When the Philistine looked David over, he sneered at David because he was just a boy; reddish brown and good-looking. (1 Samuel 17:42 CEB)
Over the past four years I have been privileged to connect with many female clergy in their 20s and 30s (I’m 37) and what a delight it has been. We talk a lot about identity, authority, sexism, ageism, politics, shoes, pedicures and clothes. We talk a LOT about clothes. First of all, well, we love clothes, but more to the point, we are always being judged by our appearance. I’ve heard comments about the cut of my shirt, the shabbiness of my fingernails, and my hair (oh my God the hair!).
I did a funeral a couple of weeks ago while visiting with my in-laws. When I came down the stairs in my collar and a new suit, my mother-in-law’s comment was, “Oooh. Sexy.” My husband immediately jumped in with, “I don’t think that’s the look she was going for”.
Throughout these passages about David, we are told he is good looking. It only occurred to me that, to everyone except God, this was considered a weakness. In fact, it was a sign of physical weakness. Everyone underestimated David because he was attractive.
There is a group of clergy women who would advocate that we be as plain as possible, so that people are not distracted by our appearance; hair kept short or pulled back, outfits that are not too snug, ideally ankle length so as not to show too much leg, closed toe shoes or, if wearing open toe shoes, very plain nail polish. If you have seen me, you know I am not in this group. I have dressed professionally, plainly, beautifully, dressed up and dressed down and, in the end, I have been discriminated against and honoured in all of these ensembles.
God uses beauty as well as skill and physical prowess throughout our history. In chapter 16, when Samuel is looking for David to anoint him as king, the LORD says about David’s bigger, stronger brother, Eliab, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the LORD sees into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 CEB)”.
When I am being so easily distracted by small things, like toe nails or the cut of a man’s pants, that I don’t enter into the Eucharist or receive a word from the homily, what does that say about my own discipline? Who am I underestimating based on first impressions?
1 Samuel 16, 17, 18-1-16
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