By Randy Kosloski
Wearing a three-piece suit is an oddly acceptable form of torture for a man. It’s as bad as laying lock stone. I remember once I had to lay lock stone with my father to refinish our driveway. After that experience, I concluded that there would be a section in hell for certain people to lay lock stone in the heat. Some years later I had my first experience with a three-piece suit and decided that there would be people in hell forced to wear three-piece suits, as well. And the really depraved will be laying lock stone in the heat, while wearing three-piece suits. When locked inside a three-piece suit there is constant heat, constraint and mental anguish. The best feeling in the world can be to peel that suit away from your body. The euphoria which ensues is largely because it feels like you have been wearing the uncomfortable suit for years, though it may have only been a few minutes.
A religious persona can feel very similar to the three-piece suit. It can be constraining. It can cause angst as well as the desire to peel it off in the most inappropriate ways.
I once did my very best to help a man we’ll call Drake who came to me because he was having such a hard time keeping on his straight-and-narrow, three-piece suit. He was finding himself drawn to completely inappropriate devices to shed his. He thought what was binding him was low self esteem. I really felt that the problem was the suit.
When you are wearing the suit, nothing looks right or feels right, because you are interpreting everything through the aguish that you constantly feel while wearing the suit. The suit taints everything. I do not think that I was ever really able to convince Drake of my theory that the suit was stifling him. He would nod politely, but I think there was something about him that sort of liked the suit.
Jesus was always rebuking religious people, calling them hypocrites, and noting that their hearts did not match their religious fervor. Whereas the religious of Jesus’ day were too deep into themselves to receive salvation, sinners honestly came to Jesus’ feet, begging forgiveness. Maybe this is what we should do, wear our sins honestly and let God do His work. Hide them inside a religious three-piece suit and we can become like the religious elite of Jesus’ day, almost beyond saving.
The Pharisees were pretty good at wearing their suits all day every day. But more often today, like in Drake’s case, we slip out of the suit when no one is looking, if only for a moment, to be recharged. Drake would jump out alright, get into some nasty stuff, and jump back in, slightly revived. However, consequences followed him. Not only did the consequences of his nasty stuff follow him, but there were also consequences for the false belief he had that he could jump in and out of his faith, like changing clothes. As a result, his faith was thin and largely ineffective. He could not lead his family or be effective in his work because the Spirit of God was not with him. He was not truly living his faith. He was only wearing it from time to time.
In The Voyage of the Dawntreader, C.S. Lewis writes about how Aslan, a Christ-figure, had to tear into the very heart of Eustace to peel the dragon’s body off him. Lewis accurately depicts this transformation as only a beginning. Even after he once again looked like a young boy, he was not immediately a different person. It was obvious to everyone when Eustace shed his three-piece dragon suit, so he had no choice but to be honest from then on. His honesty is what allowed him to be changed. It’s the same for everyone.
Unfortunately, I am not as good a therapist as Aslan, and I was not able to rip into the heart of Drake and peel his three-piece suit from him. But, in my defense, Aslan has the luxury of choosing his timing. Aslan was able to wait until Eustace had learned what he needed to learn and until he had suffered just enough in his three-piece suit. He didn’t wait so long as to allow Eustace to be bitter and hopeless. But he left him in his state long enough for the lesson of the suit to take root. I have not mastered the art of timing to this degree. Drake is probably still wearing his suit from time to time.
Sometimes after attending a wedding, I will take my three-piece suit off at the entrance of my home. I drop my suit right next to my shoes at the door. The ecstasy of tearing that three-piece suit off is really something that can only be experienced and not described. It is impossible to live inside the three-piece suit; the suit itself necessitates a break out. When the three-piece suit is of a religious nature, these breakouts can be very ugly. However, if we will ditch the suit and just live inside our own skin, Jesus can meet us and change us.
“Change is the essence of life. Be willing to exchange what you are, for what you could become.” – Anonymous.