I still walk with a limp.
No, I wasn't injured.
And I don't have a birth defect.
But to explain, I need to repeat a story that I found floating around on the internet.
It seems that a man had gone to the tailor to have a suit made cheaply, but when the suit was finished and he went to try it on, it didn't fit him at all. Complaining that the jacket was too big in back, the right arm was too long, one pant leg was too short and three buttons were missing, the man was justifiably upset.
"No problem," said the tailor, "just hunch your back, bend your arm, walk with a limp, and stick your fingers through the button holes and you'll look just fine!" The man contorted his body to fit the suit and feeling duped by the tailor, he left. He had not walked one block when he was approached by a stranger.
"Who made that suit for you?" asked the stranger. "I'm in the market for a new suit myself."
Surprised, but pleased at the compliment, the man pointed out the tailor's shop.
"Well, thanks very much," said the stranger, hurrying off. "I do believe I'll go to that tailor for my suit. Why, he must be a genius to fit a cripple like you."
While the story is funny, if we turn it around a little, I think we'll have a parable we can learn something from.
For much of our lives we were living in the poorly-made clothes of sin. They didn't cover us very well, but they fitted us perfectly as far as we were concerned, with our hunched backs, bent arms, fingers through button holes and limping walk. They were comfortable, and we told ourselves we looked just fine. We didn't know any better, and we couldn't or wouldn't have done anything about it if we did.
Then God saved us. He opened our eyes to see our true spiritual condition, and gave us new perfectly healthy bodies with which to serve Him. Those old sinful rags were useless, so God gave us garments of righteousness to go with our new bodies, and told us to put them on:
...put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
- Romans 13:14
We looked at our new clothes with amazement: the backs didn't have a bulge, both arms and legs were the right size, none of the buttons were missing, and they covered us perfectly. We didn't deserve this, but we were most thankful to the Tailor for providing us with such wonderful and righteous attire.
However, many of us discovered problems the moment we first put on our new garments. We found for some reason the back is too tight, the arms and legs don't feel the right length, the suit chafes in some areas and limits movement in others. Simply put, it's very uncomfortable to wear. (To tell the truth, some of us have even toyed with the idea of going back to those old, comfortable rags.)
The problem is not with the suit. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only perfect garment for us, and wear it we must if we want to appear presentable before God. The problem is how we fit into it.
We still have habits of spiritually bad posture. Our new clothes were not made to walk hunchback or with fingers through holes (i.e. to live in the sinful ways of our old life). So when we thoughtlessly or stubbornly walk like we've walked in the past, the suit chafes and binds and seems like a very poor fit.
God won't tailor the suit to fit us. He uses His Holy Spirit fit us to the suit - to conform us to Christ. He teaches us and enables us to stand up straight and walk the way were we intended: to walk righteously.
But, just as in the earlier story where the man had to 'submit' himself to fit into his suit, we have to submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit, who is tailoring us - transforming us - to fit into Christ.
The more we submit to the Holy Spirit's tailoring, the better we'll find the new suit to be... much better than our old rags. As we walk upright in humility and love, the garment of Christ will become the easiest and most comfortable clothes we'll ever wear.
And this is what I'm discovering. The garment of Christ gets more and more wearable and comfortable as the Holy Spirit works on my spiritual posture. Oh, it still binds and feels unpleasant at times, but that's because I still walk with a bit of a limp. Yes, old habits die hard.
...put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
- Colossians 3:10
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son...
- Romans 8:29
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
- 2 Corinthians 3:18