When I was a young man I was taught that if you wanted people to respect you that you needed to be respectable. There was a reason why on Sundays we wore our Sunday-best, why my Boy Scout uniform was always crisp and tucked in properly, and when we went to school our shirts had collars, buttons, and were clean and relatively free of wrinkles. Our pants certainly did not have holes in them unless they were patched, and then only because that was all we could afford, not as an ill conceived fashion statement. We could be rough and tumble, and in T-shirts with messy hair on Saturdays, working in the yard, and during vacation play, but there were times when we were to dress and act respectful, and for dressing or acting disrespectfully there were consequences. The most immediate of those consequences was probably respect unearned from those we hoped to impress.
If we did not learn these lessons in childhood, or through the process of navigating our secondary school lives, we likely learned when we found ourselves in front of the parents of another youth who we wanted to date. I do not wish to brag, but when I really wanted to date a young lady I was usually pretty good at putting my best respectful foot forward when meeting her mother or father. I dressed nice, spoke in complete sentences, and tried my best to show regard for family customs and rules, although youth and inexperience on more than one occasion foiled me and created hardship. But I always tried.
Another occasion for learning the lessons of showing respect, that you might gain it, was in the process of finding employment. My father taught me young, whether the job was digging ditches, waiting tables, sales, or working at a desk, one should always dress up for the occasion of an interview with the boss. I always wore a collared shirt, slacks and a tie, and even though at times I found myself out dressing my interviewer, it almost always did the trick to show what kind of employee I would be.
“My father taught me young, whether the job was digging ditches, waiting tables, sales, or working at a desk, one should always dress up for the occasion of an interview with the boss.”
When I was a young salesman I noticed that my boss, who out-aged me by about four or five decades, did not observe the same dress standards as did I. I thought to myself, “I suppose this job does not require that I dress up.” The next day I came to work with no tie and a little more relaxed clothing. This was of course before the advent of casual Fridays, and then casual everydays, which I think was a terrible move, but that is a whole different subject. Well, my boss took a look at me without my tie and in more relaxed clothing and told me that I should dress better on the job. I knew him well enough to be able to ask why it was so important that I dress up, when he hardly dressed up at all. He said, “I am an old guy, and like the other old guys to whom you are selling, I have earned respect. We can dress any way we want. You are a young guy and you need to impress all the old guys by showing respect.” He was right, and I took his advice.
These days, now that I too am an old guy, I am a lot more casual on a lot of occasions. Nevertheless there are reasons for old guys to dress up, which include setting a good example for young guys, showing respect for traditions or formal circumstances, and still putting on our Sunday-best, not because God requires it, but because we want to show Him the respect He always deserves. No disrespect is meant when I say, in any story related to God we are not “the old guy.”
I am a believer that our host should set the tone for our attire and behavior, and when the host follows standards which conform to our standards, we should follow that example. I would not wear a tuxedo to a hoedown, and I certainly would not go barefoot and shirtless to a philharmonic concert, but I would follow customs and appropriate patterns set by my host.
“When it comes to Sunday worship, outside of wearing vestitures of a priest, I try to follow the example of my religious leaders to wear my humble best in honor of He who has blessed me with everything, He who has invited me to come and worship.”
When it comes to Sunday worship, outside of wearing vestitures of a priest, I try to follow the example of my religious leaders to wear my humble best in honor of He who has blessed me with everything, He who has invited me to come and worship. It is not that I am trying to impress God, because I cannot, but I am showing Him that I will give Him my best, just like donning a tie when applying for a job and trying to show a potential boss that I will give my best.
This is how I feel about prayer, with how I speak with Him. God hears our words, listens to the prayers of our hearts, and will not condemn us for a lack of eloquence in our gifts of communication, but in this I feel He deserves our best as well.
Now, I have prayed under all kinds of circumstances, sometimes sitting in my vehicle while driving down the road, at times when I am in perilous circumstances, or urgent need for His calming influence, and those occasions do not always make kneeling and bowing my head with my eyes closed a convenient matter. However, whenever possible I kneel, bow my head, close my eyes, and give my entire attention and respect to Him. I speak words from my lips with care and with respect that I might take seriously the matter of being His child and praying to Him. I know that He will hear my cries whether I am laying down in my bed, sitting in a chair or kneeling before an altar, but I am more in tune with Him, and therefore more able to hear His voice, when I offer the respect that He so deserves.
“God paid the ultimate price, by giving His Son, that I might have hope in Him and return to His presence someday. He deserves at least and more the honor and respect that I give to the flag of my country.”
It is like folding the American flag when I take it down from the pole. Every turn and fold is crisp, with honor and dignity, and thought of those who have gone before me, and paid the ultimate price that I might have this symbol of freedom in my life. God paid the ultimate price, by giving His Son, that I might have hope in Him and return to His presence someday. He deserves at least and more the honor and respect that I give to the flag of my country.
During these past two years of Covid my family and I have spent many Sundays in our home watching worship services virtually from our comfortable reclining couches. This was a big change for us. One thing I began to notice as the pandemic went on was that our demeanor in our recliners became more and more comfortable. During the services when prayers were offered virtually, I always made sure to sit up, lower the lounge function in my recliner, bow my head and close my eyes in quiet respect. I noticed that my daughters were not always following my example, so right before each prayer I began to say “demeanor.” Now my daughters are not terribly fond of that term, but they know when I say “demeanor” I am reminding them to show reverence for Heavenly Father, and what we are doing. I am happy to be back in weekly services at our local chapel, but I am also grateful for the lessons we have learned, that regardless of where we are, where we pray, God deserves our loving respect.
I think about that first encounter that Moses had with God on the mount in Old Testament days. He saw that burning bush, that it was not being consumed, and it summoned him up the mount that he might know of its nature. Talk about the interview of all interviews, as he approached the place from which God would speak. Normally I would not recommend taking off one’s shoes for an important interview, but remember, it is all about how the host directs.
Out of the midst of the bush God called unto him and said, “Moses, Moses. Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:4-6).
Moses that day learned of the nature of God, and how his demeanor should be before Him. I am struck by the reverence of that moment even though I was not there, yet as I read I can feel of its power and majesty. The humility of Moses’ demeanor and the wonder of God’s outreached hand to a son and people who needed to hear His voice, needed deliverance from the worldly.
I want to hear His voice always, and I know as I focus on Him and give Him my honor and respect, His due deference, I will more be able to feel and hear the counsels He will give. The consequence of my demeanor not being in tune with His, may very well be that when He calls I will not hear Him. When He calls our names, our hearts swollen and minds enlightened, may we all hear and speak as did Moses, “Here am I,” and listen with respect the words Heavenly Father has for us, even unto deliverance. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.