Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Malfunction - Just No Wardrobe - Chapter 13

A closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear :(As most of you may know, the term "wardrobe malfunction" entered our social lexicon several years ago, when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake engineered what they later called an accident (wardrobe malfunction) involving the baring of Ms. Jackson's breast during the Super Bowl half-time show. 

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When I re-entered the workforce, I had my own wardrobe crises; but it didn't involve any public nudity.  Just plenty of private anxiety and public self-consciousness.  Here was the deal.

When our "worldly goods" were all taken, that included our clothing.  We had one or two small suitcases of basic essentials to last a day or two, for all five of us, as we thought we would be unpacking the rest in a few days.  The rest was now gone.

Meanwhile, just a few weeks later, I had an office job (not the temporary typing pool gig) but an permanent job in a professional medical office as the office manager.  And this office did not use "scrubs" for the front office personal, even though it was a dental office and all the chair side assistants wore scrubs.  So I had a major wardrobe dilemma on my hands - or rather, in my empty closet.

I went back to work, five days a week in possession of the following "outfits":  one black skirt, one navy blue skirt, one cream blouse, one white blouse, and one pink dress.  That was it. 

The work week would proceed - sartorially speaking - along the following schedule: 

Monday - black skirt with white blouse
Tuesday - blue skirt with cream blouse
Wednesday - pink dress
Thursday - black skirt with cream blouse (notice the clever switcheroo?)
Friday - voila' - blue skirt with white blouse.

Some weeks I would just go wild and wear the pink dress twice.  You might think no one noticed.  Sorry, not the case.

I was working for two dentists (and occasionally a third who was semi-retired) and these guys were all snazzy dressers, when they were not wearing lab coats.

To illustrate how obvious my little wardrobe malfunction really was, I had a birthday a few months after beginning that job.  The older dentist's wife visited the office unexpectedly that afternoon, and waited until the other staff were all gone for the day. 

Then she handed me a big white box with a lovely bow on the top and said, "We hope you won't be offended; but we noticed you could probably use something like this."

Inside was a wonderful grey wool A-line skirt and a matching blouse with various shades of grey, black and pale pink stripes.  I was so touched, and embarrassed, that they had observed how sparse my clothing selection was, that I just didn't know what to say.  But I found my manners long enough to thank her sincerely - and him too.

And I wore that outfit at least once a week for the next year!

The truth was that I had always been a bit of what my grandmother called a "clothes horse" before the robbery.  So it was especially humiliating to me to have to accept charity and to have my clothing donated to me by others, however well intended. 

But God wanted me to learn, really learn, something I had memorized in my head as a teenager; but obviously had not learned in my heart as well as I should have.

Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart... (I Samuel 16:7)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair, the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.
(I Peter 3:3-4)

Please do not misunderstand.  I do not believe that God objects if we wear good quality clothing, when we can afford it.  There came a time, much later in my career, when I had a closet full of suits like Jones of New York purchased at Nordstrom's, Macy's, and the like.  But I had learned, the hard way, that my identity was not defined by the label on my clothing; but by the label on my heart.

If my heart was carefully labeled as a child of the King, then the rest would fall into place.

In fact, some twenty two years after the dental office, I was a vice president in a company of over one thousand employees.  The CEO and the Board were dangling a huge bonus in front of me if I would just "go along to get along" on a program about which I had reservations.  I am talking "down payment on a house" huge.

One of my colleagues was trying to influence me to go along, although she too was a Christian.  She said to me, "Marsha, don't you realize what they are offering you?"

I replied, somewhat heatedly, "Don't they realize that I am a child of God and there is nothing in this world that they can give me that can add anything to that."

I may be a slow learner in some things, but when I finally get the lesson, it tends to stick. 


  1. (Loud Applause) You go girl!!! That makes me so proud of you. Great blessings come out of obedience just like you showed.

    1. Shelly,
      Isn't it funny, how that obedience is rarely any fun, but generally turns out to be very rewarding?

      Thanks for your encouraging feedback.

  2. Those are hard tests, and you came out on top! Good for you, and while you're making it sound like it was a no brainer, I'm sure it was a hard decision nonetheless. And about the nice office giving you an outfit - how lovely! And yet somehow it's really hard to say "thank you" when we're in a humbling circumstance. And again, you rose to the occasion! I hope I'll do as well when hard choices come my way.

    1. Karen,
      You are correct, in the "thank you" can be hard to say, when we are feeling embarrassed at the same time we are grateful. :)

  3. Marsha, I loved this one. Oh what a terrible loss that robbery was - or was it? Seems like God taught you such a valuable lesson, and that lesson has spoken to my heart today. Yes, as a child of God I wear a snow-white robe of righteousness - I'm thinking that's a pretty good outfit!!


    1. Sharon - Yes, that robe of His righteousness is wonderful. My own would be pretty shabby otherwise.

  4. Isn't God such a wonderful equalizer of all things material. We are HIS, so we are endowed with ALL things as our birth right. Life may seem smaller at times, but never from His view point. It's such a valuable lesson to have learned though, isn't it, to know who we are because we are children of The King?

    Loving this story and the telling of it!

    1. Sonja - I really enjoy your family stories, too, and I stop by your blog regularly. I always leave there with a smile or a word of thoughtful encouragement.

  5. This is a wonderful story story about a great lesson learned. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    1. George, You are welcome. Those were wonderful photos on your blog today. Nice to hear from you again.

  6. This is such a personal story of humility and perspective.
    You're a wise woman, Marsha.
    I can learn a lot from you and enjoy visiting you here.

    1. Sweet Tea - I don't know so much about "wise" - probably more like really "well worn" (read that as pretty darned old and experienced) - but it is good to be on this side of many of those experiences. :)

  7. Very good lessons of life. It seems you learned them thoroughly and early...