Over all February 10th was a nice Sabbath day. For me the best part was playing Sunday School Jeopardy with my class of twelve-year-old girls. At one point in the game each girl in turn shared her “first time you felt the holy ghost” experience with amazing clarity, confidence and innocence. I was in awe of these girls and found it remarkable how at a young age they could identify, respond to and later recount the effects of the spirit on heart and mind. This is such a vital part of being able to successfully navigate life and in this moment I felt profoundly peaceful and hopeful for each child in the class.
Also, I wore pants to church–again–and although they were lovely beneath a long, floral jacket, I felt conspicuous. My clothing choice became an unintentional social experiment motivated in large part by the twenty-eight-degrees Fahrenheit temperature. This experiment didn’t really lend itself to my feeling the spirit throughout the meetings–mostly because of my own discomfort with a few (what I perceived as strange) responses. However, my four Sunday School girls didn’t seem to notice. Maybe that’s another reason our class time was enjoyable for me. No judgement. No strained smiles. Just genuine, guileless, pleasant conversation about spiritual principles. . . And a little child shall lead them.
Early in the morning I looked out into the freezing beauty of that Utah County Sabbath and made a decision: I will NOT be wearing dresses to church in these temperatures when I am eighty years old. Nope. Not even with a wool skirt, warm tights and leather boots–the usual choice on below-freezing Sundays. I don’t care where I live. If it’s cold, I’m wearing pants. Maybe I’ll be in Florida or California by then, but maybe not.
Several weeks prior as I sat in my car in the church parking lot after meetings, waiting for the engine to warm, I watched a father and daughter make their way from the street toward the building. As they traversed the fifty-or-so yards across the large lot I couldn’t help noticing the stark contrast in their attire. The man wore a long wool coat. His collar had been turned up and he held one side against his jaw with a gloved hand to shield himself from the biting wind. His child wore a light-weight dress and no coat. Her legs were bare and she alternated folding her arms around her chest then pulling at the hem of her dress to keep her legs warm. He strode well ahead of her and seemed completely unconcerned with his child’s plight. He did not slow down to walk with her or offer her his coat but rushed ahead. I realize there may be an explanation beyond parental neglect for what I observed. But that’s not the point. The point for me that day was the internal distress I felt as I watched a perfect illustration of socially and culturally accepted norms for church clothing for men and women in our community. Maybe the child could have chosen something warmer to wear to church that day.
But she could not have chosen pants.
I genuinely feel that the Savior looks upon the heart and that our clothing may or may not mean anything about where our heart is. In the big picture clothing doesn’t really matter. Having said that, I feel it’s important to be sensitive to and realistic about the cultural norms of the community in which we live. Like my sisters in this LDS community I cherish the opportunity to join together in worship each Sunday. Many of us also cherish the ritual of honoring God in our choice of attire. There is something beautifully metaphorical about changing our way of dress to match our inner change of heart as we set the Sabbath apart as a holy day. I have no desire to alter this ritual. But I believe “dressing for Jesus” can–and in some cases should–include dress pants. We honor our body’s need for health and comfort by dressing appropriately for the season. So, rather than wait until I’m old and wise enough to really, truly, profoundly not care what people think or how they respond to pants at church, I’m starting now. I will shop for a few warm Sunday pants and I will wear them. Probably not every week and maybe only once or twice, but I certainly won’t wait for a formal Wear Pants to Church Day.
Yes, it was a good Sunday. As they sat on the metal chairs in the classroom two of my Sunday school girls said things like, “I’m SO cold today!” and “I hate winter.” Those dear bare-legged little darlings. Maybe by the time they are my age ideas about what is acceptable Sunday Best will have changed to include pants for women. Especially in winter climates. I hope so.