I just reread the post I just posted and thought it might be fair enough to talk about this whole “being vulnerable with people” thing. It’s pretty significant for me lately.
For most of my adult life it hasn’t been too difficult to be real. I squirm when I hear people spouting trite phrases that I don’t believe they believe, so I want to help them by looking for the real words. Some places struggle with these. You know the ones? If you’ve spent time in church or in bars you know what I mean. Why would I put these two locations together in a sentence? Because I believe that these are two places where people are especially tempted to be fake. So while I haven’t been to many bars, I have been to church a lot and it’s there that I have honed the skill of choosing to be who I am in front of other people….
But what about later? What about when you become a Missionary? I give it a capital letter because there are so many stereotypes stretching out from that word that it should really all be in caps. For those who don’t care much for Jesus, a Missionary is a mythical and frightening creature who wears sensible shoes and uses words like “sinners” and “converts” with broccoli breath. For a Christian, the word can conjure up a slightly more angelic beast who only dreams in the King James and walks above the mire of worldly temptations, still in sensible shoes.
I recently ran into a guy I’d gone to high school with. He had a shaved head covered in tattoos and was speaking pretty highly of himself for having just gotten out of prison. We were sitting in a bar in downtown Seattle where a good friend of mine was performing and he sat down with a light in his eyes as he perhaps pondered how awed I would be by his bad boy status. When he asked me what I was up to, I considered which words would most accurately describe my “job” but settled for the honest and shocking (and yet still quite vague) title of “missionary.” The look on his face following this statement might have been the same if I had simply pulled off my face and revealed 9 rows of pointy teeth. While he choked on whatever he was drinking, he glanced over at the table in front of me and suddenly relaxed. Relieved, he pointed at my glass of beer and said, “Oh! You had my going for a second.”
It’s an unnecessary story, but funny to me nonetheless. How do you move forward with being “real” when you take on a calling which is so misunderstood by so many? Should I worry about what that bald ex con thought of me?
What about when I am put in a role as a spiritual leader to others? Do I still have problems? Who do I share them with?
A moment of truth came last week in the midst of feeling very lost in my own head. I’ve been wrestling with my calling to be here and although I do believe wrestling is important (because it can help us really know what we know when we look for holes and weak spots), it doesn’t feel great. And, in fact, last week it felt impossible. I didn’t know who to talk to about all of this.
Thankfully, I was already scheduled to meet with one of the people in charge of the ministry with which I am working. I was THIS close to cancelling the meeting, but through a series of events (which mostly involved my own lack of action) we were sitting across from each other. And she knew there was something wrong.
So. I spilled everything.
It was messy. A few times it was close to being tense. Several times I started explaining something and would forget the point part way through. But instead of seeking to be understood (which would have felt pretty good) I chose to just try to be real. The result was a lot of tears and the realization that not only was this woman really looking to show me love, but I wasn’t as crazy as I had started to fear. I was emotional and just needed a friend to talk to who would help me walk away from self-pity while at the same time standing with me.
Does that make sense?
That evening I had a similar conversation with God and his response to my confessions and confusion was basically, “I really know who you are… and I still called you.”
With that being the case, how could I not continue to be real? Even if it doesn’t make me look good to others, the One who knows me best loves me most. I couldn’t ask for more but I’m so grateful for other humans who also are willing to see me and love me.