If I were writing a fashion column, I’d surely write it from the airport. The airport has got to be the best fashion laboratory in the world.
In one airport, I find myself staring at a trio of young women who are dressed like they’ve just walked off the studio set of “Sex and The City.” They are laughing loud enough to drown out most of their insecurities when they suddenly stop and turn in my direction.
What were they staring at? My mismatched shirt and tie?
Their voices lower to a whisper as they undoubtedly discuss the fashion boob in their midst.
My inner voice plunges into self-doubt. Is my tie that bad?
The fashion show continues. All around the terminal, I see midriffs on women bare enough to hint at the many children they’ve birthed.
On the young men, I see trousers riding low enough to give them an entrance into the plumbers union. Old men wear pants high enough to pull over their faces in a dust storm. And middle age men walk around in “mom pants” with elastic waistbands for their growing bellies.
The fashion doesn’t improve on the plane, where I sit next to a girl with nails painted traffic-cone orange. She was obviously born prewired for an iPod.
With so many fashion-challenged children of God, airport crowds make a great case study in people.
The crowd reminded me of the one Jesus likely encountered as he walked into a city looking to recruit a Band of Brothers that would change the world. He was a people watcher, too, just not as smug as me. Go figure.
Unlike me, he had a keen eye for the quality of the soul over the quality of the fabric, the cut of a man’s character over the cut of his shirt.
This is the gift he used to quickly single out an eager young recruit named Phillip who followed him without so much as blinking.
Exhilarated at being chosen, Phil found his bud, Nathanial, and begged him to come and meet the teacher from Nazareth.
“Nazareth?” Nat, rightly exclaimed, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
No, he wasn’t kidding.
“Come, see for yourself,” challenged Phil.
Upon meeting Nathanial, Jesus quickly pronounced, “Now, here’s the real deal. Not a false bone in his body.”
Nat, not easily taken to flattery asked, “Where’d you get that idea? You don’t know me.”
Nat was partially right. The two had never been formally introduced, but Jesus had observed Nat on several occasions sitting under a fig tree, deep in thought. It was obvious to Jesus that there was something different about Nat.
What was it?
The best translation of the scripture says that Nat was a man “without guile.” That means he didn’t try to hide who he was. He didn’t demonstrate any pretense in his choice of clothing, friends or mannerisms. He didn’t need to hide any part of who he was.
“Why not?” you ask.
Well, it’s not because he was intrinsically happy with who he was. He knew he was not completely accessorized, and he was willing to undertake a fearless inventory of his soul’s closet.
And I think it was his self-awareness — that he was truly lacking something — that made him a prime pick for a disciple.
Nat discovered the most profound truth of all: God is always able to pick us out of the crowd, he does it best when we lay aside our pretense and all the religious fashion that goes with it.