Have you ever considered the weird person that you keep buried inside you is far more important and necessary than the one you are pretending to be? The personality that you have cobbled together from the people around you is hurting everyone, not just you.
I have visited churches, from many denominations all over my area, and there are a few things in common that have become a running gag:
- All of the ladies look, talk and act the same. This is normal in most settings, but it doesn’t belong in the church.
- All of the guys look, talk and act the same. Again, this is relatively normal, but it doesn’t belong in the church.
- When the service is over, everyone races out the door with their head down.
- The elders and staff act like they are above the message that is coming from the pulpit. This freaks me out, but we’ll come back to it.
I guess, in some way, I need to re-hash The Breakfast Club. Who are you pretending to be? Which personality archetype are you modeling? Have you ever slipped on one of the other personalities to see how it fit?
Put your seat-belt on and let me give you a tiny look inside my head:
Think of driving on the highway. Then, you pull off on to surface streets and you “feel” like everyone is parked around you. While on the highway, your mind is focused in the present responsibility of driving – you are processing and retaining large amounts of driving related information. Then, when you pull on to the surface streets, your mind no longer needs to process that much driving data. Yet, you are still working at the increased rate. Hence, you get the (sometimes overwhelming) feeling that everyone is standing still or at least that everyone is driving too slowly.
One of my friends doesn’t like coffee. But, being his friend and a coffee lover, I thought I might try to change his mind with something more easily accessible: …mocha-latte? …cafe-mocha? Then, I remembered his super power. He is like Hammy from Over the Hedge. His mind is always amazingly focused in his immediate surroundings. He is capturing data at a rate that makes you feel like you are standing still – he is as focused as a driver doing 100mph on the highway. Now, if you can imagine his mind “lit-up” with caffeine, you can also imagine time would seem to stand still for him. Needless to say, I have given up the idea of encouraging him to drink coffee.
I have a super power, too. I have the discernment and manipulation skills of a professional grifter. With phenomenal cosmic power, I was also granted a kryptonite-like-Achilles’-heel: I see people as souls, not as marks, and my heart breaks for what I see inside them. I’d be rich beyond reason, if I had any ability to disconnect.
Most folks are in the business of grifting and we’re all willingly complicit. Usually, I measure the grift, and if my family stands to lose little, I let it go – to protect the dignity of the person running the scam. Then, I attempt to setup a grift for their soul (this is far more complicated than grifting for personal gain!).
Like I said, I visit churches in my area. I see things and talk to people. If all of the ladies look the same and they are all wearing the same facial expression, something is wrong. If all the guys have hair-care products (at 9 A.M. on a Sunday!) and a sly smile, something is dreadfully wrong. Statistically speaking, it is impossible for 100% of a room to be in divine ecstasy or divine peace. If nothing else, the human experience will convince you of this.
See, the one and only “social gaffe” as a follower of Jesus, is to devote over-whelming energy to avoiding a “social gaffe.” The harder you work at avoiding a social blunder the more transparent you become. Outside of the church, avoiding a social misstep is an art and a science that has a rhythm and tempo that can be honed and becomes more convincing as you get better at performing. The humor is that it works exactly opposite inside the church: the more skilled you are at social grace the less like a follower of Jesus you appear to be. That is not to say that true followers of Jesus are misfits and lack social ability. It does mean that the harder you work to pretend that you are not broken, the greater you incriminate yourself for being (at least) a liar – and this makes everything else suspect!
This is then punctuated with a lemming like exodus, complete with impatience, at the end of the service. If you spend a lot of time with someone you will be less able to convince them of the personality that you are wearing – the flaws become more obvious. Sadly, the one and only time this truly isn’t supposed to matter is when we are with our Church (the people, not the building).
But where does this come from? When you are at a church and you see the elders, musicians and staff disregard the sermon, you’d call that a clue (the one possible exception is at a church where the same sermon is delivered more than once and this behavior shows up later in the day). Gathering on Sunday is not a comedy routine (though maybe your pastor has a sense of humor, that is not a bad thing). It is a meeting in the presence of a Holy God. Apathy in this context is absurd. Pretending to care or pretending to be a Christian is stupid. You’re far better off sleeping-in than wasting time pretending. Before you lose your mind, ‘attending and being apathetic’ is far different than ‘attending and being skeptical.’ Any church that turns away a skeptic should have its doors nailed shut. Any church that encourages apathy should be razed to the ground.
A congregation takes its cue from the leaders in the church; they pattern their behavior after the leaders. If the senior pastor has hair-care products and a phony smile, so will everyone else. If the staff ignores the sermon, so will everyone else.
As soon as you believe you are above the Word being delivered from the pulpit, you have lost your mind. If it is not the Word (if it is heresy or dribble), that is a different story. Though, why you’d still be sitting there is beyond me (though I often ask myself, “Self, why are you still sitting here?”).
Be whoever you are on the inside – no matter how weird or broken! Use your super-powers with dignity (well…maybe dignity is optional). You were made the way you are for a reason (though you may not know the reason, yet). There are lost people out there who need to know you, the real you – that gift, from you to them, may be the means that Jesus uses to reach them and bring them home. Pretending to be someone you are not,no matter how palatable, only creates a rift between you and the people around you. That rift keeps you from becoming comfortable enough to love others, regardless of how they feel about you.
1 Corinthians 12 – For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.