There will be various clues throughout this little charade. It’s your job to guess who I am.
First clue: I’m rented, usually just for a weekend to make you look good for all the guests and all your friends who will never recognize you because of my coverings. I guess some of you already know who I am but you still need to sit here and listen.
My shoes are shiny as a brand new car and there’s one darker stripe on each side of my leg balanced against my dark trousers. I would provide you with a top hat if you saw someone else wear one first but your not going to be the first to wear a top hat in front of a hundred people. Just wait until a Black singer wears one and then you’ve got your signal or permission telling you that now it’s “cool.”
(A side note: It would have taken Whites a hundred years to turn a baseball cap around. We never would have thought of that on our own. Now I see 40 year old White guys with the turn-around cap and I smile to myself.)
Okay. Back to the guessing, in case you haven’t figured it out already.
You will never see me at a Brewer game or a farmer’s market. I only make you look good when you want to look good, like a wedding. At some weddings I’m seen in a pukey blue with a ruffled shirt when my only truly color and my only true shine is in black. Even Milwaukee guys look good wearing me even if they still can’t see their belts. My black is distinguished, classy and dignified over my crisp, white shirt and black bowtie.
Oh, I forgot to tell you that my bowtie isn’t real. Michael pulls it off but it is very difficult to create and pull off. I can tell a fake bowtie as soon as you enter the room/ Those shiny shoes don’t distract me from that fake bowtie.
People used to wear me every night just for a normal evening meal. Check out PBS to see how often I’m shown off at dinner and then cigars and a short liqueur with only the boys afterwards.
I am faith. You think that I’m rented because it’s cheaper for you. How could you ever afford something so great and enduring to wear daily as me? How often in our lives am I returned on Monday morning after your wonderful weekend and then you return to your backward-turned baseball cap and dirty jeans.
In colors, black is the absence of color which makes all things possible on a theater’s stage and even on our stages of life. Black can be filled-in with colors of all kinds that make for a magical celebration of life.
You feel special when you wear me for your short weekend. You straighten me when necessary, flick away that annoying white string and you are totally aware that you are wearing me, if only for a weekend. As you finish dressing and look at yourself in the mirror you undoubtedly wonder why you can’t look this way every day. “Wow,” you say to yourself, hoping no one’s heard you. But alas, you remember that I am only rented. I am not yours to keep. I am not yours to rely upon in troubling or doubtful times, I can’t share those joyful, glorious moments of your life – I am not yours for a whole lifetime of mixed experiences.
Faith is a “wow” experience. Faith is the black we wear each day when every possible situation is presented or confronted to us.
The non-color black takes on as many colors as possible when needed. The color red only knows jealousy and the color green only holds envy. The color orange has us struggling who the Republican candidate for president will be and the color beige is the one who just follows the crowd. “They must be right,” the color beige says to him/herself.
Faith grows within you because you grow and mature. Life teaches you the tried and true lessons and principles that were owned and lived centuries ago by others and you are invited to rediscover, wear and live those lessons and principles today, in this season of Lent.
Faith is a tuxedo that wears well on all of us and fits us well – adapted, of course, for women. Faith is the non-color black that empties us only to be filled again with something more of our lives that we’ve been missing. Lent invites us to sincerely feel our empty moments and then fill those moments with stuff that’s colorful, that makes us open, and wanting, and needing, and healing, and meaningful; that we are significant.
Lent is a season of recommitment to that glorious gift of faith that is very much like a tuxedo. And believe me when I say there is no total commitment to faith. It’s not easy. I don’t know how many saint stories you’ve read – most of them are made up and the saint stories that are true had a difficult and struggling life, folks like you and me who continued to prompt themselves through God’s grace to live their faith journey; regardless of anything. That’s the total blackness of a tuxedo. Don’t just show off my beautiful tux on a weekend but wear it proudly every day. After all, black becomes you.
What about that fake bowtie? Wear your tux for life’s beauties and challenges but keep the fake bowtie for your hounding doubts, periodic mistrusts, sometimes sleepless nights, suspicious but weary friends. That fake bowtie may even open you to an opening of a new door that you didn’t think was possible. A faith based only in total blackness and certitude has no “open doors.” Cue that fake bowtie. Faith is not an end. Faith is the blessed means and tools we use to live our lives as best we can. If you say that you have “faith” then you’ve begun to clothe yourself in my beautiful tuxedo.
God’s given us a black ensemble to fully live and completely in God. The season of Lent reminds us of that. Oh, and by the way, I forgot to tell you that God’s tux is “rent free!” Jesus won that for us. It’s not a fig tree, it’s a black tuxedo. No returns necessary. It’s yours for a lifetime of values and many purposes.
What the hell, go ahead an wear a “top hat” to top off your Lenten season – who knows…another White guy may copy you. Start a trend.