The family had just moved to the Kentucky town where I grew up.
They didn’t know anyone, and they didn’t have much money. Feeding and clothing the children took priority for the husband’s measly paycheck.
So the wife wore pants to church because she did not have a dress to her name.
This was back in the days when women didn’t wear pants often, much less to church. Scandalous!
On the first Sunday, people noticed and probably whispered, but no one said anything to her. Perhaps she didn’t know any better, and next week she’ll wear a dress.
But the next Sunday, she appeared in pants again. The other women, I imagine, shook their heads and cast scathing looks her way. The whispers probably became louder, though still no one had the audacity to comment to her face.
Then, after the service ended, one well-dressed lady approached her. She waited, probably expecting to be criticized, perhaps even asked not to come back unless she wore a dress.
“I’ve noticed that you haven’t been wearing a dress to church,” my grandmother said. “I know you just moved here. Would you mind if I made a dress for you?”
This story was told to me only recently, some 15 years after Maud Gray died. An expert seamstress, she taught me to sew in junior high school. She often made clothing for others for pay. But this was probably only one of many instances when my grandmother demonstrated compassion rather than condemnation, sharing the love of Jesus rather than pushing people away if they didn’t measure up.
Criticism from Christians today doesn’t deal with whether women wear pants or dresses. Some issues are much more serious, some are trifling.
But our response should be less like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day and more like Jesus: “When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them” (Matthew 9:36, HCSB). I’m glad to know my grandmother followed Jesus’ example, and I want to do the same.
“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12, HCSB).