I learned a lot when I was in law school, not only about the law but about life.
For example, I learned a lot about attending weddings. Thanks to my classmates, I attended everything from lovely garden weddings to formal banquet hall shindigs and everything in between.
Many of the details have faded from memory, but I will never forget the weekend I showed up at a very formal wedding in a very casual sundress. When I say “very formal,” I mean there were women in sequined gowns and men in tuxedoes. And I’m talking about the guests, not just the wedding party. The wedding invitation did not say “Black Tie,” but apparently it was one of those things that was so obvious to everyone else it went without saying.
I knew my classmate’s fiancé, but I did not know she was … fancy. My classmate was decidedly not-fancy and that was the vibe I was expecting at the wedding. He would probably have preferred a wedding where everyone was barefoot and in beach attire. But, of course, the wedding isn’t really about the groom or his vibe.
I was married, I should have known that!
I was okay at the wedding ceremony. I sank into my husband’s side and hid in the pew. Although he was not in a bespoke tuxedo, he was in a nice dark suit. But me? I was definitely under-dressed.
Y’all, I had on sandals. Not strappy, super-cute sandals. More like utilitarian brown leather sandals.
If we had not traveled from out of town, I probably would have skipped the reception altogether. As it was, we were late to the reception because I tried to find a shoe store where I could at least buy a pair of flats to wear instead of my very brown sandals. Ugh.
All of this is just to say that I know what it feels like to be that one person at the wedding who shows up in the wrong clothes.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about a wedding guest who wears the wrong clothes and pays dearly for it. The king who is hosting the wedding has the inappropriately dressed guest bound hand and foot and thrown “into the outer darkness,” the place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). Jesus ends the parable with this ominous observation: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
The king’s decision to banish the guest comes as a surprise because the king has had a difficult time getting people to come to the wedding. We expect the king to be grateful for each and every guest in attendance. After all, he sends servants “out into the streets” to invite anyone and everyone, “both evil and good” (Matthew 22:8-10). Given that it was so hard to find guests, we don’t expect the king to be picky about what the guests are wearing.
As one who has shown up at a wedding in the wrong kind of clothing, I tend to take this parable personally.
The thing is though, it’s a parable. It is a simple story, rooted in metaphor, meant to teach us something.
If this parable is not actually about a guest’s wedding attire, what is it about?
I see in this parable a good news/bad news situation. The good news is we’re all invited to a lavish wedding banquet that represents the abundance of God. The bad news is that this invitation isn’t just an invitation to a party, it’s an invitation to transformation.
In order to truly experience God’s abundance, I have to be remade by God. If I show up clinging to my old self, my old ways, my “old clothes” so to speak, then I’m not really open-hearted enough to experience God’s abundant love, grace, and mercy.
When Jesus says “many are called, but few are chosen,” he is recognizing that change is hard. Sometimes we choose to stay stuck in our old, familiar, comfortable ways instead of opening our hearts and minds to the harder work of self-awareness and change.
I guess you could say, I was comfortable in my sundress and functional sandals until I realized I had been invited to wear something better.
What about you? Have you ever shown up in the wrong kind of clothing? How did it make you feel? Have you sensed God inviting you to transformation? Are you holding on to what is comfortable instead of leaning into God’s abundance? Tell me about it on Facebook, Twitter, or in an e-mail.
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