Several years ago, several years ago, I lost a substantial amount of weight due to stresses in my life at the time. Anyway, at just over 5'6" tall, I melted away to a very lean size 8. None of my size 14 clothes fit any more, and I couldn't afford an extensive wardrobe overhaul. Creativity and economy were the order of the day.
Near our apartment, an elderly lady ran a fabric store which catered to the Indian population in town. Beautiful silks and cottons, brilliant prints and solids, some with elaborate embroidery - these fabrics were for the elegant saris the Indian women wore. I couldn't afford any of the luscious gold-trimmed silks, but I did purchase a few yards of a splashy purple-pink-and-black cotton print. I stitched together a thigh-length, oversized painter's smock, which I then wore over a black leotard. I suppose I thought I looked like I'd stepped out of an old Audrey Hepburn movie! This comfortable, fun outfit instantly became one of my favorites.
Roll the clock forward about 18 months....the lean young woman in the sassy cat suit had transformed in a human blimp who had just given birth to her third child - a 10+ pound whopper! Size 8 was a dim memory. My maternity clothes literally fell off my body, but my "regular" clothes had only enough fabric to accomodate one of my legs. Get the picture?
By the time Baby #3 reached 4 weeks of age, I was desperate to get out of the house. I dug through the closet for something, anything to wear besides a nursing gown or Steve's sweat pants. That's when I rediscovered the black leotard and the brightly-colored blouse. Spandex is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-y, right? I gritted my teeth and decided to give it a try.
Believe it or not, people, you can cram a size 14-plus, mushy, post-partum body into a spandex suit that once fit a firm and lean size 8. But the visual effect? Let's just say SCARY. I did mention that I was desperate, right? Thank goodness for the billowing overshirt.
Feeling very self-conscious but determined to brave the world beyond the four walls of home, I rode with Steve and the kids to church. Sunday school was heavenly - so good to be back among dear friends and in the fellowship of other adults! By the end of that first hour, I could tell I'd soon be springing a milk leak, so I headed to the nursery, grateful for an excuse to not have to expose my distorted, spandex-clad body to the entire church during the worship service.
As I headed down the hall to the nursery, I ran smack into our pastor. He froze, eyes popping out of his head, stammering for words. I closed my eyes, grimaced, and bolted down the hallway behind him. Once in the safe haven of the nursery, I picked up my infant son and settled into a rocking chair, feeling very miserable and sorry for myself. Why couldn't I have nicer clothes like all the other church ladies? Why did I have to have such a saggy, baggy body? What was I thinking, wearing spandex to a church where most of the women were dressed and groomed like country club socialites?! Gack!
An unfamiliar woman stepped timidly into the nursery with her toddler daughter in tow, interrupting my pity party. "Do you mind if we stay in here with you?" the woman whispered. "I don't think she can sit still through the whole church service." I knew the faces of all my sisters in the congregation - this woman must be a first-time visitor. Wearing black stretchy pants, an over-sized T-shirt, and no make-up, she certainly didn't fit in with the manicured, high-heeled crowd gathered in the sanctuary. If I felt self-conscious among the beautiful church people - whom I knew and loved - how must this woman feel, standing in the midst of beautiful strangers? I nodded and smiled and introduced myself to Lara. We spent a wonderful half hour getting acquainted. Silently, I thanked God that He had dressed me specifically for this meeting. Amazing that He could use a mis-shapen body wrapped in too-tight spandex to minister to one of His children!
Spandex is not a right. It is a privilege. A privilege that is earned by passing over the doughnuts and spending time at the gym. Being a member of the family of God is not a right. It is a privilege. A privilege that is earned by the atoning work of Christ and extended to us by the free grace of God. A privilege extended to people regardless of whether they wear spandex or Spanx, Prada or Keds, Gucci bags or diaper bags, three-piece suits or stretchy pants and T-shirts. I am so often quick to judge myself and others by outward appearances, to be preoccupied with or distracted by what is external. I am glad that God sees clearly and deals with me with grace and patience. Even when I'm wearing spandex.
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance.....
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7