is making them new, will redeem them, and has the future under control. I feel that I can rely on what I’ve experienced before (even the ugly things) or my own ability to get things done (which is already hung up in the closet with a rip and a ketchup stain) more than I can rely on God.
Over the last few months, my metaphorical closet has been filling up with stained dresses and broken shoes. Things that I thought I could do on my own, that I could rely on, have been shredded before my very eyes, in large doses of humility and failure. Every day it’s still a struggle not to look at them longingly in the closet, and I confess that some days I would rather walk around with a big old rip down the center of my dress than admit that I need new clothes, admit that my old way of doing things is broken. But I am learning, and slowly learning to throw away the old clothes and put on the some new ones.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.