That’s not to say I’m perfect. In fact, it’s the foremost expression that I’m not. And anyone who knows me (most notably my wife, who knows more of the real me than any person ever has) can vouch for that.
Our pastor recently preached on the subject of authenticity; taking off the mask; living life authentically, warts, struggles and all, in the context of the church fellowship. It’s so common it’s funny, or would be, if it wasn’t so true.
You’re late getting out of the house to go to church Saturday night because you have to frantically microwave something for the kids to eat in the car because they’re suddenly starving when you’ve been nagging them to eat something since 2 o’clock. Or Sunday morning, they’re not dressed despite the fact you started trying to get them out of bed an hour and a half ago.
“Honey, where’s my belt?”
“Right where you left it, darling.”
“Have you seen my red shoes?”
“Which red shoes? You have four pair.”
“I do not, I have one pair. The others are crimson, rose, and blush.”
“Has anyone walked the dog?”
“No, you cannot take that frog to church! No, he doesn’t need to hear the Gospel, frog’s don’t go to heaven. Yes, I know I told you Fluffy is there, just put the frog back in the flower bed.”
“Stop tailgating that car!”
“He’s doing 35 in a 45!”
Pulling into the parking lot, you have to wait for a family of 14 to walk down the middle of the traffic lane, and park a mile away. You’re secretly convinced that there were only 4 cars in the parking lot thirty seconds ago, and that you wouldn’t be hiking in from the South 40 if (insert one or more family members here) hadn’t made you late. Thirty feet from the front door, you pass into The Neutral Zone; the place where you have to drop the scowl and put on your “church face” for the door greeter.
“Welcome to church, how are you?” extending a glad-hand. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/glad-hand
“Fine! Fine! How are you?”
“Great, thank you!” sun igniting a starburst from their Pepsodent smile.
Guess what? You’re not fine. And they’re probably not great, either. In fact, you may be literally dying inside.
(Clarification: I’m not talking about me, here. I’m a very happy newlywed, very much in love with my wife and totally into being a stepdad. I’m going for cliché, here, not exposé).
You never have enough hours in the day at work. You’re responsible for everything but have authority over nothing.
You have an offering check in your pocket, but you’re debating whether or not to drop it in the bucket. “If they deposit it before Tuesday…”
You glance sideways at your spouse, haunted by something he or she said during a “discussion” last night, or wondering if he/she is the one that’s haunted by something you wish you hadn’t said, wanting to apologize, but either feeling stubbornly justified or too ashamed to bring it up, hoping they’ll just forget about it.
You’re grateful that the music is still going, the lights are down, but hoping they’ve already passed the “greeting.”
But you feel like screaming.
Plastic Jesus“It's really easy to fake it. We put on emotional costumes and masks. We wear them to hide our true self. We masquerade by putting our best foot forward and letting people see only our best side.” – John Fehlen
Pastor John spoke about wanting church to be a place where we can be “real,” the fourth of our core values.
Now I am talking about me.
What if this is the real me?
What if I struggle with contradictory emotions?
What if I really do find it hard to express myself spontaneously?
What if I’m introverted & slow to speak, not because I’m disengaged or uncaring, but because I really can’t slow my brain down enough to form coherent sentences without great effort and a little time? What if I the first thing that pops into my head would be the exact wrong thing to say?
What if, when I ask an acquaintance or a stranger, “How are you?” I really don’t want an authentic answer? I want to hear, “Fine, how are you?” So I can say, “Fine,” and we can both move on?
What if I’m afraid to be me because I think you won’t accept me, because I wouldn’t, either?
What if this is just... who I am?
I know God accepts me. I know my wife accepts me. I know my kids accept me. I know I have many friends who accept me. But I sometimes don’t even want to ask myself “How are you?” Because I just want to say “fine” and move on, and I know I can’t.
”You may find that the first person you must be the most critical with, as being the greatest fraud you have ever known, is yourself.” – J. I. Packer, Knowing God