One of my favorite recreations is shopping at the second-hand store. When you’ve eaten, slept and breathed fashion for as long as I have, you develop a particular gift for eyeballing the best deal. You know labels. You recognize quality fabric. You’ve seen what’s trending, and the key color or piece you’d love to have. Nothing gives greater joy than plunking down $4 on a the treasure for which others are paying top dollar. Admittedly, there are a lot of strange odors and bits and bobs to navigate, but I try to hit the shops twice a week because this inventory turns over quickly, and she who hesitates is lost. It’s not exactly rocket-science, but it’s ridiculous fun and a double blessing to find something of really exceptional, couture quality tucked in amidst the moldering.
Say the word ‘couture’ and most people think immediately of the outrageous (and often unwearable) designer trends offered from the catwalk, but the art of couture is far more than that. It is the process of taking original designs and adapting or custom-fitting them for a particular client. In the world of the English Gentry, this is known as ‘bespoke’. The highly rarified landscape of the Atelier has recently had its dominance challenged by the gritty underdog of street style and fashion blogging, but it still sets the standards for ground-breaking innovation and creativity. Designers really are geniuses.
Nothing grabs my attention faster than the fantastic apparel of Scripture. Although Paul warns not to be consumed by lavish clothing and accoutrement, there are plenty of outstanding couture moments. The ‘coat of many colors’ worn by Joseph was a garment so powerful in proclaiming Jacob’s favoritism, his brothers couldn’t wait to rip it off of him. Elijah, the prophet, was known by his camel-hair mantle. Jesus Himself references the singular, kingly splendor of Solomon. When Herod took a robe of purple, reserved only for the patricians, to parade Jesus, it was the statement of ultimate contempt. Describe the garments someone is wearing and you add immediate tactile depth and color to these stories. But the idea of couture in the Bible is by no means limited to clothing. Many impressive, one-of-a-kind allotments are to be found. We ourselves are completely ‘bespoke’ creatures, unique individuals; complex strands of DNA painstakingly woven by the master.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
Not content to simply form each matchless soul, the Lord devised an entire lifetime for us. We’re not only blessed with specific talents, but He has also planned the works we will do, and the days on which we will do them. If that isn’t the text-book definition of couture, I don’t know what is. This is a revolutionary thought for many. The real question is, are we walking in them? We’ve been so busy grinding it out in hostile environments we may have forgotten or neglected our birthright. When we disregard the Lord’s sovereignty over our work, it becomes an odious burden, a tedious millstone, a mountain to be climbed. Maybe, it’s time to return to a much more enlightened understanding. Solomon also had a revelation of this in His famous “for everything there is a season” (Ecc 3:1-10) passage. He sums it all up with this:
He hath made everything beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end… And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:11, 13
This sagacious overachiever is describing the beauty of work done in God’s way and timing. With the amount of mistakes Solomon made, and the massive undertakings he accomplished, he ought to know. “The Blessing of the Lord makes truly rich, and brings no sorrow with it, and neither does toiling increase it” (Proverbs 10:22). This is labor without anguish, distress or drudgery; precious time invested neither in vanity, nor in vain. Redeemed working isn’t the dog-eat-dog desperation of carnal competition, though it may be conducted within a secular arena. When we find ourselves exhausted, disillusioned and frustrated in our vocational lives, it’s time for serious re-examination. There’s a sweet spot in the Lord for getting maximum productivity without burnout. That’s not to say that we’ll always find labor a stroll in the park, but we know when something ‘doesn’t fit’. We’ve all experienced obnoxious garments that bind or scratch, so we know the feeling! This is employment accomplished with the proper dignity, productivity, affluence and influence that hallmarks work done in the Spirit, not simply the natural (John 3:6). It has a superior element that ushers in the Kingdom of God, wherever it is done. As believers, we have a rightful, holy expectation of prosperous and salubrious paths. It’s ok to expect exceptional favor and unusual interventions from the Lord to unfold before us every day, if we’re running on His agenda.
As I get older and more astute in Kingdom ways, I feel myself moving far more easily in rhythms of grace. His presence assures me I’m marching to His drum. Slowly, but surely, we’re getting it done. Many times over the last couple of years, I have been impatient with the Lord and His seeming delay in the publishing process of two completed manuscripts I hold hotly in possession. But as time unfolds, I see that the process was not yet complete…not perfected. As I said to a friend the other day, ‘you don’t inform the Lord when you’re finished…He tells you’. He decides when the lesson or the task is perfected and moves you on. Only by genuine dependence will you complete your commission and produce work that will survive the fire (1 Cor 3:13). Are you picking up the majestic, unique bespoke garment He has for you? Put it on!