My overseas life has been a succession of bad hair days. I don’t know what my problem is, but I ask for one hair style and leave with something I never wanted. I know my hair is troublesome. It has a slightly curly bent, not that shiny, straight sheen of Asian hair. After my last haircut, even my six-year-old daughter exclaimed, “Mommy, you look awful!” And I did. I looked worse after I left the salon than before, plus I paid money to look that way. Do you know what I did? After I got safely past the shop, I began to rant, rave, and feel generally miserable.
Let me tell you another story. For nearly a week men sawed out the leaking iron pipes in our bathroom and replaced them. Their scratchy symphony stopped our leaks, but gave us a horrible mess and four days of inconvenience. The situation got so ugly I took photos and begged the owners not to leave the mess for me. Thankfully, the workmen labored with copper brushes and acid cleaner to remove their stains. The result? Better, but not “Better Homes and Gardens.” So what did I do for a week? Complain, complain, complain.
I don’t know why I complain here in Singapore. When we were in India, we had no shower or tub; we had a nice hose bath. In Singapore, I can wear Western clothes. In India, I felt like a Barbie doll – someone wrapped me in a blue polyester saree and gently prepared the pleats for the front. No matter how many times I tired, more of the flowered fabric lay on the floor than covered me. So what did I do during my stay in India? By now, you understand my pattern – I complain.
I’m not supposed to tell you this, but last week I fasted and prayed about a difficult situation. Do you know what God said to me and how He said it? God used a struggling baby Christian and my six-year-old’s devotions to remind me. In black and white. God said, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” (Phil 4:4 NLT) I was guilty as charged – wearing the evidence, my garment of complaint. I realized I wore it nearly every day. I’ve worn it so long, it doesn’t even come off at night. It’s with me when I pray and when I talk to my husband after a long, frustrating day. My seamless, invisible garment fit like a second skin.
I hadn’t noticed the outfit in a long time, but now the Master pointed to it in His mirror. He’d pointed it out in India, but I had forgotten. What was the lesson? Oh, yes, something about how He would put on a new outfit to come visit a foreign land as well – how He would put on flesh for the human race. And no one heard Him complain.
I remember looking down at my saree in India and feeling so convicted. What’s a little fabric for the Master when He wore flesh for me? Today I look down at my garment of complaint and feel convicted. What’s a momentary inconvenience? Hair grows out, bathrooms can be cleaned, and clothes changed. But attitudes? Somehow God wants attitudes that surmount our circumstances.
So excuse me while I change my clothes. I seem to remember something in the Bible about a garment of praise. I think that outfit might look better on me.
This article is a classic originally published in our early print magazines.