Like 23 million other viewers, I enjoy the television series What Not to Wear. The show chooses a woman who dresses badly or inappropriately, nominated by her friends and/or family. The next step is to stalk her for a few weeks, filming her as she naively goes about her everyday life, dressed like a homeless person or a hooker.
Then Stacy and Clinton, the television hosts, show up and humiliate her at her job or some other public place. They offer to send her to New York City to spend $5000 on fashionable clothing, which totally makes up for the embarrassment. To receive this windfall, however, the chosen woman must surrender her old threads and learn to shop by the rules.
The rules make sense. How about this one? Dress for the body you have, not the body you want. Several of the women featured since I started watching had been wearing the same few pairs of sweat pants for five years while they waited to lose ten pounds. Stacy and Clinton convinced them to allow themselves to gussy up in spite of the extra poundage.
In my fantasy, my students nominate me and I am chosen. Stacy and Clinton rush into my classroom while we’re correcting level E vocabulary homework and whisk me away. I endure the shame of seeing my pathetic style in the 360 mirror. I stay at the luxury hotel. I buy a pair of pants for $120 in a chic Manhattan store (instead of ten pairs of pants for the same price at the Clothes Mentor, a secondhand shop in State College). Carmindy does my makeup, magically erasing scars, moles, warts, rosacea, and wrinkles. The hairstylist in the long-sleeved dress shirt and tasteful tie gives me an amazing cut and youthful color, all the while not getting a spot of hair dye on his shirt cuffs, as always.
After I model my new duds and Stacy screams, “Shut up!” (which is apparently a compliment) I leave NYC and return to a party attended by my students, coworkers, husband, and sons in a classy eatery—say the WCA cafeteria. Everyone hugs me, careful not to muss my hair or smear my lipstick. They gush and tell the camera how amazing I look and how happy they are for me. The camera follows me around for a few days, showing my new awesomeness in my old environment, maybe tottering in high heels down to CVS, or singing hymns at Watsontown Baptist Church.
It’ll never happen. I’ll never be chosen. I dress too well already because, darn it, I’ve watched too many episodes of What Not to Wear. My outfits match, my jewelry coordinates, and I’ve started wearing lipstick. Sigh.
You may be surprised to learn a similar program existed in New Testament times, hosted by the Apostle Paul. He urged the Colossian Christians to remove greed, rage, and other ugly items from their spiritual closets. With God’s credit card they could buy the more attractive garments of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Here’s one of Paul’s style rules: “And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (Colossians 3:14, The Message)
I can’t afford to buy the styles shown on What Not to Wear, unless I find them in a classy place like the Clothes Mentor. (I’m hoping they read my shameless plugs and give me a gift certificate.) But I also can’t afford to ignore the scripture’s instruction on my spiritual style.
Another Apostle warns me not to walk away from the 360 mirror and forget what I look like. (See James 1:23 – 24.) Instead, by looking into and obeying God’s Word, I will be changed.