Visibly Christian

We drove to New Brunswick and back this past weekend. We had some personal business to clear up, and we needed to get our household things out of storage. Most of it survived. A box of old files and some clothes got wet and moldy, but everything else seems okay. My spinning wheels, my washtubs, my packbasket, my good carbon steel knives are all with me and useful again.

I don’t travel often, so once I’m out of my own little milieu, I am aware once again of what it means to be Plain in the world. People stare, even in Ontario, where there are thousands of Plain people. In New Brunswick, people not only stared but apparently took photos with their cellphones. (Very rude, of course.) And there are Plain people in New Brunswick, but they rarely wander out of their enclave on the border. I don’t blame them.

We went to the church we used to attend in Fredericton. The priest serving that day has known me for years. I don’t think he’s seen me in cap and bonnet though, and he didn’t recognize me at the door. This happens quite a bit when I run into people who knew me “before,” when I dressed in worldly fashion. They may stare for a moment, quite puzzled, and even say, “I think I know you.” And sometimes the connection clicks, but often I have to remind them. So what did they see before? My eyes, mouth, face shape, height and weight haven’t changed. I wore little make-up in the past, and my hair was long, unstyled and natural coloured. So how did they identify me in the past?

The cap, bonnet, and Plain dress are almost anonymous. You have to pay attention to the person before you to make the connection with the personality. So people thought they knew me, but they really didn’t. They knew my image and not me. I find that a bit sad, for myself and for them.

When people see me now, they see a Christian. They don’t see an attractive woman with sexy long hair and stylish clothes. Men especially don’t see what they use to see – the feminine figure and nice legs. While I look feminine, I look feminine in a modest way, a way that demands respect. No one makes a pass. There’s no image on which to hang that expectation.

I am a better Christian for this. It keeps me away from mirrors and other pitfalls of vanity. I focus more on others and less on myself. (Although I am certainly nowhere near perfect on that yet!) My insecurities about appearance and acceptance are gone. I am what I am.

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9 thoughts on “Visibly Christian

  1. Now dear sister, I don’t know about you there but here I notice men and women both react to me totally differently than before I changed my manner of dress and started covering. More polite I would call it, like some women see me as less of a threat almost and the men seem to have more respect for me. Maybe it is just me reading to much into things but I wonder.
    I do get those reactions like you talked about on the rare occasion I roam very far from home.

    • I get that here in Ontario, especialy close to mennonite/Amish communities. I so rarely venture out that I forget that to many people, we Plain folks are a novelty!

  2. Your experience isn’t uncommon, I have several friends who are Muslim and there is often a misconception that because they dress in a certain way they are either conservative or if one is being uncharitable extremists or that they are in some way controlled and therefore have little to say or offer. It is a sad reflection on our society that the visual is often seen as more important and “informative” rather than taking the time to engage with the individual.

    • People do think that my husband tells me what to do in everything (as if) and that we must have little education. We both have advanced degrees. The Plain people I know who grew up in traditional families are often better read and self-educated than most people who spend all day watchign the television news shows. It’s the heart that counts, not the appearance.

  3. I cover in a church and I am the only one in my congregation. Last Sunday I got two questions about my cap and I suddenly got very shy and could not say why I was wearing it.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to get over this shyness (I am not very shy otherwise)? I feel very comfortable covering it is just when someone asks and does so in a way that is almost judging that I lose all confidence and cannot answer. I want to say that I do so because I feel that god has lead me to this and that Corintians support my choice but all I managed to say is that I wear it because I want to. That is not untrue of course but there is more to it. I know what scripture says but I cannot get that part out of my mouth without feeling like I am on trial. Perhaps I am of course, the devil works that way, by putting you down. How do I best overcome this?

    • I would pray for strength and discernment in how to answer. If it is simple curiosity from someone, say something like “I believe it is right for me.” If you sense that they are troubled by it, you can give Quaker Jane’s answer: “Because God asked me to.” Then you can launch into the Corinthians explanation if you think they might be open to a Biblical answer. I was awkward and hesitant at first, but I have a good deal of self-confidence so I would just answer, smile, and move on. Yes, you may be called to defend your position, and that can be hurtful if someone is hostile. Be prepared to pray for yourself afterward! I answer that I believe in being visibly Christian, that it is my particular witness. That means I do not expect to impose my view on someone else, so that often defuses an argument. If you can’t answer quickly, perhaps the Lord is not needing you to make that witness at the time. Don’t worry about it, just hold it up in prayer.

  4. Thank you for your advice and encouragement. I am and I will seek guidance from the Lord and I am sure that I will be answered eventually. I really like the idea of saying that I want to be visible Christian, that is definately true for me as well. I will try that next time. I definately do not want to impose my views on someone else either but I do not want to keep someone else from doing the same thing. I think that some that ask have perhaps thought about this as well and want to know what I think to see what they should do. I agree that bashing out the bible is not the first thing to do, but I know that some will ask me why I believe god wants me to do this and why I think it is god and not just my own thoughts. Mysticism is not very big in my congregation and I am scared that if I cannot give references to the bible they will just think I am crazy. I am rather viewed as a ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘laestadian’ (a sub-group within my church which often have a strict interpretation of the bible) than crazy, although I am not a fundamentalist at all. For me Corinthians was an important part of daring to do what I felt called to, seeing that the bible did tell me the same thing. Well, I will not start my own blog within yours now so thanks again for your advice. I will spend some time seeking guidance and see what happens.

    • I use to have the same problem as you when it comes to people staring at me. But, I have studied and when we know why, we have the confidance to know what we are doing is right. God has moved on us women to cover as Rebecca saw Isreal coming and covered, We see the bride groom coming and we are preparing for his arrival. The vail covers the opening to the holy of holies and the word God has put into our minds is his holy word. In the last days He will write his word upon our hearts and in our minds. Be thankful God has moved on Godly women to cover, We are witnessing to the coming of the Bride groom.

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