You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2011)
Kelly Minter is a singer/worship leader, a recording artist, a popular speaker, and the author of two books (Water into Wine and No Other Gods) and three Bible studies (No Other Gods, Ruth, and Hannah’s One Wish). Among her CDs is one based on insights from her Bible study on Ruth. Minter resides in Nashville, TN.
Visit the author's website.
Kelly Minter explores what it means—in real life—to “clothe” ourselves (Col. 3:12) in Christian virtues like forgiveness, joy, patience, compassion, and more. Can we really “dress up” in the character of Christ? Kelly Minter says the answer is yes—if we let the Master Designer do the fitting. This relatable book offers insightful Scripture study with real-life stories and simple, down-to-earth explanations of tricky concepts such as justification and sanctification—stitching it all together with dry humor and down-to-earth honesty. There are no gimmicks, no guilt trips, just an irresistible invitation for women to enjoy a spiritual makeover—to put on a life that’s personally tailored by the One who knows and loves them best.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
A video shoot for a wonderful author and friend is taking place at my house this week. Stylists, cameramen, set designers, talent, and black-clad crew have been running around my home for days. The entire shebang has absolutely nothing to do with me except that twenty people are now using my bathroom. This is a girl’s recurring nightmare. I’ve decided the only true payoff is the round-the-clock
catering, which produces warm cookies every afternoon around three-ish—a routine I am trying to understand how I have lived so richly without.
This morning as the crew arrived, I feverishly applied the last few elements of makeup onto my slightly puffy and pillow-wrinkled face. I threw on my work-at-home uniform, which is made up of jeans, a
T-shirt, and socks if the hardwoods are chilled, flip-flops if it’s summertime. As I meandered through the kitchen—for the catering, of course—I ran into a stylist I knew who was working with the talent. I told her I needed help finding new boots for the winter. She agreed at an alarming rate, well acquainted with my wanting shoe collection. Her exaggerated urgency was tongue-in-cheek, but with a hint of dead-serious. After all, she is a stylist. Clothes are what she does.
If ever there was a spell in history when what we wear is paramount, I daresay it is now. Dress is a multibillion-dollar industry. The garments we drape on our backs, the hats we don on our heads, the jewelry that dangles from our necks and wrists all tell a little of who we are. Our dress is an expression of ourselves, a statement of our personalities or moods. We dress up, we dress down, we dress for comfort, we kill ourselves in high heels to dress for style, we dress for the weather, we dress for others, we dress for ourselves. But what about the dress of our souls? What about the way our character clothes us? And our character does clothe us. We give off far more than we will ever know by the way we greet the barista, drive in traffic, enter a room, answer the phone, glare at our toddler who’s having a meltdown in a non-meltdown-friendly environment. If only it were as simple as hiring a stylist for an extra bag of peace or another color of honesty. Could I get some denim patience for under $100?
I promise not to kill you with the clothing metaphor for the next several thousand words, but I want to pull from the comparison the apostle Paul set in motion in a letter to the Colossians: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (3:12). A few verses earlier he writes, “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (vv. 9–10). The image of clothing, the picture of slipping out of the old and sliding into the new, is an easily digestible concept because we dress every day.
The gap in the metaphor comes when we don’t know how to clothe ourselves in Christ’s character, or when we’ve given it our valiant best and come up short … really short—like we just walked out the door in our towel, and everyone is staring and mortified while we grasp for fig leaves from our ailing character-garden. The breakdown occurs when we were never taught the value of integrity, when anger
and resentment were the prominent traits our parents passed down, when we weren’t modeled the fine art of forgiveness, when sexual escapades were our solution for loneliness, when lying seemed to work better than the truth at untangling our predicaments, or when complaining became our default over contentment.
Basically, the spiritual concept of throwing off scratchy wool for designer silk sounds simply effortless, but the real-life version is another matter altogether. Many of us who have attempted such a wardrobe overhaul have come up frustrated rather than inspired, and this for many reasons we will address in the pages to come. I hope to speak to these struggles while looking at specific character qualities less from an academic view and more from the vantage point of our everyday realities. Because most of us know we’re supposed to take off old things like bitterness and anger and full-on recklessness and put on the new self, which is full of qualities such as kindness and joy and self-control. But knowing this doesn’t automatically make it so.
I can fairly easily write about what these new-life virtues are, their characteristics, and how we need more of them in our lives, but that feels just about as helpful as the book I was reading last night that appropriately told me not to eat out of boredom or past seven o’clock, which triggered the thought that I might be a little bored, which reminded me of the homemade cinnamon-raisin bread I had in the kitchen. Before I could be held responsible for my actions, I had lost my place in the book and was standing in my pajama pants eating bread.
See, I’m pretty sure most of us need more heart transformation than we need more head knowledge, whether it’s about food or far more important things like exhibiting the character of Christ. Knowledge is vitally important, but it seems so many of us in Western Christianity are just crammed with it—really important knowledge that we gain in controlled settings like Bible study—but when up against the prospect of forgiving someone who has just ripped our insides out, or needing to grab patience out of thin air after our roommate has just stepped on our ever-loving last nerve, we are left with a ton of knowledge about what we should do (don’t eat the bread when you’re bored) but have no idea how to do it.
I had the rare blessing of growing up with parents who modeled and taught the character of Christ well. They were big on the “how” of character and emphasized it over most everything else: A struggling grade on an algebra exam was more excusable than lying (which ended up working heavily in my favor … coefficients?); an off game on the basketball court was no problem compared to being disrespectful to a teacher. My parents taught my siblings and me at a young age about humility, gentleness, patience, contentment, gratefulness, purity, and so on. This doesn’t mean I’m good at all these things; it just means I had the privilege of being taught them. And now that I am past most of my adolescent outbursts and full-on temper tantrums—so often directed toward my parents’ instruction—I am ever thankful for their guidance. If only they could get paid back in stocks or something.
Still, the virtues revealed in Scripture are hard enough when you’ve been taught them. But what if you’ve never been exposed to them in the first place? Perhaps it is in response to this question that my deepest desire for the following pages is to shed fresh light on some of the seemingly shadowed and antiquated virtues in Scripture, exposing their beauty, their delicacy, and the freedom in which they are meant to tailor our lives. This is important because so many of us are plainly stuck in life, wearing the same old things and getting the same miserable results. Our character clothes are frumpy, because we’ve never been groomed and fitted from the pages of Scripture.
There are others who are all too aware of the characteristics of godliness but want nothing to do with them, because they were taught such virtues by people who didn’t actually live by those principles. For them, the notion of godly character was flaunted by hypocrites, self-righteous leaders, or possibly angry parents, and they haven’t wanted a piece of its polyester since. Yes, a lot of damage has been done in the name of God and Christian virtue; people have been clothed by reckless tailors. However, one of my greatest hopes is that if this has been your experience, you will give the discovery of authentic godliness another look, because biblical virtues are not punitive but life-giving.
If there are those who have had little exposure to what the Bible says about godly character and those who have had lots of exposure but find it legalistic and binding, then there is a third group as well: those who long to grasp hold of godly traits but find them maddeningly unattainable. Perhaps you have tried to wear godliness like you try to lose weight or work out or stick to a New Year’s resolution. You’ve dug deep but have found that things like moral purity, kindness, or humility simply don’t exist in your closet. You’ve worn the knock-off brands that faintly resemble the real thing, but after a few good washes of reality, their colors fade and their seams split. And so you find yourself not necessarily disdaining the virtues, but having given up on them.
This is a common dilemma, mostly because we mistakenly view godly character qualities as things we can accomplish if we try just a little harder. We promise ourselves we’ll hold our tongues next time or be thankful for what we have. Perhaps one day we muse we’ll graduate to stretching our reserve of patience, or we’ll respect ourselves enough to stop sleeping with acquaintances. But we can never separate the qualities of God from God Himself. True Christian virtues are not something we can slap on ourselves like cutout clothes for paper dolls. They come as a result of heart change that is accomplished through the supernatural love of Jesus. And yes, we will expound on this more, because I am challenging myself not
to offer Christian colloquialisms that are easy to throw out; even though some of them are true, most are vague and inaccessible. I have experienced the frustrating failures of trying to “do better” as a Christian. I’ve been damaged by legalistic authorities whose preaching and practicing lived in entirely different zip codes. And I’ve had times when I just didn’t know much about the heart behind godly virtue, even though my parents gave me a great foundation. Still, the authentic changes that the gentle and unyielding characteristics of holiness have brought about—and are bringing about—in my life are wholly divine and transforming. Not to mention enormously practical.
Practical, because there are relationships that need to be healed from the cancer of bitterness. There are bones that need to be freed from the incessant gnaw of anger. Hurting neighbors who need to hear an encouraging word of kindness instead of the latest morsel of gossip. Children who need to know that we’ve been blessed in our Western society and that contentment is healthier than complaining. Husbands who need peaceful wives instead of anxious ones; wives who need comforting husbands instead of critical ones. Friends who need to be given to instead of demanded from.
I recently wrote a piece that included a list of several virtues, and I asked women to chime in on the virtues they found the most difficult. This was a bit of a trick question, because the virtues are probably all equally hard in their own right, but I was curious as to what their comments would include. I could not have been more delighted by one woman’s sincere reply: “I think I have plenty of each when I don’t need
them. It is only when I am in the situation that I discover that the one I need is the one that I am short of.” This is pure genius. I pondered her sentiments as a possible subtitle to this book: Clothing Yourself in the Virtues You’ve Got Plenty of Until You Need Them.
Of course the very essence of biblical virtues is that they’re only virtues when they’re being tested: Patience is not patience if someone or something is not trying it. Forgiveness is not forgiveness if there is no offense to pardon. Humility is not humility if a person never has to bow. Biblical virtues need to be studied and defined, but if we leave them in the Christian classroom, we will find we’ve got a wardrobe literally bursting with them until the moment we’re invited to the ball.
If this is has been your experience as it has often been mine—if you find that you have virtues in droves until the moment you need them—it may help to go back to the beginning. To begin with God and what He has accomplished that enables us to live all the virtues He embodies. Much of this can be summed up in the opening line of Colossians 3:12: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved …” See, we can’t really get to the virtues in Scripture until we have a good handle on the truth that we have been chosen, made holy, and are dearly loved. If we take this introductory line away, we are left with a list of dos (clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience …) without any context for them.
Once we understand the context, the way is paved for the oftenpainful work of parting with our old wardrobes, even that A-outfit from college we’re pretty sure we’d still look fabulous in. ’Cause the old and the new don’t coalesce—our human natures don’t meld with the character of Christ. But leaving the old behind can be surprisingly liberating, because it leaves us poised to wear the virtues we will explore in the pages ahead: forgiveness, peace, kindness, humility, compassion, and patience, with a sassy feather of joy in our hats. Virtues that won’t mysteriously disappear when the clock strikes twelve, ones that will actually be there when we need them.