Many Christians promote the idea of journaling as a good spiritual discipline. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve been more of a scrapbooker over the years, with more pictures than words! In today’s world, traditional photo albums, and their newer sticker-clad iterations, have given way to Shutterfly and other online services where you can arrange all your photos and have a beautiful, bound book delivered right to your door. Or perhaps even that is too much work. Lots of folks simply post their photos on Facebook or just keep them on their phones. Quilts have also been used historically as a way of remembering, and recent trends in quilting have included ironing photos onto quilts and even using t-shirts from a child’s younger days to make a memory quilt.
I recently had the need to be shuffling clothing in our home from one drawer to another and part of that effort involved my husband’s t-shirt collection. I’ve heard him say to teenagers on more than one occasion, “I have t-shirts older than you!” He’s not exaggerating on this one!
You’ve probably heard the expression, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.” Grammarist.com states, “Been there, done that is a phrase used to indicate that the speaker finds the subject in question boring, due to over-familiarity or repetition.” The t-shirt part of the phrase is a newer addition from the 1990s.
But after reflecting upon Mark’s t-shirts, I will kindly beg to differ that “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” is boring! Much of Scripture involves the call to remember, and bringing to mind God’s works of creation and redemption should never cause boredom due to over-familiarity or repetition. Peter said, “And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things” (2 Pet. 1:15) and, of course, our Lord himself said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
How does the idea of remembering relate to the t-shirts? I realized that my husband's old t-shirts actually tell the story of many aspects of our married life together. T-shirts from churches and presbytery camps; t-shirts from foreign travel and mission trips; t-shirts from RPTS work days and TFY youth events; a myriad of Taco Bell t-shirts where Mark worked for 18 years; lots of t-shirts from the Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins (we are Pittsburghers after all!); t-shirts from schools attended and t-shirts with messages about what we think or believe.
Although I’m not a person who gets too nostalgic about possessions, last weekend, after a 13-hour work day outside, I saw Mark toss the old t-shirt he had worn that day. I said to myself, “Oh no! I think he just threw out a memory!”
I have often thought that it would be a fun idea to get together with a group of friends and have an “Old T-Shirt Night,” where everyone wears or brings an old t-shirt. Why? Because our t-shirts tell stories. Times of joy and times of God’s difficult providences. Times of growth and perhaps times of immaturity. At such an event, each of you would take time to explain your t-shirt and how God was working through that period of your life. How did he bring you to faith? What did you learn about him on that trip, at that school, working that job, playing on that team, attending that church? What trials did he bring you through? How did you grow in your thinking, your walk, or your worship? This could be a get-to-know you event, a new idea for time with old friends, or a way to tell your children about your family’s history.
So, what stories are buried in your t-shirt drawer? Share them with someone!