Monday, September 3, 2012

Ironed on the Outside

It’s funny the images that come back to me as I get older.  One thing that I always remember my mom doing while I was growing up was iron clothes.  It was such a consistent mark of who she was that I would regularly call her “Ironing Irene.”    She was always well put together and would make sure that everyone in her family would not go out in public with wrinkled clothes on.

I remember as a kid in elementary school being made fun of by a classmate because of the creases in my pants from my mom’s ironing.  I went home and told her about the abuse that I was taking and she told me to go back and tell the kid that at least your mother loves you enough to iron your clothes.  Ahh, the feisty side of Mom that would come out when you least expected it.

Mom taught me how to iron, and while I am not nearly as meticulous as she was, I will still set aside an evening to iron clothes when I get the chance.  I have not had many chances lately, but it’s actually somewhat of a therapeutic activity, similar to how some people would describe gardening.

While my family was away on vacation, I pulled a shirt out of my duffel bag and realized that there was no way that I could go out in public wearing the shirt as it was.  I needed to iron it.  So, I went into the closet of the house where we were staying and found an iron and ironing board.  I took a few minutes to get that shirt looking good enough to wear outside of the house.

As I began to iron the shirt, I started thinking about the message that ironed and pressed clothes convey to people.  If your clothes are ironed or pressed, it seems that you are trying to convey a message of responsibility to people.  Of course, if you are the mother of young kids, ironing can’t really be on your radar, otherwise you might end up in an emergency room with a visit from Child Protective Services.  To this day, I’m still not exactly sure how my mom was able to accomplish what she accomplished with two young boys.

But ironing can be misleading.  There are plenty of times when I put on clothes that are freshly ironed and make myself presentable, but deep down inside, I feel like going out in rags because that would better describe exactly how I was feeling.  What would happen if the way we dressed on the outside really reflected our emotions inside?

Jesus had some pretty harsh words for people who were very meticulous about how they looked to people but were covering up what was really going on inside.  In Matthew 23:25-28, he said to the Pharisees, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

It’s really easy to cover things up by putting it in a pretty package.  In this highly political season that we are in as a country, we are certainly experiencing this firsthand, it’s all about revealing truth and covering up the not-so-glamorous reality, but that’s another story.

I’m not suggesting that we all dress exactly how we feel, though it might make for some interesting conversations around the water cooler or coffee pot.  I am suggesting that we do our best to be consistent.  There are definitely times when we want to temper our emotions and not let others know what’s going on inside, but we need to be careful of not keeping so much of who we are and what we are feeling inside.  Do we really want people to know who we are or are we afraid what they’ll think of we reveal too much?

My own experience has shown me that people have always appreciated when I shoot straight with them.  They appreciate the “what you see is what you get” approach towards life.  I know that there are a lot of places that God is still working on me, molding and shaping me, but I’m pretty confident that He calls me to be real, truthful, and honest, letting others see that what’s inside comes out.  I don’t want to be a whitewashed tomb, covering up what’s going on inside.  I want people to know who I am and not feel like they’ve been duped.  I don’t want to present myself as all ironed and wrinkle-free on the outside when I’m really broken and imperfect on the inside.

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