Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Golden Culottes: Why Legalism is A Really Crappy Substitute for Grace

I need to talk about culottes right now and I'm hoping that doesn't make things weird between us. I'm also hoping that I'm not the only one whose history with culottes (particularly in middle school) has resulted in a possible need for culotte-related therapy. 

As it turns out, the fashion world is completely out of new ideas and has resorted to bringing back culottes. This might be hard to wrap your mind around, because culottes look good on zero to possibly two percent of the population. I also need to point out here that, according to my extensive online research, George Washington and John Adams were known to have worn culottes. This historical fact alone should really be all anyone needs to deter them from ever wearing culottes again. And, also this picture:

My personal experience with culottes culminated in high school when I was part of the illustrious, and also fashion-challenged, Flag Corps. One fateful year, someone with administrative powers decided it would be a brilliant idea to have us wear handmade, pleated, knee-length, golden-yellow culottes as part of our uniform. (I'd share a picture with you, but tragically, they were all lost in a fire. Ok, that's not true. And also, my mom has one framed.) I kept that pair of glow-in-the-dark culottes for some reason. Maybe as some sort of reminder that culottes the color of Country Crock margarine happened in my life's journey and that they will never. happen. again. (triumphant fist in the air).

The school that required the golden culottes was where I spent sixth to twelfth grade and I absorbed a whole lot of information during that seven-year period. If you needed obscure facts about Charlotte Bronte, I should have been on your rotary phone speed dial, If you were wondering which biblical character rode a talking donkey, I was your girl. I knew loads of facts and I memorized reams of scripture. College was pretty much a cake walk compared to the intensity of the work load I had in high school. 

In addition to all that knowledge, when I graduated, I had also amassed a pretty enviable wardrobe collection that included one pair of pleated blue jeans and a plethora of culottes, knee-length skirts, non-sleeveless shirts, white leather Keds and panty-hose. I may have also owned a skort. 

Maybe you've assumed this, but our school was strict about wardrobe. And by strict, I mean there were random skirt-length checks where we had to kneel down with our knees touching the carpet and then a female teacher would measure the distance between our skirt hem and the floor. I was reprimanded one time for wearing a skirt 1/4 of an inch too short.

I lived in mild fear most days of being reprimanded for something I was wearing/doing/contemplating that could somehow be considered inappropriate.

The rather sad thing about that is that I tried really, really, really hard to keep all the rules about dress codes, and the six-inch rule between girls and boys, and the blue handbook of regulations we were all issued on the first day of school (i.e. no PG-13 movies, no going to proms, no dancing, no bare shoulders, etc.). And yet, despite my very sincere, very fervent efforts to be a rule-abiding, worthy student, I still managed to be called out for the occasional questionable hemline or passing a note in class. 

Years later, I can see all those rules for what they were (i.e. Over. The. Top.) and also for what they were not (i.e. Sanctifying). Trying to follow all those rules didn't make me good. It just made me neurotic and jumpy and an uber-legalist.

"Wait, why am I wearing culottes right now?"
Even twenty years later, that weird pull of legalism* is strong and I can still find myself believing that successful rule-following equals being valuable somehow.

Thankfully, part of my story also includes being part of a church in my early twenties where grace was a big deal (lest you be concerned, they were Presbyterians and so they also loved doctrine). At first, I was skeptical of all that grace, like maybe all those people were living a little too free and needed a big dose of "rules." But, the allure of real, gospel-rich grace was pretty overwhelming and it didn't take long before I was all in.

Grace trumps legalism all day long. And also, yoga pants are the antidote for culottes.

I still wrestle with wanting to seem like I have it all figured out and can get all worked up because I can't seem to attain my own ideas of perfection. But, when I find myself feeling shamed by my inability to keep it together or do everything just right or take my vitamins on a regular basis, I want to remember why I don't wear culottes anymore. There are two reasons actually:

1. They look like the picture on the right:

2. Romans 8:1-4

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh,could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

*Just in case you needed clarification on what I mean by legalism: "dependence on moral law rather than on personal religious faith"

1 comment:

  1. This is reason 546 why we're friends. I personally owned a pair of hot pink culottes in 6th grade when I attended a super strict Baptist school for 1/2 of a year. I remember going to a basketball game and discovering that the cheerleaders where trying to do their cheers and kicks and jumps while being weighed down by their navy blue culottes. It wasn't cool then and it isn't now. And I'm gonna need to see that picture. Obviously.



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