But, it was Sunday after all and we got dressed and loaded up the clan for church. Not feeling up to anything else, I decided to dress casual - jeans and a "dressier" type t-shirt. Normally I try to avoid jeans, wearing casual slacks or at the very least dark wash, but I just couldn't muster up the energy for anything other than comfortable. Our church is not particular about a dress code; we see everything from "Sunday Best" to "Beach Bum" on any particular Sunday, so it's not like I would stand out.
But I do always feel self conscious when I dress down for church. It reminds me of being back in college, getting disapproving looks from the church elders when they saw the casual attire I wore under my choir robe at church. Back then though, it was more a statement of rebellion and just being, well, practical. I mean, I had to wear the robe the whole service, it covered everything, why bother with dressing up? Yet inevitably every week someone would catch a look at me after service, decked out in my ripped jeans and my favorite poncho (lol my favorite poncho - who says that?!?) and I would get "the look". After being there for a few years it didn't bother me anymore. But sometimes the feelings come back now and then.
I've heard the arguments - elders and traditional types that think that being casual in church shows some sort of disrespect. And I've heard theories that it takes away from the seriousness of the message and keeps the attendee from really concentrating on what is going on. For a while I believed it, to some extent; much in the same way I believed just about anything someone "older" (and therefore wiser) told me until I figured out my own truth. So every Sunday while I was being practical and rebellious there was always that underlying element of guilt and shame too. And eventually as I matured and my income allowed me to, I started dressing a little bit better for church.
Now, I am by no means a dress and hose kind of girl - it has to be a particularly special occasion to get something like that out of me (or a direct order). But I do try to look "nice" or "presentable" in case it becomes necessary. I have found that people show more respect and appreciation for someone who looks like they take things seriously; walking the walk and such. But it is still a struggle to wrap my head around it when there isn't enough time for the coffee to kick in and there are too many hooligans nipping at my ankles while I am trying to get ready. I find myself far too often to be a cranky hot mess as we run out the door - barking orders at everyone that even looks in my direction.
But on days like this past Sunday when I physically don't feel up to it, it is nice to know I won't be shunned by showing up to church in a pair of jeans.
We dropped the kids off in their classrooms; the teacher had to peel Port off of me so I could go. Thankfully he calmed down relatively quickly this time, and after a couple of sneaky peeks in his room I was confident that he would be ok for the rest of the service. So we sat in the sanctuary - something we haven't been able to do but a handful of times since Port was born, and it was then that I realized what "dressing down" now does to me.
Even though I know I was not the only one, I felt so exposed. I felt like everyone was watching me, my every move and judging my attentiveness to the sermon. Of course, this was sooooo not the case - I doubt in a church that large anyone even noticed we were there. But my casualness only magnified things. It made me pay more attention to what was being said. I felt like anyone who got up on the stage was talking directly to me - that the entire message was written for my benefit. Our lead pastor was out for the day and so one of the youth ministers delivered the sermon. He spoke of trying to be more like God and, in general, being nicer. It sounds trivial and obvious to write it out like that - of course we should be nice. duh. But for some reason it struck me.
Of course, we all struggle with things - one of mine lately has been my attitude with the people I love. I think I have mentioned here about praying to be "softer" to Kiddo. His big 4 year old attitude more often than not makes me fuss at him from the moment he gets out of bed till the time he returns at night. And it makes me weary - I don't want to be the constantly yelling parent. I don't want to fuss at him continually. So I've been asking God to make me softer - it's the only word I can think of that sums it all up. Make me less abrasive, less likely to yell, more patient, more kind, more fun. It is soooo easy to snap when the baby is screaming and demanding all day, and very often poor Kiddo gets no good attention (only negative) from me because of it.
And of course, Hubby gets the bad end of the stick often too. I am annoyed by the littlest of things and react unpleasantly. I am trying, trying to be better about this. I have good days and bad. I bite my tongue and hold my breath a lot now.
But the pastor asked us to name one person to be nicer to - not just to vow to be nicer in general. And I realized that I have been holding on to some anger, resentment and hurt and it has been festering and taking over my feelings about a couple of people in my life. And so I am going to try to be nicer to them. It is important. It is vital that I do this. Because if I don't I will regret it later. And even as I write this I can't help but rationalize my feelings in my head (well they did this and they said that - I deserve to be angry). I may think I deserve to be angry, but what good does it do? They deserve to be forgiven.
So I don't really know the purpose of this post; just relaying the thoughts in my head. Maybe it will inspire someone reading to be nicer to someone in their lives too. I know for me it will be a slow process; peeling back all the layers of separation and distance - breaking down the walls I have built. I am sure I will put back some of the bricks from time to time, all in the name of protecting myself and what I may feel is a threat to my family, but I do intend to try. Only the grace of God can help me through this though. I can't do it on my own.