I had the uncomfortable assignment of watching a video of myself delivering a sermon for my preaching final. As I watched the video, I was chagrined to note a horrible fashion misstep: the muffin top. It’s painful to do, but I’m even including a screenshot to prove my point.
Ack! Where were Stacy and Clinton and the 360 degree mirror to save me from myself?
Some time ago, I read an interview with Tim Gunn where he was asked, “What fashion trend do you wish would disappear forever?” He replied that it wasn’t a fashion trend, but the sizing labels. He wished people would simply wear what fits and flatters their bodies.
Makes sense, but we still don’t do this. Why not?
I was visiting one of my best friends and was lamenting about the size pants I was wearing. I told her I wished it didn’t matter. It really shouldn’t matter because I still wear a smaller size than I have in years. She, as brilliant as ever, deadpanned, “We’re all number whores.”
It makes perfect sense. We all have a certain number we want our clothes to be and we’re willing to cram ourselves into clothes that tell us what we want to hear. We want the size we wear to validate our beauty.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s not just clothes. The number of hits on our blog “validates” our thoughts. The number of social and professional engagements “validates” our worth as a human being. The number of people walking through the doors of our churches “validates” our ministry. Numbers validate us.
We just want the numbers that confirm we are okay and we’re willing to pay any cost to get them. We’ll sell ourselves for numbers. We’re all number whores.
I’m reading the book Ruthless Trust and the following passage struck me this week:
[My spiritual director] recommended that in the hours of prayer I let go of the successes in my personal and professional life and stand naked before God. He used the analogy of a crab coming out of its shell, naked, unprotected, and vulnerable to predators. Frantically, the crab searches for tall grass where is can retreat to build a new shell. [My director] said, ‘Brennan, you have an international reputation that may be getting in the way of your encounter with God. Emerge from the shell of your accomplishments. Drop your various identities as author, evangelist, and spiritual leader, admired by your friends and respected by your reading audience. Simply present yourself to God, clinging to nothing but your humanness.'”
Presenting ourselves to God without our shell of accomplishments (numbers) is scary indeed, but I believe we’ll never get out of the cycle of always having to measure up if we don’t allow grace to transform our thinking. The absurdity of grace only strikes us when the numbers aren’t there.
We only come face to face with real grace when we can’t make up any rational reason that God should love us.
And then we’re validated because we are loved, not because we are loveable.