Being Truly Clothed

While I was doing my devotional reading a few weeks ago, my thoughts snagged on this particular passage:

“Within truth however no life is present, only within good. Truth is merely the recipient of life, that is, of good. Truth is like the clothing or a garment worn by good. In the Word too therefore truths are called clothes, and also garments. But when good composes the rational, truth passes out of sight and becomes as though it was good; for good is now shining through the truth, in the same way as when angels are seen clothed they appear in brightness that looks like a garment, as also was the case when angels appeared before the prophets.” Arcana Coelestia 2189.3

It might be quite worldly, but reading this brought to mind all of the clothes in my closet that I don’t wear. What might they represent when looked at through a more spiritual lens?

If we think of garments as truths, then what does it mean to invest in clothing items that we wind up rarely or never wearing? For me, there is an appeal in having things “just in case” I need it. There is a refreshing sense of possibility in buying something that could serve a purpose. But that possibility stagnates quickly when I fail to give the garment said purpose by never putting it on. It doesn’t matter how much I insist that I like the color or the style or how it looked in a dressing room. It doesn’t matter if the clothes are especially pretty or comfortable. Clothes left hanging in my closet or taking up space in my admittedly stuffed dresser drawers are utterly useless. 

Similarly, truth needs to be used. It needs to be put into action by clothing what’s good. It’s not enough to acquire truths like scarves and then set them aside. Unfortunately, I think this is actually really easy to do. We come across truths all the time–reading the Word, hearing a sermon, visiting with good friends. I think the truths that we leave in the closet, so to speak, are the ones that we pause to consider, but essentially wind up dismissing. They are the truths that we respond to with, “Hmmm. Interesting” or “Oh, that’s nice” but then don’t bother applying to our lives in any way. These are truths that we refuse to try on. These are the empty, lifeless garments gathering dust in our lives. But when we put those garments on our bodies–bodies that have the capacity to serve uses–then those truths mean something. Then they are coupled with good and have real value. 

So why do we leave some truths in the closet? I think sometimes it feels easier or less scary to stick with our go-to truths and not branch out. To keep the clothing analogy going, maybe we felt adventurous in the store, but in reality we’d rather keep things safe and familiar. This could represent our being stuck in a certain state or, to put a more positive spin on it, perhaps the familiar truths really just suit us and the lives we are choosing to live and that’s okay.  

On the other hand, sometimes we desperately want a wardrobe refresh and suddenly only new clothes will suffice. Considering this spiritually, sometimes we realize that we’ve been feeling stuck and that we need to approach our regeneration differently by looking at the truths in the Word from a slightly different angle. Maybe it’s our desire to feel the Lord making all things new.  Some truths get stuck in the closet because they simply don’t fit right. Maybe we’ve outgrown them, but hope that they’ll fit again someday. Or maybe some truths used to suit us, but our style (perhaps our understanding) has shifted enough that they just don’t suit us anymore, but we’re nostalgic creatures and keep them anyway. Maybe we like the way some truths look but really don’t see ourselves putting them on and really living them. Maybe we thought we would wear them, but we’re just not in the right state. And maybe, just maybe, we mistook some falsities for truths and those ill-fitting garments just need to get tossed.

But the real truth is, it’s not about the truth. The value we place on clothes is not about the clothes. It’s about how we feel when we wear them and, more importantly, what we do when we wear them. If we put on something that makes us feel attractive and confident, then we might go about our day with a zest that manifests in productivity. Suddenly, we feel remarkably useful and grateful and full of life. When dressed in something that really suits our state, we light up. At least, it seems that a really good outfit can have this affect, but I wonder if, like quote above says, it’s really that our good states shine through our faces and bodies and yes, even through the clothes we choose to wear. A shift in state comes first and then radiates out through our external appearance.  

I suppose the unsurprising take away is that we have to look inward first. We need to examine why some truths feel more comfortable or empowering than others. What is it about our state that influences what we choose to wear and how we choose to live? I hope we all can take a moment to reflect on which truths we’ve been neglecting and whether or not we’re ready to put them on and see what happens. We just might like how they fit.

About Justine Buss

Justine Buss and her family are currently based in Pittsburgh. She was born and raised in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania and studied theatre and English at Muhlenberg College. She spent her professional career working with young people in theatre and is now a full time stay at home mom and pastor’s wife. She stays in touch with her theatre roots by directing Christmas and New Church Day pageants, helping with school plays, and taking an improv class. She also enjoys singing, creative writing (including the occasional murder mystery party game), bargain hunting, and going on adventures with her family. She is grateful for the expressive outlet that New Christian Woman provides. It's so good to take the time to reflect on and write about the things that are on our minds and hearts.

4 thoughts on “Being Truly Clothed

  1. Hi Justine.

    Thanks so much for sharing yet again some really good thoughts about the big things in life. That passage jumped for me too, and I thought, again, about how to paint a painting about clothes as shells, ideas, truths that we put on and off and “try on.”
    I’d love to talk more about this, like the fascinating way that what we put on our bodies changes our state–like we see with kids who totally become the creature or person they dress up as. We say “what hat are you wearing” and there are passages that talk about spirits in WOS who take on new ideas depending what hat is on their head.
    There is so much there.
    I appreciate your call to look into our “wardrobe” and note what are our go-to pieces and what ideas we have not fully embraced.

  2. I love analogies, parallel thoughts … correspondences. They give me an “Aha!” feeling, and a deeper, or different, angle to look at an idea or circumstance.
    The one I have always loved in the Word, is the statement that Jesus was “the Word made flesh”. His garments, I understand, are the literal stories of the Word, which is what is presented in the letter of the Word. They also make him recognizable … an introduction to the man wearing them. Just as John the Baptist (the literal sense) introduced Jesus (the spiritual sense) to the world, the literal sense introduces us to the spiritual sense of the Word. This is why teaching Sunday School or the stories of the Word to children is of the utmost importance. (It is no mistake that present day “Baptists” emphasize memorizing the literal verses of the Bible!)
    What is more arresting is the account of Jesus’ outer garments being torn into pieces when He was crucified, but the inner garment, which was without seam, was kept whole and lots were cast for it. The literal sense is often argued about and used as weapons against believers, but the internal sense is without contradictions, without seams, from Genesis to the Book of Revelations. His garments, as Justine suggests, were truths that clothed Goodness itself.

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