So a while ago, after a short power outage in our town one morning, we were talking at Bible study that night, and the outage came up. A beautiful friend was remembering a time, many years ago, where the town power was out for almost a week. She was sharing that one of the only places in town that had power was the Pizza Place, through a generator, and of course the wood ovens were working. So the Pizza Place became the gathering place through the days. She was laughing, remembering not recognizing people in their "natural" states. No flat irons, no curlers, no blow dryers. We laughed about how much we use appliances to look "normal".
I wondered about this. Am I prettied up on the outside, made into what I think will be acceptable to the people around me, showing what I want seen? Is it a glossy front, leaving my insides hidden? If someone could see my heart, see my thoughts, would they match my face? Would they recognize me? Do my insides, my natural state, match my "Christianized" outsides?
Fast forward a few months, and the theme comes up again. It is all well and good to sound and look the part, but does it go past that? Is my faith about the Christian life, or about Christ? Is it about people thinking good things about me, or doing God's things for people?
Ach. A heart is a tricky thing to know. Faith is hard, because it is one of the easiest things to fake. People are easy to please. Man looks at the outward things... and we do. Does she look like a Christian? Really? What does that look like? Is there a dress code I missed? And yet, we take a look, and "can tell". Because the tatted up kid with purple hair... obviously a lost soul. The conservatively dressed young man with the standard boys' hair cut? Probably one of us. Does she sound like a Christian? Talk in code like "faith" and "hope" and "sister" and "fellowship" and "quiet time"? Never swear? If she is talking about someone else does she preface it with "I only say something because I am concerned about ... "? If you ask them how they are doing do they say "I'm blessed"?
God looks at the heart. I know I can focus so much on my outward, that I forget that God could care less. He doesn't care what I look like. He really doesn't care what I sound like. I think He is waiting for us to be real. With each other. With the world. If we could be real, about who we are, what we are, that we are just regular, can't find clean underwear, dog hates the neighbor, kids don't always brush their teeth people, who have an amazing God who loves us JUST THE WAY WE ARE... the world would change. So many times I feel like I have to clean up MY act to go to church, and I KNOW better - I know its cow pucky. How much more so my neighbor who I invited to come along must feel. My job isn't to be the bouncer for God's club... no dress code, no cover charge, no approved guest list. But do I live like that for myself? And if I can't really accept it for myself, do I really believe it for you?
Would anyone recognize the real me if all of the artifice were stripped away? I hope so. More and more, that is my plea. To be real. To say I'm not okay,but I hope it is going to be better soon. To share how things really are. To not candy coat my faith. To worry less about my hair, or (lack of) makeup or what my kid looks like sitting in church, if my income measures up, what the people around me think of me and give myself over to completely being present in church - in fellowship and worship. To share life with people who are real people - and even real lost people - and love them just like they are, because that is how God loves them. To have those snarky, less-than-charitable thoughts in my head quiet down and then disappear, so my thoughts more closely match my words. My hope, recently my most honest prayer, is that if someone could see my insides sitting at the Pizza Place without all of the usual beautification, they would walk over and sit down for a while, because they would know it is me.