It was a proud day for me, age twelve, when my father announced that I was old enough to have my first suit – and one made by his own tailor! Dad always had his suits hand made by Mr. Epstein. It wasn’t that Dad had lots of money; quite the opposite. He was a teacher and saved money by ordering well-made suits and rotating them so they lasted many years.
We went together to Mr. Epstein’s shop on the second floor of a red brick building near the river in Louisville. I chose a dark gray wool fabric just like Dad’s. Fourteen days later we went back to Mr. Epstein’s, and there was my suit! I put it on and stood before the full-length mirror, turning this way and that, feeling grown up indeed. Sunday came, the first occasion to wear my suit in public. Dressed in my glory, I headed to church with the family. I was glad to see four of my friends just ahead. Determined not to strut, I assumed a casual stroll. To my consternation, the four boys burst into loud guffaws. “Look at the little gentleman! Hey, Lord Fauntleroy!”
After church that Sunday, I hung up my suit and never put it on again. My parents were baffled. They’d made a considerable investment in that suit, in that Depression year of 1935. Though he said nothing, I knew Dad was hurt. But I’d come up against something stronger than finances and parental sensibilities. I’d encountered the power of peer pressure, the tyranny of what will people think. I’ve met it many times in the more than seven decades since that Sunday morning. And more often than I like to remember, I’ve given in to it. But occasionally, remembering that new suit, I summon the courage to say, as Joshua did to the pressures of his day, “But as for me. . .”
Lord, help me listen today for Your voice alone.