Yesterday, my child wore ripped jeans and a sleeveless shirt to church. I rejoiced. It felt really strange because I've got high standards for "church wear." I don't know how many times I've corrected her younger brother saying "you can't wear ripped jeans to church" or told one of my daughters' "That dress looks great, but add a sweater. We're going to see Jesus today."
In the Catholic church, Jesus is inside the Eucharist. We visit the King of the Universe each Sunday, so we try to dress accordingly. Over the years we've developed our own compromises. My oldest son hates formal wear. We've compromised by allowing clean, non-holey jeans instead of my preferred khakis pants. My son can wear the T-shirt of his choice under a buttoned oxford shirt. My son is the one ripping off his dress shirt with joy on the way to eat donuts in the church Social Hall.
On Saturday, my oldest daughter went clothes shopping with her grandmother. My daughter has a flair for fashion. She put together a layered outfit with ripped jeans with lace details, a sequin embroidered shirt and a sleeveless white jean jacket with white sequin details. We had a major difference of opinion on her shoes. My daughter picked out high top glitter sneakers with a 90 degree three inch heel and three different shoe laces at a cost of $55. I told her "I would never buy these shoes for you. They are too impractical. But I will ask your grandma if she would like to buy them for you." Grandma happily bought the shoes. I had to admit that when I saw the whole outfit modeled for us by my daughter at home, her new shoes did make a statement.
When my oldest daughter emerged from her bedroom before Sunday Mass, I was surprised to see her dressed in her new favorite outfit instead of a normal church outfit. I started to say "You can't wear that to church," but the look on her happy face made that statement die on my lips. I sort of reviewed my position in that moment. I knew that my kid really loved her new clothes and she was excited to show them off for Jesus. This was "her best" outfit in the same way her much younger sisters were wearing fun new headbands that matched "their best" Sunday dresses. Instead of saying "Go change into a dress!" I told my daughter "You look great!"
We have so many kids that we drive to church in two cars now. I was hanging out with my oldest daughter on the drive to Mass. We were talking about how much she loves fashion. I felt so much gratitude for her. I told her, "I hope you do something with this talent. I don't think we can have too many people who love Fashion and Love God in this world." My daughter and I had a spirited conversation about how most of the world is so gross. There is immodest/beautiful clothes versus ugly/modest clothes. It's so rare to find a combination of both.
I told my daughter how many women have body image issues. I told her that it was really painful to try on clothes at the Mall yesterday because I still haven't lost my pregnancy weight from the baby. I told her, "I should feel like such a failure because I gained more weight with this last pregnancy. I gave up exercise. I went on bed rest. I went to the hospital. I did that to help your brother's life! That was an honorable reason to change clothing sizes. Yet I go to the Mall and I feel like a failure because I'm six months out of pregnancy and I still have no idea what clothing size will fit me now."
I told my daughter, "If you get a job at a clothing store at the Mall at age 16, and you help one girl pick out clothing that fits her body in a positive way, that is a huge gift to the world!" I got pinpricks of tears in my eyes thinking about my kid's growing talents in a few years. I've been so busy dismissing fashion as this stupid, superficial thing people do in LA. I thought "important woman" cured cancer or taught orphans in Africa. But having an artistic kid who loves fashion and God and people, that is a huge gift to the world.
As I walked up to Communion with my family, I rejoiced in my kid's individuality. My daughter wore her favorite ripped jeans and glitter sneakers happily to Mass. My kid is finding her own way in this world. Her Mom is a plain Carmelite who wears the same black dress and black flats every Sunday to church. I serve God with simplicity and poverty in my dress. My daughter honors the same God with her passion for sequins and flair.
God is so well served by diversity. He gave each of us different talents and different insights. I'm so happy that I'm calm enough in my own spiritual journey, that I can let my daughters have more and more freedom as they grow up in Faith. Beauty is Truth! It's really wonderful to watch four spunky girls turn into beautiful, creative, smart, and talented women! Discovering self-identity within the context of Faith is such an amazing gift. I'm so grateful to a God who makes so many different kinds of women who love him in unique and individual ways!
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!