(The following was taken and adapted from an iBelieve video devotion.)

We’ve probably all gone to some event only to find ourselves completely under-dressed, or dressed inappropriately. I have, more than once, and when that happens, I usually want to leave as quickly as possible.

Woman looking in her closet for something to wear.

Years ago, my husband invited me to a charity function downtown, an area that hosts numerous events spring through early fall, from farmer’s markets to craft fairs. I assumed we were going to something similar, so I arrived in shorts, clunky sneakers, a t-shirt, and a ball-cap.

I stood on a busy street corner and looked around, wondering where the event and my husband could be. After a quick phone call, I learned he was waiting for me at a local restaurant. We’d gone there before, in casual clothes, so I didn’t think anything about my wardrobe or what others might be wearing. When I arrived, however, the hostess quickly escorted to their upstairs, elegantly decorated area—in my shorts, ball-cap, and sneakers.

I wanted to quietly duck out, but, unfortunately, my husband—and his boss and his boss’s wife, who looked quite beautiful, by the way, saw me and hurried to where I was, ushering me off to introduce me to others—none of whom wore comfy shorts and sneakers.

The hostess really should’ve warned me about my attire, before I climbed those stairs. I was clearly not dressed for the occasion.

This experience provided me with a comical image of the point the apostle Paul made in Ephesians chapter 4. In verses 23-24, he told the Christ-followers in Ephesus to “put off their old self,” their sinful behaviors and attitudes, to be made new in the attitude of their minds;  and to put on their new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

It’s like he was standing at the top of the stairs, shaking his head. “Nope. You can’t wear that here. Those are you old, ratty clothes. You should toss them out. Better yet, burn them. You belong to Christ now. You’re holy and beloved, radiant, a child of the King, and this is His party. Go find your gown and princess slippers.”

Girl putting on a tiara.

I need that reminder as well. I need to continually put off my ratty old self, which isn’t good for anything but the trash. And I need to put on my new, radiant and glorious self, my full-on princess garb.

Each day, I have to shuck off who I used to be. My old way of viewing the world, of responding to others, all of my sinful desires that seemed to flash so brightly in the moment but led to shame and destruction. And I need to put on my new self, the glorious robe of righteousness Christ gave me, so that I can be dressed, and behave, as His radiant and well-adorned daughter.  

text pulled from quote and image of a woman gazing across the water.

Sometimes I want to tack sticky notes to my forehead declaring: I acted like a jerk today. Or, I chose fear instead of faith, or selfishness when God called me to give. Not because I enjoy self-degradation but because I encounter too many Christians who continue to live in guilt and shame. They praise God for His abundant grace but then live as if it’s been withheld. Worse, as if grace is somehow no longer needed, moral perfection was obtainable, and their failure to consistently live as Christ desires proves how worthless or insufficient they are.

If only they prayed more, or memorized more Scripture, or attended more Bible studies, then they’d live more like all their smiling, hymn-singing friends flooding their social media feeds. But all their striving leads to temporary behavior modification at best, leaving them feeling worse than before.

I think this hiding and self-condemnation, exists, in part, because we’ve given hurting, reactionary, flawed, and broken people power over us and our emotions. We’ve made their perceptions our standard instead of our relationship with Christ. As a result, we’ve traded the life-affirming growth of Christ for perfectionism.

Perfectionism paralyzes every time. It eventually drags us backward as we substitute time with our Savior, simply resting in His presence—no hiding, conniving, or striving— with checking off lists and following rules. As we do, our self-reliance grows, weakening our dependence on Jesus.

Our source of power, hope, and life.

And we wonder why we feel so defeated, exhausted, and consumed with guilt. For being unable, in our own strength, to demonstrate the power of grace.

A while back, while going through a particularly challenging time, a ministry team member confronted me regarding a series of behaviors. Some were inherent to my “dream-big-and-run-fast” personality, others from inexperience, and tangled between the two, lay my pride. In the past, that pride almost always initiated defensiveness and hiding, turning what should’ve been a growth opportunity into regret and yet another reason for shame.

Yet another reason for self-condemnation.

Only this time, that didn’t happen. Armed with a more robust understanding of grace, when I sensed a reaction rising, I mentally hit pause and reminded myself of what I knew to be true: That Jesus loved me, had died for me, forgiven me, and was growing me.

More than that, I reminded myself of grace and the simple fact that I needed it as much that day (and every day) as when I first trusted in Christ for salvation. My weaknesses were simply proof of what He and I already knew—that apart from Him I was (and am!) a hopeless mess!

Therefore, with the joy of my liberating Father welling within me, I was able to smile and say, “You’re right. I really stink at that, and here’s how God’s growing me in this area.”

That simple statement, “Your right,” defused her anger, my fear, and placed me exactly where I needed to be—in a position of dependency on Jesus.

That’s where strength, freedom, and life-change are found.

Image of a flower with text pulled from post“This is eternal life,” Jesus said, speaking of heaven but also of the here and now, that we would know, through an ever-deepening relationship with our Creator, God the Father and Jesus Christ, whom God sent. (John 17:3). To experience the abundant, thriving life Christ promised, we need to recognize how completely dead, apart from Him, we are.

And then determine to do something about it, not by working or trying harder but instead by connecting deeper.

Let’s talk about this! Are you living in grace? A great indication of this is how you respond to constructive feedback, failure, and personal weaknesses. If you find yourself getting defensive, that probably indicates you’re not consistently living in grace. Share your action steps, celebrations, examples, and prayer requests with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another.

Additional Resources: