“Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues, and you know it don’t come easy.”
The canvas-paneled, distressed street-denim jeans you see in the photo above are the creation of Los Angeles designer Mike Amiri. Want a pair? No problem. You can own them for only $1,290. These are not just ordinary jeans. According to the ad, “They feature cool bandana, camo, crossbones and checkerboard canvas panels. To call them distressed is an understatement; they’re ripped up, faded and splattered with paint, all meticulously done by hand.” Of course they’re done by hand. The only other way to create this look is to give them to a hard working person to be worn for an extended period of time.
My grandfather had a pair of jeans like this. When he bought them they nearly qualified as “Sunday-go-to-meeting” clothes. But after many days and months of wearing them in the cotton mill pulling double shifts, his jeans looked pretty much like the ones in the picture. My grandmother kept my grandfather’s jeans operational by “canvas paneling” (patching) them as needed.
You couldn’t buy distressed jeans like this in 1947, nor was there any reason to do so. Once your jeans looked like these you threw them away, that is if you could afford a new pair. Jeans like this were not created by L.A. designers. They were created by the stress of hard work that reflected the character found in the fabric of the life of people like my grandfather.
People earned their character then. Today we prefer to purchase it. In a recent podcast, Author John Eldredge referred to this phenomenon as, “The appearance of character without the process.”
Today we choose virtual over real. We prefer the authentic, but we reject with distain the process that goes with it. Distressed jeans can be designed, character cannot. Character emerges from the crucible of human experience; the real. It’s the aggregate of our rainy days, not the sum of our cloudless ones. It’s the place where our morals are tested and our integrity is revealed. It’s the prodigal you’ve been waiting on for years, glancing down the road for an imminent return; a spouse who is dying of cancer even after seeking the best medical treatment available; a life-long friend and business partner who stole money from you.
Welcome to the distressed life and the process of character building.
If this life is all there is, we can find many reasons to despair. But it’s not. Peter, Jesus’ close friend reminds us; “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:10).” James tells us to, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness,” which leads to us “lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).”
The suffering and trials you and I are experiencing right now are leading to strength and endurance that will move us to completeness. We can take comfort in knowing that God uses our distress to make us better. We cannot have the appearance of character without the experience of the process.
To borrow from the ad for the Amiri jeans; To call you and I distressed is an understatement. We’re ripped up, faded and splattered with the paint of life, all meticulously done by the hand of the Great Designer, the One who has good plans for us and loves us beyond our wildest imagination. You can’t purchase a distressed life for $1,290. It will cost you a whole lot more, but it’s worth it!