I love learning about cities and their stories. Cities are like people to me, and people wear clothes to express who they are. And when you see them as people, their story starts opening up-undealt with wounds become obvious, and destiny starts to come into focus! My concern is always identity and how we express it, and this is my draw in studying cities as well. I can read a city most quickly through her symbolic life, or culture-how she clothes herself in symbol. This is the same with people–how they dress express, advertise etc.What is her identity? Where did she begin, where is she now, and what needs to be healed to move her to where she is heading…? Always the same questions with people also! I really enjoying being aware of what i enjoy about what i am doing also. Watching Him, watch me as I watch something like a city–that awareness is a particular pleasure.
(What aspect of your city, do you like to just watch or behold? What amazes you about where you are from? How does this characteristic relate to your own personality or story? What type of clothing is your city wearing; and what type is it meant to wear? Describe the fabrics and textures of your city’s symbolic or cultural life).
As children we try on costumes to imagine being someone else, or a very grand version of ourselves. Costumes have the power to help us step into another’s life-to imagine life from a different angle. Costumes or clothing also have the power to give us an experience of our true selves. In short, clothing has the power to help us imagine ourselves more clearly–to have a truer self image.
(What clothing would your city wear which would help it feel more truly itself?)
When we wear what we imagine our eternal self wearing in heaven, we start to enter the continuum of true identity–we start to feel more like ourselves. We see this when our wife has on that certain dress which just brings out her inner beauty!
It’s easy to see when someone is wearing something which “suits” who they are. Or when we try on a jacket which feels “just right”. Wem Wenders captures this sensation in his documentary “notes on fashion, cities..” This sense that we become “more ourselves” when we wear a certain garment. Now let’s take this out to cities. What clothing does your city wear? If she were a person, how would you dress her?
Just take your camera down any street and you will get some clues by how people actually dress. Is it colorful? What are the textures of the fabric of your city? Is her expression based mainly on reacting to a wound, or is she truly expressing from her real self? Important question to ask in cities in eastern europe for instance which are still fearful of true self expression.
When I travel, i often try to dress as the city i am visiting just to start to get a feel of who it is. I ask myself, how would God garment this city. How does He see it? How would this city express itself, if it were uninterrupted by the history of sin and its effects? What would be a pure heavenly expression of this city? Often we only get glimpses of this in prayer, when praying for a person or city; but i like to “try on” the true image of that place. Basically asking what will this city look like when Jesus is in charge again!
It is good in our personal lives as well, to imagine ourselves as God sees us, and try allowing Him to move us towards incarnating that image. Symbol preceeds fuller incarnation–the principle of, the priest go first! Like the Levites who had to cross over the Jordan before the people could enter, so the symbolic activity comes before the fuller incarnational expression. So when we dress as our true selves, we start to move towards true identity. In short, our true image guides us to a fuller expression of our true self. This is the prophetic use of clothing, or the symbolic in general, as a healing (or making more whole) agent.
We learn about inner life of someone, by reading their outer expressions. We learn about a city through her architecture, design, culture. We read her through her outer expression. Airports, train stations are gateways into her symbolic life-entry points. They symbolize a microcosm of the whole city, drawing us inwards to know the heart of a city. This is why culture is important, it flows out of, and invites us into the very heart of a city’s identity. If culture dries up, or becomes detached from true identity, you get what I call a “dead symbol”.
Dead symbols either become idols-where people worship the detached part of self in hopes of reattaching it, or they become symbols of disintegration. These symbols need to be reclaimed and re-baptized into true identity through Jesus Christ. This is largely the work of prayer for cities. We are praying cities into wholeness. That is the priestly function of His Church–to help reintegrate detached parts of self into the whole expression that each city is meant to be in Him.
Some cities are more veiled than others. For example, Krakow in Poland has layers of mystery guarding her heart. That is part of her identity-to be somewhat mysterious-a place of miracles and spiritual occurrences. Jerusalem is both exposed and hidden. Other cities like Berlin are flat, grand, and we must know the full circumference or width of its expression to sense the true contours of its identity. Then, there are river cities like Prague, also shrouded in veils of mystery, but drawing us inwards toward them. My point here is that when we start to read cities through their symbolic clothing, we begin treating them more as people-with love respect and wonder at the aspects of God which they are called to uniquely express on earth.
(So, what is your city wearing today?)
I like to throw parties! One party I always wanted to throw was a true image party, where everyone comes wearing what they think they will look like in heaven, or what they already look like in God’s Eyes! That to me would be a true banquet, and a very fun party of authentic expression! That party would be a rehearsal for the great banquet of The Lamb–each person, city and nation coming to celebrate Him as their true self and in their true self expression! Now that will be a party!