The Coat

Not just any coat.

I found it on a clearance rack at a store in Washington DC about eleven years ago, and I wanted it so badly I... well, I wanted it so badly I bought it.

Even at the time I thought it was kind of ridiculous. I think it's beautiful, but in a ridiculous way.

(I'm fairly sure "beautiful in a ridiculous way" is one of the better definitions for "gaudy.")

It wasn't very "me." Maybe it was just a purely aspirational buy. I wanted to be the kind of girl who wore that kind of coat, and for 75% off I could be her.

But if it started out as an aspirational buy, it became something more.

I vividly remember showing it off to Lauren, the campus minister who lead the organization visiting DC over spring break. She knew that I had been going through a rough time, and I will never forget what she said.

"Katherine, that is not a coat for mourning."

Suddenly my ridiculously beautiful coat meant something.

And, in the same moment, the vocation of ministry meant something new.

I hadn't before realized that one of the things ministers might get to do would be to reframe the impulse purchases of melancholy girls, to turn a faux fur trimmed coat into a means of grace and healing.

Together, we decided it was my technicolor dream coat. Together, we grafted my story onto the biblical story (though thankfully, me and my coat did not meet the same fate as Joseph and the original TDC).

It's taken me years to realize that the coat, and the conversation about the coat, are a piece of my call to ministry. There are so many pieces to that mosaic, and it's a gift to discover one every so often.

The reason I discovered this one is that I'm wearing it again, for the first time in years. I rarely, if ever, wore it in California. It didn't get cold enough, and besides, as a seminarian and brand new pastor I think I was too sheepish about gold threaded embroidery. It spent seasons in the back of my closet, unworn.

But now that I'm in the Midwest, now that I'm a little more in touch with the facet of my aesthetic that is all about ridiculous beauty, now that I'm in another post-mourning season, it's back in the rotation.

It fits perfectly. It's warm. It was one of those decisions I made as a very young adult that only becomes more right as I become a not-so-very-young adult.

God called Johnny Cash to be the man in black, and God called me to be the woman in the gaudy coat.

Thanks be to God.

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