A beautiful robe…

I love the devotion book “Jesus Calling,” by Sarah Young.  My sister in Christ–Mark’s ICU nurse who so lovingly cared for him–brought it to me shortly after his death.  I try to read it daily, but admit that sometimes I get a few days behind.  The devotion for August 9th really struck a chord with me.  I’m not sure why, actually.  But here it is, in its entirety:

“Wear My robe of righteousness with ease.  I custom-made it for you, to cover you from head to toe.  The price I paid for this covering was astronomical–My own blood.  You could never purchase such a royal garment, no matter how hard you worked.  Sometimes you forget that My righteousness is a gift, and you feel ill at ease in your regal robe.  I weep when I see you squirming under the velvety fabric, as if it were made of scratchy sackcloth.
I want you to trust Me enough to realize your privileged position in My kingdom.  Relax in the luxuriant folds of your magnificent robe.  Keep your eyes on Me, as you practice walking in this garment of righteousness.  When your behavior is unfitting for one in My kingdom, do not try to throw off your royal robe.  Instead, throw off the unrighteous behavior.  Then you will be able to feel at ease in this glorious garment, enjoying the gift I fashioned for you before the foundation of the world.” 
  ~Sarah Young, “Jesus Calling”
Until attending the She Speaks conference in July, I’d never thought of wearing Jesus’ righteousness.  One of the speakers, Whitney Capps, talked about wearing the full armor of God, from Ephesians 6.  In that chapter, Paul tells the church at Ephesus to wear the belt of truth, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, to carry the sword of the spirit, to have feet shod with the gospel of peace—but I think my favorite part is to wear the ‘breastplate of righteousness’.  Whitney encouraged us to have that breastplate affixed always, in every circumstance…and whenever we do so, that is enough…He is enough.
So reading about the robe of righteousness, made for me before the world was created, of soft velvet–made me feel loved, wanted, and precious in Jesus’ eyes.  And to think every person has their own personal robe.  How lucky are we? 
I know that whenever I feel sad or down, or things just aren’t going my way, there’s something about cuddling up in a warm blanket and reflecting on what’s truly important.  After reading this passage, I now think about cuddling up in the robe that Jesus has put on me, that He made for me.  And I feel so unworthy. 
Isn’t that how we sometimes feel about a gift?  You don’t know how to gracefully accept something extravagant.  You think, “what in the world did I do to warrant this?”  or “what is the giver going to expect in return?”  But Jesus paid the price for our wearing this robe.  He doesn’t want us to feel uncomfortable or unworthy while wearing it.  He does want us to trust Him, to exercise behavior befitting one wearing a royal garment in word, deed, and prayer.
Sometimes that’s difficult.  The world has a way of making the robe itchy or heavy, or too hot.  We are called to not take off the robe, but get rid of whatever’s itching us, or causing us to sweat or be burdened.  It takes practice and discipline, that’s for sure. 
But the rewards of wearing such a magnificent robe, made especially for you by your Master?  A fulfilling life.
Not a life without sorrow.  Not a life without conflict.  Definitely not a life without mistakes.  But a life pleasing to God, as we wear his righteousness from head to toe.  Whenever we do that, we can be assured of a life with meaning.  A life that doesn’t end in our physical death. 
I think of Mark often.  Now, it’s more with smiles and laughter than tears, most of the time.  I cannot imagine how much fun he is having up in heaven.  He wore his robe of righteousness alot more easily than I did most of the time.  He could find the good in any situation.  He could find something positive to say about every person. 
In the big sort I’ve started in our home, I went through a box of personal items a coworker brought to me soon after Mark’s death.  I’m ashamed to say it was put away in a closet, about a year ago.  Yesterday I went through it.  If you knew my husband at all, you knew that he was a self-assured, confident person.  As a dear friend once told me years ago, “You’ll never have to worry about Mark Howell not having self-esteem!”
But I found a yellowed newspaper clipping, about 2 inches x 2 inches.  It must’ve been in either his main desk drawer, or over by his computer.  One side is part of an interview with a coach from Sam Houston State University, which tells me he took it from the Huntsville, TX, newspaper during our time there (1990-1992).  The other side reads:
Confidence is my state of mind
Organize your mind to think success
Never put yourself down
Forget past mistakes–especially this one
Introduce yourself to positives
Dream about being the best
Eliminate negative thinking
Never concede to defeat
Confidence is mine by choice
Enthusiasm produces good results
I was astonished to read this.  Maybe, just maybe, he didn’t come by all of that confidence and positive thinking naturally.  He lived these statements, to be sure, and I always admired the grace at which he handled even the toughest situations. 
So now, the yellowed clipping is on my computer desk.  I look up on the walls and see his various awards, commendations, and gifts of artwork.  I want to live like that.  I’m trying, Jesus, I’m trying.
The robe fits some days on me better than others.  But I’m working on it, working on graceful and appreciative acceptance of the gift of righteousness Jesus has bestowed. 
And I’m going to work on my CONFIDENCE, too.  Just thankful Jesus is patient. 

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