I love Sundays. I work at the church in the morning and then take my sleepy, almost two-year-old son (who already thinks he’s two, thankyouverymuch) home for his nap. He still takes teenager-long naps, usually four hours, which gives me time to either keep working or tidy the house (ha) or enjoy a little quiet “me” time. And although our cool but perpetually gooey white tiled floor is begging for a sweep and a mop (after, of course, all the toys and clothes are removed) I am here, painfully aware of the time that has passed since I last blogged, feeling guilty and ashamed.
What better place to be raw and exposed than in front of my blog/the entire Internet?
Being authentic has been a sacred echo in my life lately. Because I work at a church, most of my interactions and friends have been born out of that building, and many of my friends in the church have explained to me that they struggle with being their full selves all the time. They have separated their personalities into little compartments — the “church” self against the “social” self, the “intellectual” self, the “vocational” self, etc. People feel like they can’t be the same person they are around their pastor that they are around their friends and I don’t like that.
I remember when I first moved here, I told someone what my favorite movie was, and they were shocked that I had the courage to admit that fact about myself in public because it’s “so inappropriate”. (It’s Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, by the way.)
A few weeks after that interaction, a dear friend of mine was upset at church. When I asked her what was wrong, she choked back her tears and said, “It doesn’t matter. I’m just going to hold it all in and pretend I’m okay like we’re supposed to do.” I basically blew up at her.
“NO!” I shouted. “You can’t do that! You have to be okay being upset right now, because when the time comes that I need to be upset, I need to know that this is a place where it is okay for me to be upset!” (For the record, we miscarried a month later and I let the whole world have it.)
It was in that moment that my eyes opened up to this idea of dividing ourselves into different people and the danger it poses to us as Christians because, by falsifying our testimonies we dilute our ministry.
I’m not entirely sure why but I’ve never been able to be more than one person. I literally can NOT be someone I’m not, despite the pressures put on me by other Christians. Like it or not, I’m all me all the time. I’m a Christian who also has the mouth of a sailor. I’m a Christian who gets angry and frustrated. I’m a Christian who (thankfully!) has friends who aren’t Christians. I’m a Christian who, by the grace of God alone battled (and overcame!) an eating disorder. I’m a Christian who likes admittedly bad Jim Carrey movies. I’m a Christian and there are dark parts of me that are dirty and messy and need to be washed clean every freaking day. And I’m sure I’m not alone, but so many people are afraid to admit it.
Why does this happen? Why do we Christians (or people in general, honestly) feel so much pressure to be perfect all the time? Why does the world end if we are seen with a beer, or seen walking out of a counselor’s office, or seen angry at the world for a minute because — gasp! — life sucks sometimes?
In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Maybe I’m reading the wrong translation, but that doesn’t look like Jesus said, “You know what? Make sure you’re burden-free before you come to me. Make sure you’re smiling 24/7. Only come to me when you are in the best mood ever with no desperation or fault. Check your baggage at the door before you come chill with me.” So where do we get this crap from?
How can we fully expect to lead other people to Christ when we put on this unrelatable show of perfection? How can we expect anyone to buy into our faith when they can’t even buy into our own bullshit?
Let me be real. In about two weeks, we’ll celebrate our one-year anniversary of leaving the brown baby hills and crunchy sorta-dead grass of Tallahassee to live/do ministry/perpetually sweat in the ever-paradisical Naples. Moving here completely wrecked me. Much like ripping the bandage off of an infected wound, the pain was big and fierce. I feel like if I had felt comfortable enough to be authentic about my pain, I might have healed more quickly. But that took a long while.
But the good news is that healing has definitely happened. Scars remain, but the blood flow has ceased as I’ve done my best to bring people into my realm of authenticity. And I am grateful for the little changes I’m seeing: the tears shed on my own shoulder, the angry text messages, and the willingness to accept grace and love amidst it all. And just like that, both feet are inside the door. I am here, planted, ready to continue this life in this place with these people. My shoes no longer straddle the metaphorical threshold, the outside foot ready to bolt and drag the rest of me with it at the first chance. We are here. We are living. We are doing authentic life together and each day it becomes more beautiful.
That’s what Jesus came for, guys. In Luke 5:31-32 he says, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”