I miss dressing up. But more than dressing up, I miss the reasons and occasions for dressing up.
The fashion industry tells me to dress for myself. Your clothes are personal, they say. Good clothes will boost your confidence.Your clothes establish your identity and personal branding and your outfit tells the world what you are all about. In the right clothes, you can control your own world.
So why is dressing up at home by myself so unsatisfying? Because we do dress for other people. Even when working from home, I invite people into my house via video meetings and calls. If I am home by myself, I still try to dress the part (work clothes for doing work, workout clothes for working out, comfy Saturday clothes for comfy Saturdays, etc), but dressing the part isn’t as fun without other people around. (Also, I should point out that if you live with your family, your family counts. Just because your kids are around all the time, it doesn’t mean they don’t notice what you wear. For example, my nieces get so excited when my sister wears a pretty dress. So you don’t need to leave the house to think about dressing for other people.)
But this year, there might not even be a wedding season. Do you miss it? I hope you do. Not just the dressing up, but the reason for dressing up – honoring other people and bearing personal witness to their lives. In Jeremiah 25:10-11, part of the Lord’s judgement is the cessation of normal life. “Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”
I’ve been through many wedding seasons since college and I’ve enjoyed all of them. As Captain Jack Sparrow says, “A wedding! I love weddings! Drinks all around.” I like the dressing up, the ceremonies (even the ceremonies I don’t understand, like unity candles), the celebrating (even the much-maligned electric slide and cupid shuffle). Why do I like weddings? I love my friends and get the honor of sharing their joy with them. If my attitude toward weddings ever sours, it comes from worrying about myself. Self-centeredness ruins a lot of otherwise joyful occasions. I have learned that lesson more times than I wish I had.
The busy sounds of work getting done? Gone. The sounds of celebrations – weddings, graduations, Easter feasts, parties, concerts, church services? Gone. It sounds like this past month, doesn’t it? Desolate and silent for a time, but not without hope.
Because the book of Jeremiah doesn’t end with silence. The desolation doesn’t finish everything off. At the end of T. S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men, he writes, “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” And that is how this silence feels. It feels like the end of the world, like the end of everything normal. But ten years after writing The Hollow Men, Eliot wrote his Four Quartets and it has a much different ending. In the last stanza, he wrote,
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Here is the Lord’s promise near the end of the book of Jeremiah:
10 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Again there shall be heard in this place—of which you say, “It is desolate, without man and without beast”—in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, 11 the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say:
“Praise the Lord of hosts,
For the Lord is good,
For His mercy endures forever”—
and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 33:10-11)
It is right and good to miss normalcy, to miss people, to miss witnessing each others’ lives, to miss dressing up and celebrating, but don’t assume that this is how the world ends. Live in hope. And when we get the chance to celebrate together again, let’s celebrate with all our hearts. And you’d best believe I will be dressing up to do so!