“Wearing God” by Lauren F. Winner

Book details

Wearing God
Lauren F. Winner
2015
Harper Collins

Overview

I liked this book a lot. It was just right for me in two ways:

  1. I had spent 2015 reading the Psalms (two complete reads through, some learnings, some favouritings). I was (and still am) interested in learning more about the Psalms and all the different ways of talking about God. I looked around for books but many seemed far too academic. I came across Wearing God by chance on (or via) Lisa Notes. It’s about metaphors for God in the Old and New Testaments, and about how they can help us think about God and enrich our relationship with God.
  2. I had just come out of a bleak couple of months (see Two Pivots: Pivot 1 & Pivot 2). I found this book soothing and cheering — occasionally in that weird Christian way that mixes comfort with challenge.

Wearing God was a nice mix of “learnedness” and practicality. There’s a Further Reading section which has a few books I’ll look up:

Wearing God was my bedtime reading and I remember at least two occasions when it seemed to speak directly to the problems of my day:

  • Our son has had glandular fever and/or anxiety syndrome and we have taken him out of school. It is very difficult trying to coax him to study without tripping him into panic, biting my tongue when he’s surly and always being positive and loving. After one especially bad evening of this I found myself starting in on the chapter on God as labouring woman: the unavoidable suffering and pangs God goes through to bring humanity to the light. I could see myself suffering like God there, and God suffering like me.
  • The chapter on God’s laughter (which I didn’t much like, as God’s laughter seemed often to be about putting women in their place) spoke to my weaknesses. I forget the details now, but I’d spent some time in the evening browsing either lingerie or porn on my phone and ended up annoyed at myself, and slightly exasperated. Lieing in bed next to my wife the reading I remember that night was of Sara’s later laughter, laughing at herself and her situation. So I was able to laugh at myself, which seems better than being angry or exasperated, as laughter seemed to open a way to the “long view”, to hope.

God as clothing

After noticing that Wearing God had spoken to me so often — which was a surprise: I was expecting an interesting book on metaphor — I then became sursprised that the first chapter, on God as clothing, hadn’t spoken to me. So I read the chapter again, this time listening out carefully.

LW mentions God making clothes for Adam and Eve when they leave the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:21) but the main metaphor is of people being clothed in God, or clothed in Christ (e.g., Galatians 3:27).

LW mentions the normal attraction of dressing up (p. 38 “… every time we change into a different kind of clothing, we can play at being a different kind of self”), she says she finds “the notion of God as clothing endlessly suggestive” (p. 37), she even says “To understand Christ as clothing is to understand a certain holy gender-bending” (p. 49). But, all her clothing examples are decidedly “appropriate”. The “gender-bending” is really about /women/ wearing androgynous utilitarian clothing.

LW asks what would it mean to imaging God as a warm winter coat, as a cardigan sweater: “What does it mean to imagine God as a warm winter coat? As a handmade bespoke suit? As a beloved cardigan sweater, purchased in Galway on your honeymoon …?” (p. 37).

I ask, what would it mean to imagine wearing God as a strappy satin nightie?

What would it mean for LW — a woman — to imagine God as a strappy satin nightie?

What would it mean for me — a man — to imagine God as a strappy satin nightie?

As an elegant blouse and long swishy skirt with white stockings and frilly French knickers underneath?

As a dainty bra that fits me — a man — just right?

Perhaps these imaginings seem repulsive or sacreligeous. Why?

Perhaps “God as clothing” shouldn’t be “sexy” clothing. I think there’s room for investigation there generally — but I do sometimes use dressing up as a kind of sex toy and I can see anything in that direction is not appropriate.

But I don’t always use dressing up like that. Sometimes (more often I think, after all there are more convenient sex toys) I dress up because … well,

Why /do/ I dress up?

Why /would/ I want to imagine God in these ways?

When we “imagine God as a cardigan sweater”, what are we doing? We are thinking about how the features a cardigan sweater is /supposed/ to have, what wearing a cardigan sweater is /supposed/ to be like, might apply to God. So, comfort, warmth, organic, traditional, familiar in some way, and so on.

God as a strappy satin nightie

I wear my nightie when I’m staying away on business. After the day’s work I get back to the hotel, I tie up loose ends, I respond to outstanding emails, I have dinner. When I get back to my room after dinner I immediately undress and change into my nightie, and then I relax. I tidy things away and set things out for the morning, I read or listen to music (often wearing a sweater on top of the nightie, so the nightie is like loungewear or even a dress). Hotel rooms are always too hot for boy pyjamas or a t-shirt, so I sleep in the nightie. I enjoy feeling the straps over my shoulders, and the soft cool material by my skin.

The fact that I like to dress up is the most secret thing in my whole life — ever since I started when I was a small boy. I can only wear something like this behind a locked door and closed curtains. So, wearing something like this /means/: I am in a private space, I am safe, no-one will come and get me, no-one will tell me to explain myself. Free from danger, I am free — in such a tiny way — (I won’t say “to be myself” that is nonsense). Sometimes I do bad things, sometimes I don’t. It’s a silly childish spell.

God — or at least Jesus — shelters me. To feel him near me is a beautiful luxurious feeling. I don’t need to explain myself to him — and if I don’t need to explain myself to him, why would I need to explain myself to anyone else? Jesus near me means I am safe: I even used to say to myself sometimes “You are safe: Jesus loves you.”

God as a dainty bra

For present purposes there are two types of bra: padded and un-padded. I have one of each, with matching knickers. I wear them in different circumstances.

The padded bra I always wear with the matching knickers. They are a glamorous, silky set. Because the padded bra affects my silhouette so much I can only wear them in private, as with the nightie. If my wife and son are away together for a few days I’ll spend all my time at home dressed just in these bra & panties, maybe with tights, and just a shirt or a dressing gown. I’ll work, I’ll iron and cook and clean, and I’ll feel light and free.

The unpadded bra I wear, mostly with the matching knickers, when I am out and about in some town away on business: shopping, eating at a restaurant in the evening.

It’s especially nice if they can be first things on in the morning (like this morning! ^^). In the morning after my shower I feel all clean and fresh and somehow climbing into special nice bra & panties enhances, encapsulates and preserves that feeling.

I have only started wearing bras very recently (March 2013 I bought my first bra). It feels like being gently hugged, embraced. I’d like to find a bra that would really fit my tiny breasts. It feels very intimate and tender, especially if I know I am wearing matching bra and panties. And if I am wearing out and about, it is a special secret that sometimes makes me blush.

Because these clothes are a treat for me, the bras I wear are dainty and pretty. Wearing something special and nice that close to me makes me feel that I am special and nice — like the nice ladies who wear these clothes in the catalogues. (I don’t mean special as in “better” than anybody else, I mean something more like “treasured”). I am always conscious that I am wearing a bra, so it is always reminding me of all this.

God holds and supports me. I am always aware of Him and I can always feel his presence. Knowing Jesus loves me makes me feel special and treasured (I don’t need to feel “strong”: I feel “strong” all the time. It’s easy to pull myself together, to fight, to get to bed early, to exercise, to eat properly).

The “secret” side feels relevant too. I love Jesus, I love reading the Bible and these Christian books. Because of today’s cultural environment, I feel I have to keep all that secret too (although my wife has started saying it is a “matter of time” before I “turn into a Christian”).

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4 Comments

  1. “I found this book soothing and cheering — occasionally in that weird Christian way that mixes comfort with challenge.” What an excellent description. I appreciate your review on Lauren Winner’s book. And your honesty about clothing.

    I wish that all Christians could say this for themselves: “God holds and supports me. I am always aware of Him and I can always feel his presence. Knowing Jesus loves me makes me feel special and treasured.” Amen.

    Reply
    • Dear Lisa

      Thank you very much for your kind comment. It was a really good book. I found going back and thinking through the clothing metaphors very helpful, and writing those last two sections of the blog post was even quite moving. The exercise seemed to let me shine a new kind of light on my weaknesses and sins. It is exciting and I want to do more of this kind of writing, here and in my diary.

      Reply
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