This morning Maddie and I had an argument about clothes (my word, does it happen this early?). She’s been begging me to pull out the summer clothes for the past four days, and I kept saying no because I still have so much laundry to do, plus the fact that it isn’t time to put away the winter ones yet as it’s only March and it will still be cold again (I don’t like this in-between time when I have to deal with clothes for both seasons with only closet and dresser space for one).
Anyway, Maddie didn’t want to wear a winter dress, so she asked if she could wear jeans instead. My answer was “no,” as I don’t really like the girls to wear jeans to church. She got mad. I got mad back. She left the room, and then Craig, who had watched the whole thing live, said, “What’s the big deal with letting her wear jeans?”
The short answer? I didn’t have one. It’s just a personal preference, probably a carry over from when rock music was “bad” and jumpers were “in” (okay, were they ever really “in”?). I started to get angry with Craig because he “took her side” (child/parent relations probably go sour because parents become kids again to make their case). At any rate, I wasn’t being particularly rational; I was just angry that I didn’t get my way and that Craig didn’t see it my way either.
I was still pretty bent on being frustrated, though, until he said this: “Look at it this way: at least she wants to come to church with us, and as long as she does, I don’t care what she wears.”
I had this instant flash-forward to the idea of a prodigal daughter with tattoos and piercings and dressed in goth – a daughter who had run away but then came home, sitting beside us in church in said garb. And I was glad for it, which suddenly made my pettiness over a pair of jeans, a red t-shirt, and pink tennis shoes seem exactly what it was: stupid.
We went to church. Five minutes after slipping into our pews (we took up two today – sometimes we don’t get there in time to all sit in one), the service transitioned to the part where we confess our sin together. Here’s what we read aloud:
Lord Jesus, you taught us that in Your kingdom, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” – but we have been rich in pride. “Blessed are those who mourn” – but we have not known much sorrow for our sin. “Blessed are the meek” – but we are rebellious by nature. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” – but we have great desire for evil and little longing for Your true goodness.
“Blessed are the merciful” – but we are harsh and impatient. “Blessed are the pure in heart” – but we have impure hearts. “Blessed are the peacemakers” – but we have not sought reconciliation.** “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness” – but our lives do not challenge the world. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” – but we have hardly made it known that we are yours.
Lord, have mercy on us and forgive us all our sins. Renew us and lead us by your Holy Spirit so that we may seek first your kingdom and Your righteousness and walk joyfully in the way of Your blessing.
**It was about here that I started crying. Rich in pride? Yep. Not much sorrow over my sin? Yep. Rebellious by nature? Yep. Harsh and impatient? Yep. Impure heart? Yep. Not sought reconciliation? Yep.
We finished reading and I tapped Maddie on the shoulder and asked her to join me in the foyer; there were people there, so we kept walking until we found an empty room. It was there that, for one moment, my pride was humbled; my sin was sorrowed; my rebellion was tempered; my harsh and impatient nature was neither; my heart sought purity…and reconciliation.
10-year-olds give those things much more easily than, say, 35-year-olds do. Infinity-olds do, too, for that matter. For Maddie and for God, I am grateful.
Be gone legalistic rules that demand preference over truth. If my daughter wants to worship the Lord in jeans, so be it. Please allow her to always want to worship the Lord.
18 thoughts on “Called on the Carpet”
Thank you for reminding me of the gospel. This story speaks to me in that it brings to my mind that it is never about “me”….it’s always about Jesus.
Ugh…was right there last week but with a sixteen year old. We’ve said ok to jeans a while back, but she wanted to wear a hoodie. I said no, wear a nice shirt. She said why. I said because. It went back and forth like that until she informed me that she doubted Jesus really cared if she had on a ‘nice’ shirt or a sweatshirt, He just cared that she was in worship. She wore the hoodie. Yesterday she wore a cute dress, fixed up her hair, new sandals and looked beautiful. She was there, listening to the sermon, singing along in praise…that’s all that matters.
This mother-thing is really, really hard and really, really sanctifying. Thanks for sharing. Blessing today – B.
Growing up I lived in the northern tundras of Canada. It was cold! Yet my mother still never allowed us to wear pants to church (let alone jeans!). I pretty much stuck to that until I got married and realized it didn’t really matter.
And though it doesn’t matter in God’s eyes whether we are dressed in a pretty spring frock or jeans and a sweatshirt – I think sometimes kids just want to do the opposite not b/c “God doesn’t care” but as an act of rebellion…”OK I’ll go to church but I won’t like it and I’ll show it in how I won’t dress the ‘church way’.” Course I’m not saying it’s that way for your girl…
My dd is almost 10 and sometimes I have the opposite problem – she doesn’t care enough about how she looks 🙂 …and this weekend with the beautiful weather “I” was the one tempted to break open the boxes of spring clothes…then when the heat went on a few times this morning I realized spring isn’t here yet.
I’ve thought about this for years. I’ve tried to figure if there are good and sound rationales for expecting/requiring people to “dress up” for worship, but I can’t think of any.
The truth is, I grew up worshiping in a context where I was expected to wear my “Sunday best” every week, and I did. Consequently, I’m always a little less comfortable if I’m dressed too casually– as in jeans, shorts, a shirt with no collar, etc. But I’ve long lost the sense of need to wear a tie.
I’m with Craig (and you): I think we should encourage our kids to dress nicely– and certainly not to be sloppy or wear clothes that are dirty or in bad repair. But when it comes to it, I’m just glad our kids are in worship with me.
Amen, Amen, and Amen! I learned long ago that as parents, we need to choose our battles. Children learn discernment from modeling from parents. Your girls will be fine — jeans to church are good!
choosing your battles is very important. clothing is external. being concerned with heart matters is most important. while it is true that sometimes clothing mirrors heart rebellion, it is also true that making issues of clothing will cause you to focus on the wrong areas.
to me, the touching thing was that you interrupted “worship” in the church service to take your daughter out and make things right with her. being more concerned about your relationship and less concerned about outward appearance will go a LONG way in helping move your children along in their relationship with Christ. it will not be an easy path, but it is the right one.
parenting is never easy. there is something about the teen years that seems to show our values in ways that some of the other years don’t. i know that 10 doesn’t always qualify as “teen” but with girls, i think the early teen issues start to show at that age in some temperaments. you are on the right track. m
Fabulous post! Thank you for sharing your moment of humbling conviction. Gulp. It isn’t easy…
I go to a church where you’d feel weird if you didn’t wear jeans. In fact, some people seem to take pride in not having pride about what they wear…hmmm.
It all points to the heart, doesn’t it?
I struggle regularly with finding the appropriate balance on this one. And while I pretty much agree with the posts above, I still struggle. Here are a few of the reasons why I believe dressing up is important:
1)we are going before the King of the Universe and the King deserves our best!! Clothing too.
2)respect . . . even folks in my economically depressed area who do not own a suite will borrow one if they are going to a wedding or a funeral. why? respect for the couple or the deceased. Does God not deserve at least the same level of respect that we give other people?
3)[combination of 1 & 2] Culturally, if one is knowingly going to see someone they greatly admire, respect, or is in a position of authority, he/she will typically dress up. Again, is not the Creator of the Universe entitled to at least equal consideration of what we would do when meeting another person?
I preached this past Sunday on Jesus parable from Matthew 21: 1-14. The king sends the servants out inviting everyone to to come to the son’s wedding banquet. The king then notices one person not wearing the proper clothes and has him thrown out . . . now I know that clothing in Bible language is not about jeans or dresses–it is about our actions, deeds, etc. It is about our living out Jesus’ life through us; and yet, I still cannot shake that we have lost something within the Church by going too casual. There is value in dressing up–not as a way of showing off . . . but because if any being in the universe is deserving of our dressing up, it is our God.
Lastly, my wife and I have had similar discussion as you and Craig. We may have the disagreement and discussion later, but I back my wife up in front of the kids if she has made a decision. If for no other reason than it helps train them to follow the 5th Commandment. [nevertheless, I appreciate your sensitivity and listening to the Holy Spirit during the confession at church–thanks for your openness and sharing]
Parenting is hard. Much harder than I ever expected. As Gary Thomas said in Sacred Parenting – “parenting a child is an in-depth course in spiritual formation.”
great post, megan. jay & i were just talking about the principle behind this: the WHY’s of our everyday. it was always really hard for me, as the kid, when my parents didn’t have an actual reason for a particular tradition. or wouldn’t explain it to me.
Thanks for this and Amen. Especially for this observation: “10-year-olds give those things much more easily than, say, 35-year-olds do.” I experience it all the time.
Thanks for this post. I have a fifteen year old with a pierced nose who wears jeans to church almost every Sunday. She is a PK who is about to become an MK! She loves the Lord and she loves church. She knows more about the world and other cultures than almost any other kid her age.
My SIL commented that PK’s always rebel and that is why she got the pierced nose. Actually, she got the pierced nose with full parental permission as a reward for an improved grade in honors algebra.
We just chose our battles a long time ago. When we go to visit another church, she know to dress according to the standards of that community.
I think this was an amazing moment in parenting, Megan. You did very well.
You’re honest and brave and I’m late to comment here, but my own history resonates with yours. Maybe I’ll write my own experiences on this because they weren’t easily learned and one thing I did not want to address was my own problem beneath all the other arguments and that was that I cared about how my daughter’s dress reflected on me. Ick!
Charliam, I hate to quibble on stuff like this (and normally I would just send an email), but as it’s public here, it seems necessary to respond publicly to a couple of things for the sake of clarity.
All of your arguments for dressing up are based on human tradition and, while they might be legitimate for our Western culture, it’s important to recognize what is and isn’t prescribed biblically. We are to honor God in all things, yes, but your arguments for a dress code easily tend toward a motive of impressing rather than honoring.
The point: if you personally want to dress to the nines as a way of expressing your love for God, go for it; however, to prescribe a dress code for others borders on legalism based on human tradition rather than one’s condition of the heart.
You mentioned the Parable of the Wedding Feast as a means to support your argument (it’s in Matthew 22, by the way, not 21). Your summary that “The king sends the servants out inviting everyone to to come to the son’s wedding banquet. The king then notices one person not wearing the proper clothes and has him thrown out…” is not the fullest exegesis of the passage.
According to the notes in the ESV Study Bible (and I’ve studied this elsewhere), “There is some evidence in the ancient world for a king supplying garments for his guests (cf. Gen. 45:22; Est. 6:8–9), and, more broadly, there is the story of God clothing his unworthy people in beautiful garments (Ezek. 16:10–13). Jesus could thus be alluding to imputed righteousness, which Paul elaborates later (e.g., Rom. 3:21–31; 4:22–25). Thus by not wearing the garments provided, this guest has highly insulted the host.”
I have no clothes (physically or spiritually) that suffice in appropriately “dressing up” for God; neither does Megan or our girls. For me to make a big deal of this on Sunday morning runs the risk of somehow suggesting otherwise to my very impressionable daughters, all of whom have inherited my slowly shrinking (but still ever-present) legalist genes. In considering this reality, this doesn’t seem wise for me to do.
Speaking of wisdom (and forgive me if I’m reading into your comment), I in no way had this discussion with Megan in front of our daughter. I did, however, ask Megan to reconsider her position on it. Yes, I want our kids to honor their parents per the fifth commandment, but I want to make sure we (and our decisions) are honorable in asking them to do so. I’m not sure this one was, which was why I raised the question (email Megan for a list of my own poor decisions in the past that she has rightly questioned – they are Legion).
Anyway, for what it’s worth…
Thanks for a beautiful post. SO helpful.
Choosing my battles, one minute at a time.
Thanks for your honesty. How frequently I need reminders of what I’m willing to go to the mat for in parenting my three. I gave up the jeans in church battle with my 9-1/2 year old quite a while back.
What a precious experience.
Reading this brought tears to my eyes.
I really believe that our children seeing us be challenged by the Spirit (and seeing it affect our behavior) is a huge blessing in their spiritual development.
You’ve communicated your love to her & let her know that her voice was heard. (hopefully they feel that way whether or not they “get their way.”)
Thanks so much for sharing this.
Wonderful post, Megan. This is something I’ve thought about a lot in the last few years. Growing up in the deep South, it was just expected that you get dressed up for church on Sunday, and when I moved West, it weirded me out for a long time that people at our church wear jeans just as often as they wear suits or skirts. New Mexico has a much more casual culture in general, and it has been good for me to see that a lot of the reasons I thought it was more spiritual to get dressed up for church were really just cultural conventions. I also think you feeling convicted of your sin in that situation and confessing and asking your daughter’s forgiveness probably taught her more about the gospel than wearing a dress ever would.