Last week I took my mother-in-law to the eye doctor three days in a row. She’d had cataract surgery and had a minor complication. On the first two days of sitting in the waiting room, I’d dressed in suit coats with scarves and heels, but on the third day, I was tired. I wore an old comfy pair of Converse tennies, a favorite old sweater with a relaxed pair of jeans that had a rip across my right knee. I got out a spiritual book to read as I sat there killing time, but felt the weight of the stare of an older gentleman sitting across from me. I looked up from my book to give a friendly smile, but was greeted with a look of disgust and a shake of his head. I understood, as he disapprovingly looked into my eyes. It didn’t count that I was being a good daughter helping my mother-in-law. It didn’t matter that I might be a spiritually sensitive person, evident by the book I was reading. All that mattered was my inappropriately exposed knee.

Some time ago, I was actively involved in a church youth program, as an adult leader. I was in charge of getting youth involved in the Sunday morning services. One Sunday a month youth would read a scripture verse, and lead the congregation in prayer. We encouraged them that this was their church, too. At first, it was difficult to get teens to participate, because it was a large congregation, and frankly, it was intimidating. There was a family attending that had several teenagers, three boys and one girl. Their mother had passed away from a long battle with cancer and their daddy was doing his best to be parenting four teenagers alone. We were reaching out to these kids. I was drawn to the teenage girl. My mothering heart felt for her. I was looking for ways to connect with her when she volunteered to be a scripture reader. Wow! Cool! We got her on the schedule. The morning came and she showed up late, shortly before the service was to begin, wearing a very short dress and high heels, accentuating her curvaceous figure. What to do? Part of me thought, “I can’t let her go out there like that!”, but then I thought, it will hurt her spirit more if I pick her apart, surely the community of this church will show her understanding. She had tried her best to look appropriate. So, we let it go. She went out there and read the scripture and came off the platform to be greeted by a women that yelled at her, “Are you trying to seduce my husband here in church?” The young girl left crying and I followed her out, trying to correct the words that had cut her to her soul, questioning if I’d made the wrong choice to allow her to take part that morning’s service.

Now I understand that our culture is getting more and more immodest. I would prefer not to see a girls crack when she bends over, or her naval piercing, outside of the pool side setting, but needless to say, this is the world in which we live. Do we want to reach our community with the love of God? Or do we want to turn them away with a look of disgust or a disapproving shake of the head? I wish the confrontational woman would have come at me, instead of this young woman. But I’ve also lived long enough to know the confrontational women may have been battling issues in her home, too. We react to issues according to our view of the world.

You never know whose watching to see if you really live the way you believe. It’s funny how each generation has different standards for what is appropriate dress. I, obviously, was not meeting the standards of the gentleman in the waiting room last week. We can never satisfy everyone, but this experience reminded me not to be too harsh. So, as you look around your congregation and community, seeing people that look different than you, remember that God sees their soul first. It’s the soul that matters, not their clothing, tattoos, piercings, or hair style. It’s about their soul.