I was three years old when a babysitter chopped off my hair without my mother’s knowledge. Typical bowl cut. Very boyish. My mother had spent months waiting patiently, laboriously, for my hair to grow out only to have it desecrated in one afternoon. As one would imagine, the woman was never asked to babysit again.
In an attempt to detract from my hair and declare to the world that I was in fact a little girl, my mother clothed me in stereotypically feminine attire: pinks, reds, floral prints, Disney princesses – the works. These outfits, however, weren’t always enough to secure my identity. Shortly after my top chop, an elderly gentleman (who, to be fair, probably didn’t have the best eyesight) politely addressed me as “sir”. My bright red Princess Belle sweatshirt apparently did not speak loudly enough, so little 3-year-old-me did:
“I’M NOT A SIR, I’M A MA’AM!”
My mother was quite proud.
As I grew older, the responsibility of dressing myself naturally shifted into my own hands… with disastrous results. In middle school, I was not what most would consider an attractive young girl. While the majority of my peers began hitting growth spurts, my body simply refused to follow suit, leaving me short and stout with hamster-like cheeks and rolls of baby-fat galore. As a result, I often clothed myself in baggy t-shirts and jeans to try to hide the body that made me feel so insecure. Unfortunately, I soon realized that my clothes inadvertently seemed to indicate I was a tomboy, which was misleading since I lacked the athletic abilities and “street cred” to justify my look. It was back to the drawing board.
The one upside to being a rounder girl was being more, shall we say, “developed” than many of my slimmer teenage counterparts. And to young, impressionable me, that seemed to be one of the few positive attributes I had, so I went with it. I began clothing myself in pieces that accentuated my would-be womanly parts and suggested I was older than my years. “Mature” was the look I so desperately tried to don.
Year after year, I continued to clothe myself in anything and everything that would detract from my latest insecurities: not being skinny enough, attractive enough, feminine enough, fashionable enough. I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on clothes that promised a new identity, and yet… they never delivered. They never fully covered the deficiencies I was trying to hide – deficiencies that revealed my inadequacy and taunted me with the prospect of never being fully accepted by anyone.
“…they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:7)
After the Fall, Adam and Eve felt deficiency in their nakedness. Their immediate instinct was to look around, grasp something nearby, and use it to cover themselves – to cover their shame. But it wasn’t enough. When God entered the garden and sought them out, they hid because they could not clothe themselves with anything that would make them feel presentable enough for God Himself. They knew that before a perfect God, fig-leaf loincloths were woefully inadequate, and God had every right to reject them.
But God had mercy.
“…the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)
God clothed them. He knew their sin, knew their imperfection, knew their brokenness… and He knew they could not create anything that would properly cover them enough to remove their feelings of inadequacy and despair. So He clothed them Himself. In all my years of trying to find the appropriate way to clothe myself to hide my deficiencies, God had the solution all along.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.”
Notice that she does not clothe herself here. God is the one who clothes her. And He doesn’t clothe her out of a sense humiliation or condescension, but out of a desire to fortify her. He strengthens her. He dignifies her. He gives her an identity that empowers her to not just face the days to come, but to laugh at them!
Today I read this verse and I recognize that all these years I have strived in vain to use physical clothing as a means to hide my brokenness and haphazardly configure some man-made identity for myself. A facade. So fragile a facade.
But God gives me an identity. God tells me that I am she. And by the grace of God in His loving provision, she is clothed with strength and dignity.
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