Monday, February 27, 2012

Hand-me-downs, or Fill-me-ups?

This past week some friends gave my family a bag of clothes they were no longer using.

I don't know how you feel about hand-me-downs, but I've lived on them since I was too young to know what I was wearing. Of course, being second-oldest in a large-ish family, I've been on the giving end of that program, too.

I love hand-me-downs. I'm cheap, and the fun of getting new clothes without going shopping used to turn me giddy. I would paw through stacks of "to go" clothing, and pick out anything and everything that caught my fancy. When faced with abundance, my greed got the best of me. Of course, my closet was always bursting with items that didn't fit quite right, or that I hardly ever wore.

I still face that temptation. Whether hand-me-downs, or Goodwill, or sales at WalMart, when clothes (or accessories!) are cheap, I want to over-indulge. I have to remind myself that cost is not the only reason for limiting a wardrobe.

I first began to really get this idea when reading a book written by a pastor from India. He talked about his first visit in America, and the culture shock he experienced. He said that the food consumed in one typical after-church fellowship in America would feed his home village in India for a week. I was slapped awake, and wondered what a girl in India would think of my overflowing closet. Did I really need all those clothes? Did I wear half of them?

More importantly, what did God think of all those clothes? Did He give me His money to splurge on making my appearance more versatile, or did He make me a steward so I could use His money for His purposes? I knew the answer. I became convicted by the verses in the Bible that talk about a woman attiring herself simply. Not ugly. Not frumpy. Not roughly. But simply. As in; you-don't-need-ten-thousand-shirts-and-100-bottoms-and-50-cardigans-and-whatever-else-is-on-that-crammed-rack-in-your-closet.

In my town, a shirt at GoodWill costs $3.50. Two makes $7.00. Six is $21.00. I sponsor a little boy in another country. His total cost of living for a month is $26.00. How many children could I have helped to hear the gospel and be fed, if I hadn't bought that stuff that I really didn't need?

Now, please understand; I'm not advocating that we all empty our closets, select three items to put back, and live on them (or in them, rather) until they are threadbare and unwearable. I like clothes. And I believe they can be a form of artistic expression, and I know God made us able to express ourselves and imitate His creative beauty for a reason.

We shouldn't feel guilty that He has blessed us with the ability to be adequately clothed. A starved, half-naked child in Africa doesn't represent God's will for the world. That's not a picture of what we're supposed to be; suffering, misery, and nakedness. God loves to give His children good gifts. But my point is, we are supposed to be sharing, not hording. And sometimes we forget that. Sometimes I forget it.

Just for the record, I still love hand-me-downs. And I love the people who give them so generously - whether it's a sister or a friend outside the family.

I was going to talk about pride in this post. I was going to say how sometimes when you wear hand-me-downs you are careful where you wear them, or you try to avoid wearing them in front of the person who gave them to you. Sometimes it feels awkward to be seen wearing something that someone else was throwing out. And I was going to say we ought to understand the spirit of the person who gave them to us, and allow them to get a blessing by being a giver. And just accept good gifts from God, and enjoy them!

But you know what? Blogging always seems to be a way that God speaks to my heart. As my fingers dance on the keyboard, they are moving to a rhythm all their own, and I am often surprised to see what comes out of my heart as they type. I think I needed to hear this today. I needed to be reminded that I am not my own. I am bought with a price. And I ought to glorify God in my body.

Hope you got something out of it, too.

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