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Celebrating Uniqueness in a “One Size Fits All” World

People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. I Samuel 16:7

Years of team sports and activities have taught me to appreciate the importance of good uniforms. Uniforms are essential for participants—for starters, they identify players as members of the team.

However, such “uniformity” isn’t easy to come by. The more fitted the outfit, the more expertise required. It takes considerable knowledge and skill from those adept at measuring, fitting and altering to custom-tailor a single design for such an intricate variety of figures.

Custom fitting . . . is best left to the experts.

As Christians, perhaps one of the greatest miscalculations we make is when we try to outfit one another in “spiritual uniformity.” Even our best efforts will be ill-fitting and uncomfortable. As scripture points out, we are not qualified to take such measurements (Matthew 7: 1, Romans 2:1, Romans 14:4, 10). Too often we end up trying to alter each other to conform to the uniform of our design.

Having just lost a loved one, I’ve experienced this firsthand. Grief has the peculiar distinction of being both universal—and intensely personal. As a result, I keep meeting amateur tailors determined to outfit me in their particular brand of sackcloth. For all their loving concern to see me warm and covered, such attentions do not “suit” me.

To begin with, this is not my first season on the Mourner’s Team. I have put on this uniform before, and I know that grief, in order to be worn graciously, must be custom-fit to the wearer. It’s not my intention to reject the outfit—but I do insist on the prerogative to try it on after my own fashion.

Meanwhile, I’ve been just as prone to try my hand at religious re-styling.

When my dearly-departed dad was alive, our spiritual fashions often clashed. He did not accessorize and model his faith like I did. Since his uniform was not identical to mine, I sometimes questioned if he was a legitimate member of the same team.

However, all my concern and criticism turned to worthless rags the last time I saw him face-to-face. He was the very image of reconciliation—a man clearly at peace with life, with death, with the people he loved—and the God he trusted. At that moment, any spirit of heaviness I may have had was completely replaced with a garment of praise.

If I had any hidden doubts at all, they also fell away before this precious keepsake I received only days after my father’s death. 068For a man of great style and bearing, this humble token was one of his most prized possessions. He carried it with him at all times. I’m told that the very worst moment of his illness came when he had to leave it behind (along with any other metal objects) for a medical procedure.

Now I keep it close, a treasured and tangible reminder of Divine reassurance that my father’s faith was no mere accessory. He only refused to parade it around for the approval of others. He was clearly marked as God’s own, whether others acknowledged his uniform or not.

If experiences of late have taught me anything, it is that I am no tailor. My best efforts at evangelism will be shrugged off—and rightly so—whenever I care more about the uniform than the wearer. Maybe the best I can do is model faith with style and grace. I am not equipped to clothe others in the Gospel. That I leave to the One with the knowledge and skill to custom-fit each individual member of His team.

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness. Isaiah 61:10