I guess it’s because I’m old or maybe just because I haven’t landed anywhere in the church, but lately I’ve been taking stock, reviewing history, wondering how I got here.
And by here, I mean nowhere, sadly. I’m disconnected and adrift. I can’t seem to find my people.
I spent years in a church that was a bad fit. All the signs were there, in neon, yet I allowed myself to be convinced that I was the problem. I was too brash, too confrontational, divisive. Time and time again, I retreated and allowed myself to be silenced in efforts to be a “good girl” or a mature christian woman. The message was clear: Follow the status quo, don’t ask questions, don’t show so much weakness.
I could never strike the balance. I watched other people share just enough vulnerability to appear humble, but still maintain a veneer of control and success. I envied them. They were esteemed as mature. My mask never stayed in place. I was all in, real, raw. My heart was on my sleeve. I asked a lot of questions. I secretly thought of myself whenever I watched the classic The Sound of Music and heard the nuns sing Maria. I always felt like I was a problem to be solved.
I felt tolerated, but never understood.
Being misunderstood is my kryptonite. My feelings were obliterated a lot. Always, the situation was spun in such a way that I was convinced to apologize, in the name of “reconciliation.”
Looking back, I realize that I did a lot of things incorrectly, but sometimes, often even, I was standing up for justice. I was working to right a wrong. I wish now that I hadn’t backed down so often. Mostly, I wish I would’ve walked away long before I finally did.
It’s a strange twist in church when pretense is the norm. Much of my Christian life has been spent rueing the fact that I seem unable to project a false self. You can’t polish a turd, as the saying goes, but I get confused and at times even seem to think playing a better game of pretend is the goal.
Maybe because I’m forty-five and sleep-deprived and have a greatly diminished filter, but I’m over even pretending to pretend. I don’t have my shit together and I’m literally wearing the t-shirt to prove it. And while my kids are scandalized that I wear this in public, I have the audacity to think it is a greater witness for the cause of Christ than all the sanctimonious memes I see spread around on Facebook. (Like this one:
While Christ absolutely died for you, I promise, no one is saying you take the Jesus thing too seriously. The fact that you think they are is highly arrogant and slightly narcissistic.)
What were we talking about? Oh, yeah. My t-shirt. People need to know they can come just as they are. They are accepted. No pretense here. You be you. I’ll be me. Lacking, off-kilter, loud, overwhelmed, forgetful, tired…me. And when we finally drop the masks, real relationship happens.
In His day, Jesus hung around with sinners and they clearly liked Him. He put them at ease. Church folks didn’t like that too much and complained. He responded, “I’ve come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.” (Matthew 9:13 NLT)
I remember as a young mom admitting to an older, somewhat pious, woman at church that I didn’t care for Jesus much when I read His words in the Bible. I liked the rest of the Bible, but, Jesus made me uncomfortable. (See? No mask.) I don’t remember what she said, but her shocked look with veiled disdain spoke volumes. Clearly, this was not something to be spoken of out loud. (Shut up and drink the kool-aid, Tara.)
But, no wonder He made me uncomfortable. I was trying so hard to be already good enough. I thought that’s what I was supposed to be, already good enough. None of us are. The playing field is level. “No one is good — not even one.” (Romans 3:10b NLT) And when I realize that, when I can acknowledge that with a humble heart, Jesus doesn’t make me uncomfortable. He welcomes me.
None of us, no matter how long we’ve followed Jesus, has our shit together. If we pretend otherwise, we’re simply polished turds. We are righteous in Him, to be sure, but we’re not good.
I will forever be grateful that there is grace for that.