Sometimes, an artist reaches through the speakers down all the way to your soul and pinches a nerve. The first time I heard Kelleigh Bannen’s song, “Church Clothes,” that’s exactly what happened. Her words squeezed and twisted and tore at deep, guttural places because they expose the far-too-real truth that we feel this need to cover up our hurts, struggles, and battles. I get it. Her song stings me because I’ve been there. I’ve covered my sins with a smile. I’ve tucked in my questions and doubts behind a dress shirt and sports coat. I’ve squirreled away my failures and fears underneath a happy disguise so no one else will know or see how broken and confused I felt.
Then it happened. I confessed. I confessed to God. And he didn’t cast me away. He didn’t throw me out with the trash. He didn’t run me off. He didn’t turn away in shame. He showed me the way to reconcile with him. He often gently guided me to confess and seek the forgiveness of others. He repaired me step by step through the counsel of his words in the Bible. He listened and shaped my prayers to him as he walked me away from my sins, failures, and messes. He let me bask in the kind joy of his loving mercy.
If you feel the need to wear “church clothes” to hide your shame, let me say, I am sorry. Church clothes are the sort of thing well-meaning but often times Pharisee-like church people expect. You don’t show your messes. You put on your Sunday best. You mind your manners. But at all costs, you don’t show all that’s going on under the surface.
While some church folk need to work on receiving you as you are, remember: Jesus will without hesitation. You don’t have to hide from him. He sees and knows you all the way down anyway. He doesn’t look away. He doesn’t cast sideways glances with raised eyebrows. He doesn’t smugly gloat over you in haughty self righteousness. He’s the one to welcome the long lost son with open arms (Luke 15:20). He’s the type to pray for the forgiveness of his murderers (Luke 23:34). He loved and died for us when we were his enemies (Romans 5:10).
If you haven’t heard Kelleigh’s song, you can watch it here. My guess is, you will probably have a wide range of emotions like me. And that’s ok. Just be sure to remember that Jesus will meet you where you are, how you are, warts and all. Oh and by the way, you can leave the church clothes at home when you meet with Jesus. You’ll never need them with him.