Noticing T-Shirts

October 17, 2022

You have one of those dress down days. For whatever reason you don’t have any major responsibilities on this day and you get to dress comfortably. On those kind of days, you usually put on a t-shirt. Have you ever thought about the process you go through to choose which t-shirt you are going to wear? You go to your t-shirt drawer and look at the fifty or more t-shirts you have accumulated. They represent all kinds of personal memories: places visited, competitions, memorable quotes, or time spent with someone precious to you. We would never close our eyes and simply grab a t-shirt for no reason. The t-shirt we choose will help tell some story of our life as we live out this day.

One of my favorite t-shirts had big boots on it with the words, “My Daughter Wears Army Boots.” She gave it to me when she completed Army basic training. Sometimes people would ask me about it and I would have plenty of stories bragging on her accomplishment, depending on how much time they had. I wore it whenever I thought someone would ask me about it. I wore that shirt out completely before I retired it. I choose my t-shirts carefully for each occasion.

Have you ever asked anyone about the t-shirt they are wearing? Many of you may be recoiling at the thought of doing such a thing after over two years of quarantine. There are many reasons not to ask. “I don’t know them that well or at all. It might be perceived as an invasion of privacy. What if they are carrying some disease? What if I am carrying some disease?” I don’t think any of those are very good reasons, especially for Christians who trust God to look after and protect them. Perhaps the most honest reason is it makes us uncomfortable or we may feel embarrassed. I want to encourage you not to let discomfort or embarrassment be the main determiners in your decision making process.

King Solomon said this about isolation in Proverbs 18:1, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Those are wise words that should give us pause if we are going to continue isolating ourselves from others. It is easy for us to seduce ourselves into isolation because it feels safe.

Paul’s words can be interpreted to encourage us to ask about t-shirts. He writes in Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” As Christians we are to show hospitality to strangers, not ignore them or be afraid we might share or spread our diseases. When Paul uses the word “hospitality” he means, “treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way that glorifies God.

I like to ask people about their t-shirts. It seems every time I have it has brought a smile to their face. Sometimes the encounters last only moments. Sometimes they can last longer, and include great stories that I can share with others. I think it is time we decide we’re going to do something about the self-imposed isolation that satan has been using against people for too many years. We were made for relationships, and we need to do things that deepen all of our relationships: the deep and abiding relationships of family and friends as well as the chance encounters God weaves into our lives.

Today, I saw a young lady wearing a t-shirt from a place I had just been too. The encounter took less than a minute, but the smile on her face was priceless as she remembered that beautiful place. I saw a group of people wearing mission t-shirts that were bright yellow. I asked about them and found out they were on their way to do hurricane relief in Florida. We didn’t have a chance to talk but I asked God to bless their mission. All part of the ebb and flow of relationships that enrich our lives in the course of the day.

I have a challenge for you this day. Notice someone’s t-shirt and ask them about it. Look for an opportunity to say something positive about their shirt, their experience, or their memory. Let’s help the people around us break out of the isolation that has separated us from one another for too long.

What is your favorite t-shirt? What is the story behind the shirt? What keeps you from asking someone about their t-shirt? How can you get over your concerns and fear? I hope you will let God use you to help break into people’s isolated world.