When I was in Elementary School, living in northern California in the 1980s, I wore the same purple shirt to school Picture Day three years in a row (this was during the Punky Brewster craze so purple was "in").
When my wife sorted my old childhood photos, she couldn't believe it. She asked, "Why did you wear the same shirt every year? Were you poor?"
No, we weren't poor. I wore that shirt because I liked it. Maybe I thought it looked good on me. I probably would have kept wearing the shirt for a fourth year except I experienced a growth spurt.
I outgrew my favorite shirt.
Now in middle-age, many of us are outgrowing our favorite religions. Our faith continues to grow and deepen in ways that won't fit in our old garments.
It's become increasingly apparent to others who know me that I have gained spiritual weight and my clothes aren't fitting; feasting on the words of Christ has given me something of a beer belly, stretching my cotton T-shirt to the edge of decency.
(I won't even mention my booty shorts.)
Can someone outgrow the Church?
The Lord, interestingly, doesn't stretch or patch our old garments because they would invariably rip and burst apart at the seams.
No man putteth a piece of new cloth into an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
Jesus would know; after all, his garment was ONE piece. "Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout" (John 19:23).
Christ's coat was a symbol of His gospel: it is one. It is whole. It is indivisible.
It is NOT a patchwork of good news mixed with the commandments of men.
God, Get With the Program
I think you'll find this next part interesting, the context forJesus's quote about old garments.
The disciples of John the Baptist had come to Christ (so these were the good guys) asking Him with sincerity this question:
Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
Even the good guys didn't get it! They wanted Christ to fit their mold of what a Messiah should be; what a Messiah should look like and act like (I guess they wanted a Messiah to be like them, in fact; and then Christ flipped the script, telling them to be like Him!).
Jesus obliterated their expectations.
John's disciples thought the commandment to fast was really important (like people today whose testimony of tithing is super strong). But they couldn't reconcile the fact that Jesus was going around healing the sick and casting out devils . . . which is great and all, but still, why isn't He fasting?!
This story is such a wonderful vignette where we see the "good guys" judging God's righteousness. They're imposing on Him their notions of what is "right."
Well, are we doing the same?
Nobody wants to envision God wearing coarse, scratchy cloth. Whoever heard of a king wearing burlap?
We prefer instead to picture God dressed in soft silks and fine-twined linen ― which is, ironically, the very apparel those in the Great and Abominable Church wear (and reveals, perhaps, something about ourselves).
And John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a girdle of a skin about his loins.
What kind of prophet dresses like that? As we all know, the clothing of priests should be elaborate, beautiful, and expensive.
Like religion. Lots of ephods to sparkle in God's lime light.
That's why, when we see Christ dressed so simply, we must do something! Surely no one will believe in such a shabbily-dressed God. Let's make His gospel more attractive: adding here and ironing there.
The gospel is too plain for Babylon (just "love God and our neighbor") so we go ahead and declare more or less than what Christ has given as the Good News, and establish it for doctrine (3 Ne. 11:40).
And so, like the soldiers who forced upon Christ a scarlet robe to wear (Matt. 27:31), we search for something more fitting for a king (not to make Him more comfortable, mind you, but to make ourselves more comfortable; like when we avoid sitting next to an unwashed person on the bus).
By the way, this wasn't the first time Christ was forced to wear a kingly robe:
Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.
Why is everyone trying to cover Christ up?!
Why are we?
Well, do we make a mockery of Christ when we try to dress up His gospel with our precepts and rules?
Is it any wonder our religion is no better at fitting Christ into its preconceived mold than the Jewish faith was in their expectations of the Messiah?
Stature of Christ
What does it mean to grow into the "stature of Christ?" And will it require upsizing our clothes?
What do we do when we discover the cloth cut by the Church does not reach Christ's full measure? What happens when our old Church uniform becomes too constricting for our faith in a living God?
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children.
Don't misunderstand: I loved that purple shirt as a child! That's why I wore it for as long as I could.
But if I still had that shirt and tried to put it on today, it would not fit.
We don't dress our adult children in toddler clothing, treating them like we did when their diet consisted of PB&J sandwiches and milk.
As our children grow ― as their bones extend and their minds expand, and when they start liking a rare ribeye steak ― we know it's time to take them shopping for a new wardrobe.
The Devil's Diet
One of the solutions to our problem would be to lose weight, of course. That way we could continue to fit into our old college jerseys.
This is what leaders are trying to do, I think, when they act like our mother telling us to lay off the butter.
The devil encourages this approach: he wants our spirits to stay slim and trim through the malnourishment of self-righteousness, thinking we're healthy and good-looking when our body is riddled with cancers.
One of the ways the devil tries to stunt our growth is to make us believe we must stay the same ― the same size, keeping things the same way they've always been, thinking that if we don't fit into our jeans anymore the problem must be us and not the clothes' fault ― in order to get us to continue clinging to our old, familiar comfortable garments.
Carnal security is a cozy shawl our grandmother crocheted, keeping us warm on snowy nights, as crowds huddle outside our door perishing from the cold.
So how does the devil help us keep our figure?
By starving us.
Christ, on the the other hand, is like an Italian grandmother who keeps filling our plate with cheesy meatballs.
Come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.
(2 Nephi 9:51)
So we see the problem is not our weight, it is what we're eating.
Notice that Satan lets all of the skinny runway models "feast" too. He's not stingy. They can eat all day because it is not the amount of food but the nutritiousness of it that matters.
What has our religious experience proven, if not the fact that all this snacking is never able to bring us "to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7)?
So what's the difference between feasting on the words of Christ and feasting on Satan's smorgasbord of appetizers and entrees?
Jacob tells us in that verse: the Lord's food is non-perishable.
Whereas the devil's food cannot satisfy.
Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied.
Famine in the Land
So we've summed up our predicament. This awful situation was described by Amos, and his warning applies to us in the Church today:
I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.