Summary: Midlife feels like a time for new clothes .. signs of mortality are showing up. We need new "shoes" to climb out of self-centeredness, and a new "coat" to enable us to travel out of our comfort zone.
I’ve always been glad that in this church we wear pulpit robes. I’m glad of that because pulpit robes keep you from noticing what the preacher is wearing. I don’t want you to think about what I am wearing. I don’t want you to think about my clothes because you are likely to discover that my taste is not very good. You might decide you dislike me over something as petty as that. My father-in-law used to come home from revival services, complaining loudly about visiting evangelists wearing Argyle plaid socks and sex-appeal ties. I don’t want you to think about that kind of thing.
More than that, I don’t want you to notice how the clothes fit, because that will inevitably lead to comments about my waistline. I do not care to hear admonitions from the slim and trim whose metabolisms burn up everything in sight!
But most of all, I do not want you to pay attention to my clothes because you may notice that most of them are old. Most of my suits you saw last year and the year before that and the year before that. Most of my clothes are old and out of style; some are shiny in the wrong places and frayed around the cuffs and the collars.
Now before you weep over my rundown condition and pass the offering plate for the poor preacher, let me hurry on to suggest that there might be more than one reason why I wear old clothes. There might be more than one explanation for snugly fitting slacks, coats that won’t close, shirts with missing buttons, and socks that don’t quite match. It might be more than money. And it certainly isn’t that my wife cannot take care of me. In fact she hounds me about my appearance more than anyone else. No, there might be another explanation.
It might be that I’m just not interested in clothes. It might be that I’ve chosen to invest my time and my interests in other things. Vital things, like books. I had a pastor once who kept saying things like, “You need this book. Sell your shoes and get this book.” Things like computer software. Classical music tapes. Maybe I’m just plain not interested in how I look.
Or again, maybe it is that I’m not aware that fashions have changed. Maybe I haven’t noticed that what once was right on target is now just outmoded. Could be that the reason my clothes look old is that they are holdovers from another era. If you’re wearing something six months old, why, that’s an eternity in the fashion world! Well, I want you to know that my clothes were the latest thing in that good year 1969. About 1969, when I was a young man, is when my tastes were formed, and I’ve never quite caught up. Do you remember when pleats went out on men’s slacks and everybody was wearing flat fronts? Well, I hated the flat fronts; I even resorted to ordering pleated pants from some factory that still made them. After a while I got more or less used to flat fronts, but now here we are with the pleats back in style, and I can’t find flat fronts. I’m always one step out! Because I get stuck in one style, one pattern, in something that was fashionable when I was a certain age, and it’s hard to give it up.
In fact, I have this little fantasy about that. You know how today we expect deacons and ushers and pastors to stand around in dark suits, white shirts, and ties? Well, that’s because that was the fashion when most of these guys were young men. Today what’s the fashion among young men? Baggy jeans and backwards baseball caps. I hope I’m still around in about twenty-five years so that I can be ushered into church by some deacon wearing the traditional deacon uniform of baggy jeans and a backwards baseball cap! I really want to see that! People get stuck in the fashions of their day, and when they get a little older, they just don’t keep up with change.
Well, whatever the reasons I may have for not upgrading my wardrobe, the day inevitably comes when I wake up to the fact that I have to change. I have to get some new clothes. It usually happens just about the time the seasons change, and I go to the closet to get out the tried and true from last year, only to discover that it looks terrible. It sags, it droops, it’s stained, it’s ripped, it has to go. It’s time for new clothes. Right in the middle of doing everything else, right in the middle of keeping on keeping on, it hits me and hits me hard: it’s time for new clothes. I’m not really ready to do this, but here it is. Time for new clothes.