Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ostentation

I did something last Sunday that I planned never to do.  I wore my tie skirt to church.  I have had this skirt for about 9 years, but I have never worn it to church.  I love it.  It is fun, it is funky, and I made it myself from old neckties.  But I don't wear it to church.  I never thought about it very hard, but it just never felt like it was appropriate.  I finally figured out why.



On Saturday I went to my sister's house.  She watched my kids while I went to the temple and I watched her kids while she went to stake conference.  I decided to wear my tie skirt because in going to the temple, I would only wear it in and out and during the actual worship time I would be wearing different clothing.  But that evening, when I was supposed to be going home, it snowed, and I decided to stay the night for safety.  The next morning we rushed out best to get home for church, but were running late.  I got the kids and the baby dressed and decided that since I was already wearing a nice skirt, I would just go to church without taking time to change myself (we were already late).  It was then that I realized what I knew in the back of my mind all along--that skirt is a little too fabulous for church.  And what I mean by that is that in addition to being wonderful, it is unusual enough to be very showy.  It is distracting.  And for me, that makes me uncomfortable at church.  I don't want to be the cause of distraction from the worship that should be the focus of the meeting.  The adults could hold it together, and though they may have been distracted by it, they hid it well and waited until after the meetings to ask me about it or admire it openly.  The kids, not so much.  Sr. Primary (8-11 year olds) was a mess during singing time (which I am in charge of).  Several of the kids could not concentrate on the songs as they stared open-mouthed at my skirt and kept repeating the same questions, ones I'd already answered, over and over again--"Is that made out of ties?"  "Did you make that yourself?"  "Are those real ties?"  "Where did you get those ties?"

And that is the problem.  Although in and of itself it is a perfectly harmless piece of clothing, it is even neat and comely, some of my "best" clothes, and therefore in an absolute sense, it fills what I see as appropriate for church, it is highly unusual and serves no functional purpose for me in its uniqueness.  I make that qualification because there are some culturally unusual articles of clothing that may be important in their functionality for the individual wearing them.  In those cases, the functionality can trump the unconventionality and it becomes appropriate for church.  (In my opinion, women wearing pants, men wearing lava-lavas, and partially exposed breastfeeding at church all fall into this category--it is not inappropriate, just culturally unusual enough to be distracting, and therefore something to weigh carefully in your reason for doing it.)  My tie skirt serves no functional purpose for me, and is highly unusual.  Knowing this, and still choosing to wear it qualifies as ostentation for me.  Knowingly and gratuitously doing something likely to draw attention.  That is absolutely fine in many circumstances, but in my understanding, it doesn't belong at church, where the focus should be on no individual, but on the reverent worship that happens there.