Yes, a tiara and a ballgown instead of a t-shirt. I had a whole collection of well-earned t-shirts. I don’t miss them. I’m glad they’ve gone. I got a much better deal instead.
But no, I’m not talking about actual clothes – I’m talking about metaphorical t-shirts, which got metaphorically burned and replaced with a metaphorical tiara and ballgown. Because at some stage I came to my senses…
You know how there’s stuff in the Bible about not murdering and not stealing and suchlike – things that most people agree are wrong – but then there’s other stuff that the Bible says is wrong but many people in today’s western culture think are just fine… That’s exactly where I was at when I first met Jesus, and for years I kept thinking like that: why on earth would God mind who I sleep with, as long as we’re not hurting anyone? I was so sure I knew right from wrong, I just didn’t even try to find out why some people think differently. Because, well, obviously I must be right, because, well, obviously…
And everyone I knew seemed to think the same…
I’m not going to go into all the detail about how God challenged me to start rethinking this stuff. It was complex.
It was, at times, painful.
Totally worth it though. Because of the ballgown and tiara. Metaphorically.
As long as I was hanging on to the values I’d grown up with, I couldn’t get the gift God had for me, the beautiful ballgown and tiara that were sitting in a box and waiting – gathering dust on God’s shelf while I was refusing to pick it up because I had my beloved grimy t-shirts, with my favourite coffee stains, and I couldn’t see why God would want me to part with them.
Part of the process of being born again involves us letting go of the “I’ll do it my way” attitude and accepting that God knows best what’s good for us. Of course he does – he is the one who made us! And he knows absolutely everything! Add into the equation the fact that he loves us – loves us so deeply that he was willing to send his only Son to die for us! – then of course if he says “don’t do x” then the wisest thing is to follow his instructions. Because he knows what he’s talking about, and because he wants what’s best for us.
My mother once told me not to put an open tin in the fridge. She said once you’ve opened a tin of food, you should decant the contents into a bowl or something. When I asked her why, she said it was dangerous to leave the open tin in the fridge, but she didn’t know why. So I paid no attention – and learned the hard way…
My mother loved me and wanted what was best for me, but she didn’t know everything. It was quite reasonable of me to mistrust what she said – but God, though… God does know everything. And he loves me even more than my mother did!
And God ultimately showed his love for us by saying: yes, you guys keep messing things up and ignoring my instructions, obstinately insisting that you know better, but any of you who turn away from that attitude and put their faith in my Son – you can have total forgiveness of all your sins! Sin is bad – so bad that someone pure and perfect and sinless had to die a bloody, painful death to take on the punishment that all mankind deserves – but look, I sent my Son to take on that punishment so you can go free!
I’m now free because I did eventually stop arguing with God, and accepted his gift of grace. All those sins that I’d held onto as though they were good? Burned in the great t-shirt bonfire, and replaced with something so much more wonderful!
And you, reading this – whatever you’ve done, no sin is too big for the atoning blood of Jesus. You just need to accept that that’s what it is, and accept his atonement.