I don’t know if you come to a moment when you realize you are famous, but I’m pretty sure that if aren’t already there, being mentioned in David Kemp’s blog is the moment that all of that turns around.
I read the musings of Rev Kemp as he spoke of the Ordination service that I was a part of last night (I highly recommend this and every post, his words are worth the time). It is absolutely the truth that I wore a suit to the evening’s ceremony, and though I am not a “suit guy” I was proud to put it on. Only on rare occasions do I feel compelled to suit up, and last night was definitely one of them. But I’d like to offer my opinion, briefly, as to why.
There is a quote that typically gets attributed to Pablo Picasso (though to be honest I’ve never been able to find the place to originally cite it from):
There are two ways to honor your traditions. One is to wear your father’s old hat. The other is to have children.
A few years ago I probably would have foolishly interpreted that statement as a dogmatic, either-or, choose your team type mandate, but the older and more comfortable I become in my understanding of life the more I believe this to be a “both-and” opportunity. I have been raised in church, specifically the Church of God denomination, from the time I was old enough to attend anything. I actually had two of the perfect attendance Sunday School pins that get joked about so much (by me as much as anyone) these days. I have moved from full-boar, fight to my death agreement with this movement all the way to summarily rejecting any unique traits that it holds to, and now I fall into the tension of knowing that we, like others, and though we may at times err, are doing the best we can to make sense of things that angels don’t even fully understand. As that is the case I am far more inclined to cut the folk at the top of this heap a fair amount of slack. We’re all on a journey here.
That being said, I have done more to settle into my own skin in the last few years than perhaps ever before. I am confidant enough in my theology to know that it should change every now and then. I am solid enough in my faith to know that my firmest beliefs aren’t strong enough to move one mountain one inch, while simultaneously knowing that God moves them every day from my path as my soul’s gaze is fixed upon Him. I am joyful enough to comfortably slip into periods of melancholy without feeling the need to start my entire faith journey over again…these things happen. And as I’ve begun to settle, as the moorings of my spiritual life have hardened and “set-up”, I’ve noticed that things like what I wear don’t matter nearly as much as they used to.
I say that last sentence intentionally, because typically that expression is used when someone wants to be more casual, not more “suited”. But, for me, there has been a melting of the things I used to think were so important, and they have been poured out of my soul, typically through my tear ducts in those times when I have been privileged to sit in the presence of God in its thickness and enjoy my ranks among the fraternity of “them that weep” (Jesus belonged to that crowd, so I figure it’s decent group).
I have lost my will to make a point if that point means I have to impale someone in the process. I have lost my desire to stir up trouble by being different for the sake of trouble…I have come to realize that even if I attempt to embrace conformity in some areas I will, I suppose, despite my best efforts, always be different. I have lost my taste for needless controversy and argument baiting, though I have not lost my passion for the truth and the defense of it.
What Rev Kemp said is absolutely true: some situations demand that dignity reign supreme over demonstration. Regardless of the myriad questions I have about the church’s present or future, I am beholden to the men and women that have paved this pathway with their tears, and some with their blood, to make it possible for me to sit in the front of an auditorium, have my name called, and receive the honor of hearing a thousand voices behind me praying for my family and my future. The reality is that some of those people EXPECTED me to wear a suit, and that’s alright. Some expected it for the wrong reasons, and that’s alright too.
The stories that I have read about the Church of God’s history seem clear that our forefathers probably worshiped, wept, sang, and cried out to God in overalls and agricultural gear. They may very well have smelled like manure and had gunpowder on their face and animal blood on their hands as they plead with God for His Spirit to awaken them and their children and future generations that they would never see with earthly eyes. These pig-farming prophets and barn-raising bishops may not have worn the clothing of the wealthy, but they carried the treasure of God in their hearts. They may have looked at us last night, washed up and dressed up, and figured we were a bit too clean for their tastes. But the truth is, it is them and their children, and the brave souls of their sisters and cousins who went to the mission fields unqualified save for the burning phoenix of Gospel passion in their hearts that the Ghost had ignited, they are the reason that we washed up and dressed up. There are so few ways in the matter of an evening that we can honor someone. We can do it somewhat with words, but everybody doesn’t get that chance. We can do it with our presence but anyone can show up. So, at a loss for an adequate way to look to those whose shoulders we stand on, we put on the clothes that our culture has interpreted as special, and we do our best.
I can’t tell you when I’ll wear that suit again. And to be honest, I hope it isn’t soon. But sitting there last night, awaiting my handshake/certificate exchange, as I stole a glance behind me knowing that there were those in the building that had, in years past, wept over my sin saturated soul pleading with God to move my heart, I was thrilled to be wearing that suit. And I think that the overall-clad founders of this movement would feel the same way.
Thank you Rev Kemp. I am indebted to you for many things, the most recent being this seed you’ve planted in my mind.