What Are You Wearing?

Susan Narjala   |   November 10, 2023 

In the late 19th century, two nuns from Belgium set sail for India. They landed on the shores of the coastal hamlet of Mulagumoodu in the south of the country. The two Catholic missionaries had traveled across the world to care for the orphan girls in the little town. But they also taught the girls at the orphanage how to weave intricate lace with cotton threads and bobbins (tiny spools), a craft famous in the town of Bruges in Belgium.

About one century later, circa 1979, a baby girl was christened at a church in then-Madras in a delicate dress made of Bruges lace. Yes, that baby was none other than yours truly.

The christening dress had been custom-created for our family. It was first worn by my older sister for her christening and then passed on to me. Despite my legendary track record for spills and messes, I’m happy to report the beautiful white christening lace has remained undamaged for close to fifty years.

When I had my daughter fourteen years ago, my mom passed the family heirloom dress to me. But by then, christenings were no longer a tradition in our family—the dress featured instead as my baby girl’s first Halloween outfit, where she hands down won the best-dressed angel award thanks to being draped in handmade lace.

I don’t have many mementos from my childhood, thanks to several moves across cities. But I’m glad I’ve kept the exquisite lace dress—from some online research, it turns out that exquisite lace equals expensive lace.

But as I thought about the lace christening dress, I was reminded of a far more valuable “outfit” that I possess. In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul reminds us: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3: 27)

Paul, in this verse, uses an analogy that his audience (the church in Galatia) would have been familiar with: In Roman society, a young person coming of age laid aside the robe of childhood and put on a new toga. This symbolised the transition to adult citizenship with full rights and responsibilities. Paul was impressing on the Galatian Christians that they needed to set aside the “old clothes” of the law and put on the new robe of Christ’s righteousness.

As much as I love my beautiful lace christening dress, it just doesn’t fit me anymore. It is not meant to! As a believer, I am baptized into Christ. I discard my old ways and walk in the newness of my identity as a child of God.

Friends, in an age when we are constantly bombarded about how to dress, where influencers tell us what trends to follow, may we remind ourselves that we are covered in Christ’s righteousness. `

I hope my christening dress doesn’t disintegrate over the next few decades and that I can pass it on to my daughter when she becomes a mom. But more than the dress, I would love for my future generations to be clothed with Christ. The robes of righteousness and garments of salvation He gives us are far more exquisite than handmade lace. The clothes He covers us with don’t wear out. They aren’t just exquisite—they are eternal.


Photo by Alyssa Strohmann on Unsplash

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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog, www.susannarjala.com

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