Let my whole being bless the Lord!  Let everything inside me bless his holy name!
Psalm 103:1 (CEB)

I come from church-goers on my mother’s side. My Grandma Lucy was a pillar of the Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and a Worthy Matron of the Eastern Star. In most of the old photos of Grandma, she’s wearing a simple housedress and apron—her “everyday clothes.” But a few pictures show her at Mt. Vernon UMC, dressed to the nines in a fur jacket and pillbox hat—her “church clothes.” For Grandma Lucy, as for many from her generation, the practice of wearing “Sunday best” to worship arose from a genuine desire to honor the Lord.

I have a young friend whose faith inspires me, and who, like many from his generation, is decidedly more casual in his choice of worship attire. Once, when an older man in the congregation chided him for his “disrespect towards God,” I overheard my young friend’s gentle response: “I’m trying to offer God my real self,” he said. “Not just my Sunday self.”

I wondered later if my friend had been reading Psalm 103: “Let my whole being bless the Lord. Let everything inside me bless his holy name.”

Everything inside me? Seriously, everything? This flies in the face of the sacred Southern aphorism: We may think it, but we do not speak it. But what if this is the very thing God hopes for most—not the polishing up of our shiny selves, but instead the offering up of our whole selves?

Let everything inside me bless God’s holy name. Sure, the happy, thankful part of me is going to find it easy enough to sing. But what about the other parts—can they also bless the Lord? According to Psalm 103, you bet they can:

The exhausted part of us can sing praise to the One who “renews our youth like the eagle’s.”

The part that’s angry at injustice can bless the God who “works righteousness and does justice for all who are oppressed.”

The part that’s suffering can sing to the God who “heals our sickness.”

The part that’s guilty can sing to the God who “forgives…and removes our sin as far as the east is from the west.”

The part of us that’s weak can bless the One who “knows our frame and remembers we are dust.”

Who can say where God lands in the “furs vs. shorts” debate in worship. As with most things that really matter to God, I imagine it comes down to the heart, and not just our Sunday heart. Our whole, real, raw, unpolished heart. This is the best offering of all.

Julie Pennington-Russell is a much-loved preacher, pastor, and mentor. She has pastored three Baptist churches, has mentored too-many-to-count young ministers, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.