Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Can we just be real?

By Tim A. Michael

I’m an advocate for the authentic. I hate plastic or polyester. Give me substance over symbolism every stinkin time. I hate “artificial sweeteners.” I once picked the wrong pie slice at Luby’s and literally thought I was going to cry. Synthetics suck – period. Even the best plastic surgeon on the planet is going to have a hard time convincing me those silicone augmented appendages (aka chin-rests) are attractive. I prefer boobs that have a little “bounce” to ‘em.

I’m pretty sure I’m on solid ground here from a spiritual sense. Matthew 6 is littered with censures against insincerity. Spiritual puffiness is simply hot air. I mean really – who disfigures themselves to bring attention to their “good deed” of sacrifice?

“Oh man – you look terrible!”

“I know. I’m suffering for the poor today – I’m fasting and praying.”

“Is that mascara you’re wearing under your eyes?”

“Uh…no. Dark circles. I’ve been up all night in prayer beseeching God for the poor.”

“You’re rich. Why don’t you just give them some money?”

“You know what they say about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish.”

“You have the biggest fishing business in all of Israel, give them a job.”

“Then they wouldn’t appreciate my prayers and righteousness, or God’s goodness.”

If there is one thing the church STILL struggles with, it’s self-righteousness. Just about any street preacher will tell you you’re going to hell without even knowing you. All the while screaming their judgment of the world, they fail to see their own sin of pride – you know – the one that got Lucifer thrown out of heaven.

Today’s spiritual climate requires the wisdom that can only come from the Holy Spirit Himself. Too many people are leaving the church because of the perception of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Frustration abounds.

I love the 8th Chapter of Romans, but especially this part:

V. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God

V 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed..

There is this unspoken tension in the world but we just can't seem to put our finger on it; it’s like a haze or morning fog; you can see it from a distance, but when you're in the middle of it, it just clouds your vision. It’s frustrating because you want the path clear and the journey without obstacles, yet we find our own earthen vessels to be our greatest obstacle of all.

V 20-21 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Planet earth wants to be liberated from planet “me” and planet “you.” It desires planet “us” where we all matter. There is not one single individual from the Adamic race that doesn’t know and fight rejection on a daily basis. Every – last – one – of – us. It is why infidelity is rampant, abuse in abundant supply, and the performance mentality so prevalent in the workplace and unfortunately in the church.

The antidote is authenticity. Just be real people. Be real about who you are, what makes you tick, and what you want in life. If you screw up – own it. In fact – advertise it sometimes. It can be a healthy thing to laugh at yourself and your humanity. People are more likely to engage with you about their own struggles when you do. THAT is ministry. THAT is LIFE. THAT is what the church is called to do – engage.

V 22 – 25 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Sons and daughters – Daddy wants us to get it right by being real, but we can’t be real with others if we can’t be real with ourselves. We must look in the mirror and surrender what we see there. I can assure you so much more freedom is found in carrying a cross than the burdens of your wounds. Some of these are self-inflicted – repeat offenders we are. Woof! "Oh – there’s a puddle of vomit that I can lap up, I believe I’ll have that for dinner in lieu of a feast with the King!" Why does that make sense to us? Crazy clay pots.

I have some wonderful friends from churches past and present, and that incredible social medium known as Facebook. I see petty arguments there and inspirational stories of life and love. The common thread of the Church of Facebook is that crying out of creation. We want acceptance not rejection. I’ve seen people “throw down” just to see if others will accept or reject them. I’ve seen still others wear their feelings on their sleeves and post some of the most personal things of which we all screamed in unison “TMI!” I’m conflicted at the cries for attention and yet I want to encourage authenticity.

I guess my encouragement to you all is this: Pray naked. (Do this in your prayer closet please!)

Strip away the pretense of the public façade and “be who you be.” God has gifted each and every one of you with talents, words of encouragement, wit, or even the quality of just being real. The people we often refer to as “salt of the earth” typically don’t care what others think about them (or their lifestyles) but they balance that with a genuine love for their fellowman. Ah – the cry from the Father’s heart – “My children – love each other.”

Functional families do this unconditionally. We don’t necessarily “accept” bad behavior, but we don’t reject the person displaying it. My friend Barry Garrett has a quote on his facebook page that says “God doesn’t define people by their worst moments…neither will I.” THAT, my friends, is the heart of the father and should be the pulse of the church. Thank God for His grace. I’m sure Barry has employed this principle toward me over the years, and no doubt some of you have as well, so thanks.

I trust that as you all look to 2012, God will challenge you too to be “real.”

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” He defined Himself as TRUTH. Authentic. REAL. The antonym of synthetic. The next time you crawl into bed and enjoy “the touch, the feel of cotton” sheets be inspired to touch another life with the organic substantive love of Christ without expectation that muddies water. Give them a drink of fresh water and breathe into them a breath of fresh air – we all need both to live.

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