June 16, 2011
Ryan Duncan, TheFish.com Editor
I was not a very popular kid growing up. For starters, I was a bookworm. I read anything I could get my hands on. I was one of those kids who enjoyed doing book reports and actually looked forward to their summer reading list. Not something that wins you many friends at school. Secondly, I wasn’t very athletic. I was slow, uncoordinated, not very aggressive, and had a tendency to catch footballs with my face instead of my hands. On top of everything, I was shy and never took any risks. I mostly just stuck to the background, watching other guys break the rules and do something wild or crazy that earned them respect and admiration.
It always made me jealous -- watching them. There was one guy in particular (I’ll call him Jake) who I really envied. Jake was a part of the Church youth group and was incredibly popular. He was athletic, charming, good looking and basically everything I wasn’t. Mostly I just tried to ignore him, but occasionally I’d see him surrounded by a group of friends and wonder why he got to be so cool while I was, well, me.
Then, during my sophomore year of high school, our youth group took a retreat to a nearby ski camp. That evening, our pastor gave a lesson about the qualities of a father and how they were present in God, our heavenly father. He was about midway through the sermon when Jake broke down and started to sob. In-between choked tears he told everyone how his own father was an alcoholic and how the two of them fought constantly. Anger and stress had caused him to experiment in a dark lifestyle, and in the end, he’s started drinking himself. I sat there, shocked as the guy I had always envied poured out sorrows I couldn’t begin to imagine. The worst part though, was when Jake admitted that the reason he’d kept it all a secret was because he didn’t wanted to look weak.
Appearances mean everything these days. We all fear the shame that comes when we admit something’s wrong, that we’ve made mistakes and can’t fix things on our own. Sadly, this is pretty common in the Church too. We constantly try to project an image of believers who are happy, strong, and sure in our faith when in reality many of us struggle with personal demons. But the Church was never meant to be a showcase. Instead, its purpose is on par with AA meetings, a place where there are no lies, no excuses, and no illusions. We, the Church, are meant to be a place where we can show our scars and find peace in Christ and in others. Like Brennan Manning says in The Ragamuffin Gospel,
“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”
Integrating Faith and Life
Stop trying to impress those around you and try to live your life with transparency.