Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 - Authenticity Happens

Growing up I went to church twice every Sunday and called myself a Christian--so did everyone else I knew.  I grew up with a host of verbal or nonverbal maxims and rules that were routinely communicated or implied...
  • Don't express those nasty things like anger or jealousy or self-doubt or meanness or unkindness.  Ever.  Ever.  Those nasties are always bad, bad, bad.  Always.
  • There are Biblical rights and wrongs.  When you do something wrong, think something wrong, say something wrong--cover it up, pretend it doesn't exist.
  • Gossip is a sin/wrong, but expressing "concern" about someone's bad behavior or turning hearsay into a prayer request is a great way to get around the whole gossip deal.  Plus, gossip is part of life and much less a big deal than the BIG sins. 
  • All Christians need to look and act much the same way since they're all supposed to live according to the words in the Bible and how we church-goers/Christians interpret them.
  • If you ever blurt out something sassy or impertinent, make sure you take it back and apologize 'cause it's wrong to say sassy stuff or question authority.
  • Never use bad words in public.  Public includes extended family 'cause it's not Christian to cuss or swear.  Ever. 
  • If you think a bad word you better feel really really really sorry about it 'cause it's wrong and bad and ugly.
  • Women should be submissive.  Submissive = kind/nice/sweet.  Women are not supposed to be bossy or sassy or loud.
  • Committing really bad sins (sex outside marriage, divorce, drugs, drunkenness, stealing, telling BIG lies, etc...) automatically places you on a path to hell even if you hear lots of sermons on how you get to heaven by faith and grace alone.  (You find this out by listening to plenty of church-going people around you talk about those who are committing one of these big sins...)
Now before you start judging my extended family and putting all Christians into the same judge-y box, let me tell you why I'm writing this post today, January 11.  Not because I need to vent about my family of origin.  Not because I want to feed the anti-Christian fodder or add to all the Christian stereotypes that perpetually get thrown around.  Not, not, not...  NOPE.

The maxims/rules I have believed  for 52 years are the tapes replaying in my head because my little-girl self watched and listened and learned and interpreted my growing-up world through my own filters.  And my first-born daughter filters were all about nice and perfectionism and pleasing people.  When I heard angry, judgmental, unkind words at home that didn't get spoken outside our walls, I decided that either we were the only Christian family who had problems or that I needed to work harder to make our family happy and sweet and kind like Christians should be.  When I received a disapproving look I determined to be a kinder/nicer person so that I wouldn't be the one judged or yelled at or whispered about or wounded.  When I thought a feisty thought or spoke sassy words I judged myself to be out-of-line with where I needed to be.  When I overheard telephone gossip or whispers or judgmental statements I developed a rigid definition of what Christians were supposed to be and not be.  And I wanted to match my own definition.  And I think I connected growing in faith to growing in niceness and nice-ability and being what I had defined a Christian to be.

If I'm being honest I spent way too many earlier years making sure to say the right things, the nice things--what I thought were the loving things.  I've put a lot of my internal sassy/saucy thoughts through my nice filter and let them come out sugar-coated in what I hoped were loving Christian words.

In my younger years I thought the Christian journey was a climb up Mount Nicer-and-Kinder-Than-Yesterday. 

But then life happened.  College happened.  Marriage happened.  Feisty girl-friends happened.  My parents' divorce happened.  Counseling happened.  Raising five completely different personalities happened.  Losses happened.  Shit happened.  (See, it's still hard to put honest words out there.  Be patient with me.)

As my adult life has unfolded I've realized that on the inside I'm a strong and feisty and opinionated and bossy and sassy and loud woman sometimes.  I've questioned God, doubted God, screamed at God.  I've tasted bitterness, pride, envy, deceit, anger, and cruelty.  I've thought and spoken words I never thought I'd think or say.  I've done things I never thought I'd do.  So have the church-goers around me. 

I've learned that it's possible to experience truth without love, but it's impossible to experience love without telling the truth.

I agree with Abilene (LOVE the movie The Help!); everyone of us needs to hear her message over and over again:  You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important.  But I'm also admitting that I don't always think and say kind words.  I don't always think and do the smart thing.  I don't always bring importance or value to each person's life.  Neither is anyone else always kind, smart, or important (by adding value to another's life) 24/7, including all those who self-identify as Christians.  I'm learning to admit that all human beings sometimes think and say unkind things, behave foolishly, and become consumed with adding value to our own lives.

Now I think the journey to follow Christ is a climb up Mount Authentic Love. 

I believe each person's mission is to love well.  Undoubtedly we will not always love well.  We will mess it up.  After all, We're all just bozos on this bus.  As long as we admit that we're not always kind, we're not always, smart, and we're not always adding value to another's life, we'll keep on bumbling along and giving it our best shot--trying to love well as best we each know how with what we've each been given.

I'm not sorry that I grew up with the values I did or even the hypocrisy that I witnessed.  I've realized that we all drop life through the filters we do for the reasons that we do.  We're all just bozos on this bus.  Meanwhile, if we try to love as best we are able and give as best we are able and follow Christ as best we are able, we will step up a bit higher and extend a hand to our climbing partner.  Sometimes our honesty will drag someone a few steps backward, but that's ok.  Love needs truth in order to move forward.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! It is hard yet important to separate those images and expectations with Christ's character and the grace He gives us.


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