My younger kids are especially crazy about dress up. They beg to play almost every day. They will clean things to get a yes. If I say no, they somberly depart, collect a costume each, then descend the stairs to beg if there is any way they can at least put on the costume in their hand. They solemnly pledge not to touch a single other item from the dress up tub should I say yes.
There is probably a justification for not allowing someone to wear a ballerina dress or plastic armor over their clothes, but I can never think of it when they look so plaintive. I leverage a small task and inevitably say yes. Maybe because I get the thing about dress up.
Dress up is an invitation to become our dreams, to experiment with what our dreams even are. To be someone else and to become more ourselves. The only one of my kids not in love with dress up right now is the only one not quite sure how to sit in his own skin. Trying to figure out a walk and a talk he can call his own, he’s dressing up alright, but he doesn’t know it yet.
Holy week is a drama. In some places it’s official with passion plays or musicals. Other places it proceeds without mention. Which is too bad because Holy week is an invitation to dress up. Wrap yourself in deep sorrow, unanswered longing, and uncertainty about the future. Try on doubt, worry, wonder, hatred, love. Leave them on the floor, pick up anger, joy, fear, hesitant faith, despair, and unrelenting hope. Look in the mirror. Pick through the piles and try it all on. Laugh, cry, throw your voice, get help with the zipper at the back. When you realize it’s broken throw a cape over it and go out anyway.
You look around and it’s all so much bigger than you. Heavy burdens that you carry are reduced to what they are: some things in the midst of a vast multitude of things. A lot of people don’t fit their shoes quite right. Missing buttons, rips and tears. There’s a whole world of people sporting costumes like yours.
Holy week is a week that’s going somewhere. There’s a parade and you’re in it. Every outfit you’ve ever worn or wanted to wear is invited. Nothing is too awkward, outrageous, unsuitable, or simple this week. Attired accordingly, Quakers, transvestites, prophets, priests, professors and prostitutes, we are all on the float. Swept along towards a mystery we cannot possibly understand.
On Friday the pile of costumes will be collected to make a hill. On top of the hill a naked man will die without a costume. Before he does, he will look at us and smile. We will realize then that we are naked, clothed only in his love. Naked and in love, we will wait the rest of Friday and Saturday.
Sunday in awe, we’ll dress slowly as ourselves. Every one of us resplendent, honest to God children of the King.