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The Clothes Make the (Wo)Man: Putting on the Character of Christ

On Sunday, February 8, 2004, my boyfriend Alex surprised me by proposing in front of his entire church.

Every female in the congregation started crying along with me as Alex invited me up on the stage and reached into the pulpit for the ring box.

I squeaked out a “Yes!” in between sniffles and tears, as he placed the most beautiful ring on my finger. Fairytale stuff, I tell ya!

Less than a week later, on Valentine’s Day no less, my friend, Candace and I began my search for the perfect wedding gown.

As she helped me get into one dress, a wedding consultant named Lisa invited me out to the full length mirrors to get a better look.

I stepped up on a pedestal and discovered that the dress was my exact size and height—no alterations needed at all. As Lisa pulled out some accessories, she asked me to tell her the story of how Alex and I met.

“It wasn’t love at first sight, but it kind of was,” I said. “I had prayed in the past that my husband would know I was his wife from the moment we met, and that was actually the case.” 

Alex had felt the Holy Spirit say to him, “That’s your wife!” the moment we met; he just couldn’t believe it because I wouldn’t give him the time of day for the first nine months we knew each other.

If he ever tried to talk to me, I’d give him short answers and walk away. Oddly enough, I knew right when we met that he was exactly the kind of guy I could fall for and told myself to stay away from him!

As I told the story, I began to smile and relax my body into this wedding gown. Lisa put a beautiful tiara on my head with an exquisite veil covering the entire train. She added a cubic zirconia and pearl necklace and earrings. I started to feel like a real bride as I continued.

“I was just so focused on following God that January when I moved to Georgia; I didn’t want any distractions. I didn’t realize I lived in Alex’s neighborhood until September, at which point I got sick with pneumonia. A mutual friend of ours, Keith, told him I was sick, so Alex begrudgingly called and asked if he could do anything for me. I said, ‘Sure, can you take me food shopping? It’s just too draining for me to do alone.’ He agreed and picked me up at 5 p.m. the next day, and I asked him if he’d eaten dinner yet. He said he hadn’t, so I suggested we eat first. ‘We can’t shop on any empty stomach,’ I told him, but he’d never heard that nugget of wisdom before.”

Throughout the time I stood telling my story, Candace was snapping pictures of me. She later told me how I started to light up as I talked about Alex. She knew this was going to be the dress.

As I looked in the mirrors myself, I started to feel like a princess ready and waiting for her prince.

“At the end of dinner,” I told Lisa, “I asked him how his girlfriend was doing. The last time I had seen him was in May, and he was holding hands with a girl. He said, ‘What girlfriend? We broke up months ago.’ And in that very instant, I knew I was going to marry him. We call that our ‘unofficial first date,’ October 1st (2003), because both of us separately told Keith that night that we were going to marry the other.”

Lisa said, “Well, this is going to be your wedding dress, girl. You are absolutely glowing!”

Holly Compton Wedding Dress

What it Means to “Put On” the Character of Christ

It’s been said that “The clothes make the man” or woman, but I don’t think I ever understood it until I found my wedding gown.

Clothes can communicate cultural and social significance that sways the world around us.

As for living out my first few moments as a bride-to-be, trying on the gown that I would wear to become Mrs. Alex Compton showed me what my new life might be as a married woman.

I was smiling, I was glowing, I was completely relaxed and elated to have found the one my soul loves! 

The prophet Isaiah wrote,

“I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

isaiah 61:10 NIV

What a glorious image of a bride dressed for her wedding with precious gems and fine clothing, ready to begin a new life with her bridegroom!

That is how I felt that day—overwhelmed with joy because I was being given a new purpose in life. I would no longer be living for myself, be responsible for only myself, make choices however I saw fit for myself.

These clothes marked a new perspective, a new responsibility, a whole new journey more amazing than I could ever imagine by myself!

In much the same way, our “spiritual clothes” also “make the (wo)man.”

When we choose to place our faith in Christ, we take on the “clothing of salvation,” meaning we believe Jesus has saved us from the power of sin and death.

In place of old clothing, we take on Christ’s “robe of righteousness,” where we accept the clothing of Jesus Himself, the robe that God sees us wearing from that moment forward; we choose to leave behind the deceitful desires of the flesh and put on righteousness instead.

Paul wrote to the Galatians,

Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

Paul also described putting on our “adult faith wardrobe” to the Colossians:

“Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

Galatians 3:25-27 NIV

You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire.

Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with His label on it.

All the old fashions are now obsolete.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.

Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.

And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Choosing to put our faith in Jesus as our Savior is the single, most important step of our lives. The next step is submitting to Jesus as Lord.

And that means we get these new clothes: compassion, kindness, humility, strength, etc. We choose daily to let go of the old clothes, things like anger, rage, slander, filthy language, etc. 

This is what will define the life we now live, a life that is not self-focused, not self-contained, but a life that is lived for others; consistently, lovingly embracing those who still may wear those old clothes.

Love is the most essential garment to wear because that is how Jesus was clothed every day of His earthly life.

It is in a posture of loving surrender to Him that we are clothed in righteousness and can receive the garments of the character of Christ. And empowered by the grace of His garments, we can live a life of full obedience.

Holly Compton Wedding Photo

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