I can remember the day clearly. I sat on the couch, sipping a cup of coffee while my children played on the living room floor around me. A fire in the wood stove filled our living room with a soft, enveloping warmth. Wooden blocks and plastic animals were strewn about on the floor along with piles of abandoned books. I was perusing a simple, homey dress catalog, one that had obviously been printed in someone’s home office and shipped out individually. The catalog was filled with charming line drawings of modest dresses, ankle length dresses and tiny swatches of fabric to choose from. I mentally calculated how much it would cost to purchase three dresses, the minimum I felt I needed to switch over to wearing dresses only. I already had a few skirts in my closet, after all.
Those you who know me are probably looking around to see if this is a guest post since you’ve probably never even seen me in a dress. Hold on, I haven’t gotten to that part of the story yet.
Choosing the dresses wasn’t easy. Most of the fabric swatches looked like they had come straight from Mr. Oleson’s store in an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Cute denim skirts were out for me as I am way too short to pull off that look. I found a few swatches that I sort of liked.
I had decided to wear only dresses as a tangible symbol of my faith (I hadn’t told my husband of my choice yet). I didn’t think it was necessary for everyone, or sinful to wear pants, but I wanted my commitment to Christ to be visible to everyone I met. I wanted people to see my love for Jesus.
I already had the long hair and five small children. We lived on acreage and raised chickens for meat and eggs. We heated our house with a wood stove and planned to homeschool our children. I not only made our bread from scratch but ground our own wheat as well! I was rocking this Christian mothering gig.
On the day I decided to wear only dresses, I also had an epiphany. I hate wearing dresses and had since I was eleven or twelve. Why do I hate it? It just doesn’t feel like me. That’s the best I can put it. I feel like someone playing dress up when I put one on. But still, I was willing to sacrifice that. To wear dresses for Jesus. Then something happened. It suddenly occurred to me that not only did God create me, He loved me intensely, dress or no dress. God wasn’t impressed with my commitment to wear only dresses. Baking bread didn’t bring me closer to Jesus. Collecting eggs from our own chickens didn’t make me more spiritual. Those were all lifestyle choices. Choices Chuck and I consciously made because it was the way we wanted to raise our children. Good choices, choices that were in line with our family values. We wanted them to have fields to frolic in, animals to care for, wholesome foods to eat and hard work to do.
But they were choices; not commandments.
I have dear friends and family who choose to wear only dresses, but unlike my decision to wear only dresses, theirs is a conviction they have. The thing is, I didn’t and don’t have that conviction.
Romans 14 says:
20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. 22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.