Editor’s note: This column by the late Bev Davis originally was published Sept. 18, 2002. Davis passed away Aug. 1, 2010, of a sudden illness.
When I was in about the third grade, I had a white dress covered with lilac prints and trimmed at the collar and cap sleeves with lilac piping.
Something wonderful happened every time I wore that dress. I was beautiful. I could do anything. I was smarter, more talented and I could walk on air.
Because of my mother’s ridiculous law that I had to wear clean clothes every day, I got only one chance a week to wear my favorite dress. I always looked forward to the day and wore that simple little cotton frock with a great deal of pomp and pride.
At the end of the school year, I went to Huntington for a week to spend some time with my great-aunt.
When I returned and was getting ready for Sunday school, I was eager to wear my special dress. It had this wonderful lilac jacket that made it dressier for special occasions such as church.
To my utter dismay, the dress would not button, and it was way shorter than it had been when I had worn it two weeks before. After accusing Mom of shrinking it and finally having her convince me I had grown out of the dress, it hung in my closet for weeks, because I couldn’t bring myself to have it packed away.
I still have it.
This week, that simple garment reminded me of an important truth about life. As we grow spiritually, we have to be willing to let go of things that don’t fit any more.
The bitterness we once cherished in a dark corner of our heart doesn’t seem to have a place anymore.
The grudge that once gave us so much pleasure leaves a tight, uncomfortable feeling in our chest.
The lying that came so easily doesn’t meet our new standards of integrity.
The lust for gossip that used to make us feel important or always “in-the-know” now leaves us feeling cheap and degraded.
If you’re like I am, letting go of some of those things can be as tough a putting aside some tangible thing we treasure.
I’ve learned, however, that those kinds of things take up space that could be put to far better use.
Psychologists tell us we can’t give up a bad habit unless we are willing to replace it with a new behavior. I believe it.
Just wanting to let go of something negative or spiritually unhealthy isn’t enough. We have to find a way to let one go and take hold of something better.
If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who’s ever tried to lose weight. Wanting to weigh less won’t change the numbers on the scales. We have to find a motivation stronger than our desire to overeat and under-exercise.
If we want to grow spiritually, we have to apply the same principle. We have to choose a new trait to replace the old one and begin consciously doing so, until the new behavior “fits.”
Now that I’m well into my midlife crisis, I think I may be discovering the secret of growing old gracefully. Maybe it’s the process of growing in grace.
And there’s a funny thing about that garment of grace — the more I wear it, the better it looks. And the more I grow, the better it fits.