Dressing Up

Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, 

and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  

Romans 13:14

Aahhhrrrgh! (Pronounced: MAD!)

The boys’ bikes were sprawled across the front sidewalk AGAIN. Three times in 30 minutes, we’d gone over bike parking protocol. But here they were AGAIN; obstacles to the front door during the birthday bash.

But, just as the words migrated from thought to tongue, I GOT DRESSED.

Don’t get me wrong, I was still in the fuchsia top and green skirt I wore to church. I mean- really dressed up:  I held my peace. It felt weird and unnatural, it did: putting off sword thrust words and putting on peace. A lot like the restrictive, itchy feeling I get when I let Jim get the last word in matrimonial tiff.

Fake it ’til you make it, my sister-in-law says.

Act like success you’ll be. Play the part. Pretend like it fits.

We stood, saluting our veterans at the Memorial Day parade this morning. Some carried flags, others shuffled along barely keeping step. Most rode in shiny convertibles. All were in uniform. 
I bet each one remembers the first time he dressed in his Army green or Dress white.  And I bet the uniforms felt stiff and uncomfortable at first. They were dressing up. 
C. S. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity in 1943. It contains one of the best descriptions of Christian growth penned since Paul:

Whatever else you say, you will probably say the Lord’s prayer.  Its very first words are Our Father. Do you now see what those words mean?  They mean, quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God.  To but it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like, you are pretending…In a way, this dressing up as Christ is a piece of outrageous cheek. But the odd thing is that He has ordered us to do it.

Why? What is the good of pretending to be what you are not? Well, even on the human level, you know, there are two kinds of pretending.  The bad kind, where the pretense is there instead of the real thing; as when pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you. But there is also a good kind, where the pretense leads up to the real thing.  

When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are.  And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were.

Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important.  They are always pretending to be grown-ups-playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits, so that the pretense of being grown-up helps them grow up in earnest.

Now, the moment you realize, “Here I am, dressing up as Christ,” it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretense could be made less of a pretense and more of a reality…Well, go and do it.

You see what is happening. The Christ Himself, the Son of God who is man (just like you) and God (just like His Father) is actually at your side and is already at that moment beginning to turn your pretense into a reality.  

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 160-162 

It almost hurts; this putting on Christ, or maybe it’s the putting off the old self that’s so uncomfortable. Eustace was in pain when Aslan peeled away his dragon skin.

I dress up when I refrain from anger and turn from wrath. The clothes are stiff and itchy. Still, I act the part. I pretend to be adorned with a gentle, quiet spirit. 

And instead of an 80 dB

Boys, get over HEEERE this instant!  

 the dressed-up me, calmly calls, at maybe 40 dB:

Boys, would you please come help me move your bikes?

Pretense becoming reality. Faking it ’til we’re remade. In all things growing up into Christ.

Instead, speaking the truth in love we will in all things grow up 

into Him who is the head, that is, Christ. 

Ephesians 4:15

Justin Taylor offers a good, quick summary of the NT language of putting on and putting off.

Meet Meekness

The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do. – D. M. Lloyd Jones 

May I introduce you to Mademoiselle Meekness?  

She befriended me years ago, but it’s been a bit on-again, off-again. I’ve been the weak link, and there’s no good reason for it: there’s nothing high-maintenance about her. Only recently have I sought out her gentle, easy friendship. So I’ll have to borrow words from those who knew her better.

I now present to you…
Her Grace Mlle Meekness.

Matthew Henry was one who knew her well. In 1698, he devoted an entire biography to the gentle lady. In The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, Henry described meekness as the easy and quiet submission of the soul to God’s will as he makes it known, whether by his Word or providence.  

Meekness as a toddler, may have resembled my niece Anna.

She is gracious easiness to be wrought upon by that which is goodMeekness knows that God is good and all He does is good (Ps. 119:68).

My sweet niece Anna has a gracious easiness to be wrought upon. She sits upright in my lap, wide eyed and mouth agape. She’s eager to hear my silly snoring and to be jostled by Hyper Horsey leg. Just waiting for good to act upon her supple little body. Then hear those happy squeals!

Maybe you’re not at a place where you can devote time to a new friend. Or you’re wondering why you should nurture this particular relationship?

Here are three reasons:
1. A meek, quiet spirit is of great worth in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:4).
2. The Lord Jesus himself calls us to learn his meek, gentle ways (Matthew 11:29).
3. Until you know her personally, you might confuse her with weakness or whateverism.

I thought I knew her, but I had misjudged her.  Meekness is not:

1. A weak, shy temperament. Meekness is a spirit endowed gift of God.  And she is one tough cookie.

D. Martyn Lloyd Jones contrasts meekness with easy-going. Those who appear naturally meek may in fact be indolent and lazy, or- and he uses the term advisedly- flabby! And it’s not niceness, which is what you get in animals, he adds. (One dog nicer than another.) Instead, meekness is a true view of oneself, expressing itself in humility toward God and gentleness toward others, springing from trust that God is in control

Meekness is not mousy. Meekness is courageous. True meekness is a resolution never declines the evil of pain when exposing ourselves to it is the only remedy against a greater evil (p. 56). It allows a man to suffer rather than to sin, to pass over an insult and be thought a fool, and to stay silent rather than have the last word. It is the victory over ourselves and the rebellious lusts in our bosoms (p. 51).  Matthew Henry glowingly describes,

The meek and quiet soul is through grace a conqueror over these enemies, their fiery darts are quenched by the shield of faith, Satan is in some measure trodden under his feet, and the victory will be complete shortly, when, “he that overcomes shall sit down with Christ upon his throne, even as he overcame and is set down with the Father upon his throne, where he still appears in the emblem of meekness, “a Lamb as it had been slain,” (p. 52, ).

Meekness is not a natural temperament. She is spirit endowed work of the Spirit.

2. Whatever-works-for-you relativism. Meekness is open to reason and objective truth.

John Piper says true meekness is teachable and open to reason.  He describes conversations where two people express different opinions, giving the impression of being so self-effacing by saying, “It’s just my opinion,” and “Let’s not argue about it.”  Live and let live. 

Too often we think this is the spirit of meekness. Two people making no claim on the other person’s opinion, refusing to submit their own opinion to an independent standard of truth, unwilling to make themselves vulnerable to the claims of truth and the possible need to admit error—that is not the spirit of meekness, no matter how soft-spoken or self-effacing it looks on the outside. It is not self-effacing. It is self-protecting and truth effacing. What could be more serviceable to the spirit of pride than the view that neither you nor I have to give an account of our opinions before any standard but our own private selves?

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount wrote,

The meek man is one who may so believe in standing for the truth that he will die for it if necessary. The martyrs were meek, but they were never weak; strong men, yet meek men (p. 68).

Meekness is not weakness.  Meekness is supernatural strength.

What does meekness look like?  See it in active in:

David, saying as he fled Jerusalem and Absalom, “Let [the LORD] do to me as seems good to him,”  

Job, trusting, “God knows the way I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” 

Moses patiently bearing Aaron and Miriam’s complaints against him. 

Mary’s “May it be to me according to your word, O Lord.” 

Nehemiah, who “was very angry with his countrymen,” but”consulted with himself,” before uttering a word to them, and in 

Stephan, who in the midst of a shower of stones, submitting and praying for his persecutors. (Acts 6:15).

Meekness knows it might have good reason to speak, but it’s better to be silent than to speak amiss and need to repent (p. 33). And that it‘s better by silence to yield to our brother who is, or has been, or may be, our friend, than by angry speaking to yield to the devil, who has been, and is and every will be, our sworn enemy (p. 35).  

Meekness reminds us that He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he who rules his spirit than he that takes a city, and that the meek shall inherit the earth. 

Meekness is a grand companion for the soul, I tell you. Yesterday she told me to hold my tongue when tempted to “set the record straight.” She hugged me this afternoon as I read the principal’s notification of a son’s first (and last?!) school bus delinquency. It’s what he needs, she told me. 

And this evening when I decade old disappointment got me in the gut again, I heard her whisper quiet, “He doeth all things well.”