This is a snapshot I took of myself before leaving for church yesterday morning. It doesn’t look exceptional to you, probably, but to me it represents a major victory. The clothes I wore were the first thing I saw when I opened my closet. They were also the very same clothes I had worn to church the week before.
That was huge.
I really cannot even tell you how major that is, but since I’ve begun my Lenten challenge of smashing my love idol, that kind of victory has happened a couple of times.
And can I just tell you how amazing it feels?
I know that sounds weird, and for you to fully appreciate the journey the Lord is taking me on, I have to tell you this: this challenge – of wearing only a few pre-selected items from my wardrobe for the entire season of Lent – was never really about the clothes. No, the clothes are just a symptom of the disease.
I’ve already shared some of the struggle with clothes for me. It’s complicated and brutal. Every day I face the barrage of thoughts and fears and the relentless race for approval. As an example – the one that stands most prominently in my mind and allows you the most accurate picture of my struggle – getting dressed for church is brutal. It begins the night before, with me standing in the doorway of my closet for thirty…forty minutes. Option after option of what I could wear stream through my mind, yet each is – for one absurd reason or another – woefully inadequate. Makes me look frumpy. Too out of style. Patterns mismatched. Not something I’d normally wear. Not pretty enough for church. Not something a mom should wear. Shirt is frayed….pilled…..holed. Too similar to last week’s outfit. Unseasonable. Unpopular. Unattractive. Unacceptable.
And eventually, my brain cannot discern whether the disapproving thoughts are about the clothes……or about myself. The process rarely ends well. I begin to panic, thinking everything and nothing all at once.
I hate the clothes…..myself……my life……and it spirals down and down and down, until I, like Alice, find myself in an unrecognizable place of fear and disproportionately large concerns that, outside of that context, make little or no sense. In that place, though, they are of utmost importance. It is a matter of survival.
This happens every week. The ritual has become one if dread for my husband. And, if it should be a week that I am speaking onstage, multiply the panic and dread by a thousand. More people will see me, so there are more people to please.
If I’m onstage to preach, the terrorizing pressure is unbearable. Preparation for that begins at least a week in advance. The scrutiny of my closet….scouring stores for something to make me feel like I look good…..envisioning myself onstage in this or that or the other thing, until finally I land on an outfit that to all outward appearances should have come easily.
This is so hard to admit.
It’s shameful. But it’s true.
So removing the clothes – removing the options – eliminates so many of the dangerous places my mind could go. It seems that narrowing the choices would make things more stressful, but to my mind – which desperately needs to rest – it is significantly simpler.
And leaving for church wearing what I wore yesterday? That was huge.
Tomorrow, I hope to share with you some more of why I think this is working….and why Satan is so very, very unhappy about it.
I’m smashing the love idol, friends. And it feels great.