What's Your 'Sunday Best'?

Written by
Carrie Poling

My least favorite part of attending church as a young child was dressing up. Remember, this was the 80’s, casual and athleisure wear wasn’t as socially acceptable then. Times were different! I hated putting on those itchy tights and poofy dresses that I couldn’t play in, get dirty, or wrinkled. Sunday was the only day of the week you’d find me in a skirt!

What Makes Us Beautiful?

My least favorite part of attending church as a young child was dressing up. Remember, this was the 80’s, casual and athleisure wear wasn’t as socially acceptable then. Times were different! I hated putting on those itchy tights and poofy dresses that I couldn’t play in, get dirty, or wrinkled. Sunday was the only day of the week you’d find me in a skirt!

I’m sure I protested and complained, but that didn’t get me too far. We were to wear our ‘Sunday best!’ Only the best for Jesus, right?! (Please hear my sarcasm here.)  There’s nothing wrong with dressing nice, but let’s keep things in proper perspective – God sees our hearts, not our well-coordinated outfits.

Later as teen – I resisted church. My family attended a different church then—it was more casual and approachable; even had a live band that played some worship music with ‘rock tune’ sounds. From everything I heard – they also a fantastic youth group and programs for teens. My parents would have been thrilled if I would have attended, but I didn’t.

I was afraid. I had a distorted idea of what my ‘Sunday best’ really meant. I wish I better understood then whose approval I should have been after. I didn’t fully understand I already had that approval, I couldn’t earn it – but I did need to accept it.  

Here’s a clue – it wasn’t the congregation or the preacher I should have been concerned over trying to impress. Isn’t it through God’s eyes we should be seeking approval? Whose eyes are we trying to catch? Here’s the good news – God sees us and thinks we’re beautiful: just as a parent sees their child. He understands us, He likes what He sees, and He invites us into a personal relationship with Him.

Back then, the thought of church made me uncomfortable. Avoidance and wearing masks were easier. Inside I feared being known because I was ashamed of the things I had done and the crowd I was associating with. This was from my faulty assumptions and expectations that Christians would judge me and my past. I also thought I needed to ‘get my act together’ before acknowledging God – and the thought of giving some things up felt scary. I wasn’t considering what I could gain –a full and fulfilling life.

My early teen years were tumultuous and rebellious. For various reasons and factors, I sought acceptance, belonging, and approval from places outside of family, church, or healthy friend groups. I was easily influenced by others and, along with this, came early use of illegal substances, dangerous and reckless behaviors with peers, overly obsessing about and seeking attention from boys in unhealthy ways, and lots of lies to cover up my tracks and keep my poor parents as un-aware as possible. Not surprisingly, this path led me to feelings of emptiness, feeling lost, and bouts of depression – not exactly life to its fullest.

I’m so glad in our recent sermon by Nathanael Sommers (on March 19th, 2023), he highlighted that we don’t need to get our ‘life in order’ prior to coming to God. God wants us to come to Him as we all are: broken and in need. As Nathanael put it – salvation isn’t just a spiritual matter – salvation in its original language has deeper meaning that conveys ‘holistic deliverance with true health in mind, body, and soul.’ (It’s meaning is still deeper yet– so please consider giving this powerful sermon a listen if you didn’t catch it.) God’s love for us makes it possible for our broken and needy hearts to be fully restored and made right with God through Christ’s redeeming death on the cross and resurrection.

Maybe that’s what our ‘Sunday best’ for God is all about: a heart that knows and understands it’s need for God. A heart that puts God first and realizes it’s need for Him. A heart that knows God’s power to heal, restore, and give freedom from destructive strongholds. A heart that’s led by the Holy Spirit and knows the need to continually be guided by His power is beautiful to God.

What Gives Us Life?

We give God our all; surrender our ways and will to Him as He gave His all for us. To give us life. Through God’s love and our acceptance of it, we can be transformed! We can then live out the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come!” This is good news we can bear!

Let’s not forget the church isn’t a museum displaying upright people that make good choices and refrain from making bad ones. The church is a hospital demonstrating God’s power as our divine physician! As Jesus states in Luke 5:31-32: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.” He came for us! We can rejoice in this and boast of God’s goodness – not ours.

Living Out Our Truth: Pretty or Not

One of the ways we can live this out in practical terms is to embrace living authentically and vulnerably. These two traits are intrinsically linked. I consider authenticity to be living out one’s internal values, ideals, and beliefs through actions (walking the walk), and I consider vulnerability to include honest self-disclosure and portrayal of self. (Of course, as deemed appropriate considering situational facts and circumstances: please do use wise discernment and guard your heart when necessary.)

Christians should be an example of living authentically and vulnerably in our culture. Jesus had no problem calling out religious leaders as hypocrites. Let’s not let hypocrisy be a label that could describe us.

As Christians we value integrity and honesty, and this does weave authenticity and vulnerability together. We value belonging and community, but none of us are immune to the natural fear of rejection we inherit as part of our human nature.

We don’t want isolation, loneliness, or intimidation to be felt by anyone--we want to convey inclusion and a welcoming atmosphere, but, unknowingly, our fear of rejection can keep our masks on tight. We value humility and want to honor others, but our pride can keep us from being known – from vulnerably sharing ourselves with others. We keep others at a safe distance which doesn’t allow them into our lives or allow them to feel safe enough to express themselves to be fully known.

Our default method of operation can tend to be superficial when we always play it safe. Through His grace, God fully knows us and yet fully loves us.  With God’s help and strength, we can seek to do the same as we interact with others.

The church isn’t just four walls – it’s the people – the body of Christ gathering. God sees our heart and a heart that knows it’s need for Him, wants more of Him, wants to understand Him more, and desires to praise Him brings Him joy. That’s why we come to church: to be together as one body to learn, to praise, and to offer strength and hope to one another.

Let’s leave pretense at the door and continually show up to welcome others as authentically and vulnerably as we can. Let’s take off our masks and boast in our weakness that’s been redeemed by Christ’s strength. Reach out, greet, and get to know strangers nearby. Don’t be afraid to get involved and be known – you are in a safe place.

I love that Grace Fishers Church recognizes the need for involvement, close connections, and strong relationships. Our church desires to meet people where they are at. We provide resources for mental health awareness, classes for healthy marriages and parenting, classes for addressing work relationships and issues, resources to help feed the hungry in our community, and more.  Our youth programs have intentional and consistent small group time built into them, so each teen has a chance to be in a safe and familiar environment to be known and not get lost in the crowd or the ‘safety’ of anonymity.

Strive to live authentically and vulnerably. We are one body in Christ, and we can act like it. If one of us is hurting, we’re here to help and carry one another through as we call upon the strength of our divine physician.

About the Author

Carrie Poling is a mom of two, wife to Tyler, small business owner, budget coach, and aspiring writer and author seeking to promote contentment in our everyday living.