Question: What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever tried to do? Man, I don’t know about you, but for me, trying to answer the question “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done” could very well be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, because, probably like you, I’ve tried to do a lot of hard things in my life, and I’ve had my share of hard things that have come my way. To arrive at or decide on the ‘hardest’ thing I’ve ever done might be a challenge.
For example, I’ve had some really hard jobs in my life. I had a job once at a dry starch factory in my hometown. The first day on the job, the boss took me over to a box car that was sitting over near a loading dock. Except that on that day, it wasn’t a ‘loading’ dock, it was an ‘unloading’ dock. That box car was totally filled with 55 pound bags of charcoal. The boss opened the door of that box car, and pointed to it, saying, “Ok. Empty all the bags, and stack them here on the dock.” One bag at a time? All by myself? An entire boxcar? I started stacking. The first bag didn’t seem too heavy, really. I was younger, then. No, the first bag wasn’t too bad. But eight hours later, hundreds of bags of charcoal later, it was all I could do to stagger out to my car to go home that night. Tough job, for sure. But I wouldn’t say that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I had to do the memorial service for my grandmother when she died. I had to bury my dad a few years ago, and my mom a few years before that. Those were tough times, very difficult. But as difficult as they were, I wouldn’t characterize officiating at those services as fitting into the category of the hardest thing I’ve ever done, really.
Sometimes, I’ve noticed, people use the word ‘hard’ as an excuse for why they haven’t done something, or been successful at something. I do that a lot. I’ve been trying to lose weight for years, but … well, it’s hard to lose weight because I love to eat. I hate to exercise. My wife’s a great cook. Yes, losing weight is hard for me, but it’s not the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do.
No, as strange as it may sound, I think the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do is something I have to do every single day. It involves what might sound very simple, but for me is a real challenge. It involves getting dressed.
I don’t mean struggling to find a shirt to wear, or which pair of jeans to put on. And I’m not talking about finding a pair of socks to match my outfit, either. My closet is relatively organized, with the shirts on one side and the pants on the other. My underwear and socks are in two different drawers, so I don’t have to spend time searching around for them. My shoes are on a rack, too. I can easily see which pair of shoes I want to wear for any particular day. If I’m working outside, I usually wear my work boots. If I’m in the office, I’m wearing something a bit more casual. No, deciding what to wear every day isn’t the ‘getting dressed’ I struggle with.
It’s the ‘dressing’ that the Apostle Paul mentions in the letter to the Colossians that’s so hard for me. Eugene Peterson’s translation in “The Message” describes my dilemma perfectly. He writes in Col. 3, “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”
Dressing for the day is the hardest thing I have to do in my life. A daily ‘putting on the new clothes God has picked out for me, instead of the same old rags of my self-focused life. Harder than facing that boxcar of charcoal. Burying my family members was one kind of hard. But burying my old self every day is something totally different.
I’m grateful the Lord helps me with that dressing daily project. Quite honestly, I can never pull it off without His help. Godly clothing that fits every situation, appropriate for every occasion.