I’m sewing crystals on lace in strings that catch the light of the lamp above my head. Alternating tiny beads, larger glass diamonds, and the occasional pearl. It’s my daughter’s wedding dress, and it must be just right.
These lace and bead concoctions are the sleeves, a kind of roaring twenties look that suits her tiny frame. But the skirt—full blown princess. She wants to feel like a princess on her day, and to her, that’s a full gathered skirt with petticoats. Adding an Elsa-style glittery cape as a train, some rather boho-chic silk, and, again, a very 20’s headpiece, will finish off this creation of love.
It may sound like an unfortunate mash-up that would not work on any runway. But no, it is coming together quite beautifully as the unique creation it is. I’m fusing styles, because this girl cannot be pinned down to one, and her style is as variable and blowsy-beautiful as my cottage garden outside.
She will be stunning on her wedding day.
When I’m not sewing lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and studying on the church, and it occurs to me that she is like this dress in my lap.
The church is all kinds of parts, sewn together by the One who loves her most of all. It is, like this dress, a complete creation of love. It is also, like this dress, a fusion that by the standards of human thought, would never, ever work. We differ in the details of what we believe. Our worship styles range from solemn liturgy to free-flowing shouts to gospel joy. We are men and women, black and white, Spanish speaking and Chinese, ex-gang members and blue-haired ladies, sometimes sitting next to one another. It shouldn’t work. But in the best of times, it does.
We come with many different gifts, personalities, and baggage from the past. We are a mixed bag that can choose to clash, making the entire creation look like a mess top to bottom. Or, we can choose to embrace the disparities and weave them together into a unique look that bears the unmistakable stamp of a Master fusion artist.
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. We all share the same Spirit. Our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.” -1 Corinthians 12.12, 18
That guy with the skull tattoo? He’s right where God wants him in your church. The lady whose spiritual gift seems to be making enough food for every event to feed the entire city? She’s right where God wants her, singing off-key behind you. The young man struggling with learning English, the ex-con who just wants a job and a second chance, the perfectly-manicured mother of three perfectly-dressed children? All of them where God wants them.
This means, too, that whatever your gifts are, they are also exactly where God wants them to be used. They were never meant to be squashed because you, or someone else, thinks them less than worthy. Your “part” also is meant to be played out.
The challenge is to accept that, by some divine tailoring ability, the different parts will make an amazing whole. We simply have to recognize that it might not look like our idea of a perfect runway model. It is God’s perfect creation instead, with all manner of styles making up its pattern. What we see as a hot mess He sees as coming together quite nicely in the end.
One of my favorite sections in the Bible comes in Revelation 7, when John pictures an endless sea of people, of all colors and languages and nationalities, together praising God. I am looking forward to seeing that ocean of redeemed, colorful humanity. I am humbled at the chance to participate in its making now. (In light of recent events, I’m also appalled and grieved at our failure to do so.)
The Church will be stunning on her wedding day. Not because she is perfect but because she is the loving creation of the One who knows and loves her best.