MOST people have something to give up when entering Christian community. It could be sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. It could be SKY sport. Most people have a fear they have to face. Sharing a room. Lack of a particular brand of hair conditioner ( “Pantene phobia” – common among females).
Me? My fear was that I’d never have any clothes to wear. When I joined the community in 1997, I had some decent clobber and thought, “Well, when it wears out I’ll just have to wear beige sack-cloth or something.”
As it turns out, I have never had any issues in the clothing supply department. That’s partly because God’s generous, because we share stuff, and partly because of my clothes kleptomania – which means that if I see clothing lying around, I’ll probably be wearing it pretty soon. I am an infamous purloiner of teeshirts and trousers. This has from time to time created a bit of a stir. (Like the time I came down to breakfast in Fiona’s night shirt.)
Enough on me. Let me tell you about my friend Andy, who is one of the partners in our church’s legal practice. Recently, he decided he needed to get a new suit; his old one was looking a bit moth-eaten. It wasn’t exactly projecting the right image to potential new clients, you might say – or to the court, on his many appearances there.
What should he do? For any “normal” lawyer, the answer is obvious: buy a very good one, or two, or three – or however many you want to – you’re a lawyer, for God’s sake!
Well, precisely. Andy is a lawyer – for God’s sake. So that means he’s devoted to a lifestyle of, amongst other things, relative poverty. He’s not about to lash out top dollar on Paul Smith or Aquascutum; he needs to think thrift and simplicity.
After consulting a few people on the matter, including me, he took money out of our “common purse” and went shopping, but returned dismayed that the most suitable stuff was so very pricey.
I sympathised with his dilemma, because it’s such a common one in a common purse lifestyle like ours. Although he definitely needed the suit, his feelings (rightly or wrongly) were mixed about spending a lot of money on “himself”.
At this point, in steps a friend of ours who lives in our community. “Dave” is a man with many court appearances to his name (but no lawyer, he). “Dave” is an ex-international drug dealer with a criminal record as long as the M1. Now he’s on the straight and the narrowest way of all, he no longer needs his court costume, and was happy to give it to Andy. It’s a quality item – and a near perfect fit.
So now, as Andy goes in to court to represent his clients, he will be wearing the coat I gave him a few years ago (a cashmere that once belonged to my father, a commercial barrister). Underneath that coat, he will be sporting the smart suit of a former international criminal.
I think you will agree that it’s unusual for a chap like Andy to be dressed in this manner, but he certainly looks the part: every inch the commercial solicitor and partner of his legal practice.
You’d never guess that underneath his strangely-sourced finery was the fiery heart of a radical who loves the equality, simplicity and justice of the upside-down kingdom.