The more that I determine to identify myself as a Christian, the more I realize I desire to hide my true self within the recesses of my being. It’s almost as if being a Christian means that one must be perfect and fit within the ‘checklist’ of qualities and traits assigned to such a title or otherwise, run the risk of being labeled a hypocrite.
- Be happy always
- Put together and composed
- Never argue
- Remain exceedingly patient in all circumstances
- Refrain from bad language
- Well-Planned in present and in future events
- Typically boring and only talk about Jesus (many will roll their eyes but as a 24 year old ex-partier, this was and is a widely held belief by mainstream society)
- Etc, etc.
Basically, this short form of robotic perfection has forced me, at times, to fakely represent myself to others and only perpetuate the cycle of lacking true friendships and therefore, true love. For any of you that have watched any openly Christian film and suffered through the painful acting and dialogue that painted the image of every saved individual as a cheesy, perma-smile, fashion-less, perfectionist, I am here to sincerely apologize because that representation could not be farther from the truth and I ask you to begin to rewire your thinking about the nature of your Christian brothers and sisters.
Christians look a lot like sinners.
In reality, each of us suffer in our weaknesses and from selfishness, daily we fight our natural desire to be the best while -even sometimes- undermining those in competition with us to the top, have broken or problematic marriages, children whose choices we may not be proud of, and addictions that take hold of our minds and attempt to weasel their way into countless moments of our day. Pope Francis, in his encyclical The Joy of the Gospel, states,
88. The Christian ideal will always be a summons to overcome suspicion, habitual mistrust, fear of losing our privacy, all the defensive attitudes which today’s world imposes on us. Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends, renouncing the realism of the social aspect of the Gospel. For just as some want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by.. screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction.
How true is this for us today? When the majority of our time is spent behind the screen in our workplaces, in our homes during ‘family time’, on dates or at dinner with friends, and every second in between, it is no wonder we are all terrified of being truly seen. We are afraid of speaking words in the moment instead of systematically calculating the perfect response before hitting send. We are uncomfortable turning off music or the television and sitting without background noise while alone or even in groups. Our busyness and pseudo-world is much safer than risking a rejection from those surrounding us. The giant lie that we all seem to believe is that if we were known, with all of our baggage, mistakes, and darkness, we could not possibly be loved. But Jesus says, “My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.”
So we must learn to love one another, where ever they are in the journey of their lives, and allow ourselves, and our weaknesses, to be seen. We must take the risk, turn our phones and devices off, and let our guard down so that we may acknowledge our universal brokenness and need for love. As a flower opens with the dawn of a new day, so must we in each and every relationship Christ lays before us. With the Light we may truly be seen and truly loved.
Christians, take up your cross, take off your mask, and allow yourself to be known. When your prayers have been said and the graces been given, sit among those that need you to listen. Do not merely dismiss their fears and anxieties that plague their hearts but, truly allow them to reveal where they need healing and peace. It is through the deepening of our relationships with them that you can introduce them to the Hope that has a name, Jesus Christ. It is because He lives that we have a joy amidst our suffering that otherwise, just would not make sense. We should be able to say with St. John Paul II, “Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure”, and mean it with all our soul.