I'll never forget the moment. I was at a Steve Camp concert. I was surrounded by loads of fellow believers. And I was having a terrible, no good, awful, very bad day. In fact, I had gone to the concert alone hoping to fade into the crowd and just experience a little of the body of Christ without anyone knowing me. But it wasn't working and I was sitting there in tears before the concert even started.
I looked up and wouldn't you know it, the person sitting in front of me was someone from my Christian Fellowship at University. I did not want to see anyone I knew--I was just too vulnerable on this particular night. But he is an extrovert and he was speaking to everyone around him and he turned around and noticed me. "Hey," he said, "how are you doing?" Huge goofy smile facing my tear streaked face. I did not have it in me to pretend. So I answered, "You really don't care." (yes, I know it was a snarky comment, but you had to know they guy). "Great!" he responded, "glad to hear it!" He turned to sit down. WHAT??!! I could have easily decided at that moment to never be vulnerable within the body of Christ again, to be certain that tears were never seen because words and actions were not even heard. Obviously, he really didn't care and whether I knew it or not, I needed him to care. As I sat there in rather stunned silence, an arm on a body I had never seen before in my life, and would never see again after that night, reached out and hugged me. No words, no platitudes, just a hug. It was a quiet affirmation that Someone cares.
It's been twenty years since that night. And I sit here writing this feeling the same forlornness that I felt that night and remembering the same lessons that I learned.
Vulnerable people take a risk when they show the depths of their heart. That should be held in honor. So when you ask someone heart questions be ready for the honest answer and hold it honor.
That night was the beginning of becoming aware of how many vulnerable people there are all around us. I began to learn, and continue to learn, that if you ask the quiet penetrating question and then waitfor the answer, people open up. I found that the more vulnerable I became the more "real" others became as well.
"So with a painted grin, I play the part again,
So everyone will see me the way that I see them...
Are we happy, plastic people
Under shiny, plastic steeples,
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain,
But if the invitations open,
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain,
On our stained glass masquerade..."
from the song Stained Glass Masquerade
It's not always possible to live lives totally open. Sometimes those masquerades that we create are for protection of others as much as protection for ourselves. But a masquerade should always be temporary, not permanent. The purpose of the mask should be fleeting. The problem is that so many of us in the church have gotten comfortable with our masks and (worse) with the masks others wear. Masks are less complicated. Openness and vulnerability are messy. God seeks to meet us in the messiness.
Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew's house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?"
Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."
~Matthew 9:11-13 (The Message)~
Jesus has made a way for all of us vulnerable and broken people to come to the throne of grace. He has shattered our need to dance the masquerade. He did not invite us to a masquerade ball but to a wedding feast. He's even provided the attire we need to wear!(Isaiah 61:10, Matthew 22:1-13) So, why do so many of us get up on any given day to go to a corporate worship time and before we leave the house put on our mask that says "I'm well, nothing wrong with me." If that is true, then we don't need a Saviour and there is no reason to go to church. We all need a Saviour. We are all unhealthy and broken. We all need healing.
One of the roles of the church is to be the avenue of healing. We are to pick up our fallen brothers and sisters.
But how can our brothers and sisters pick us up if we are propped up with masks pretending that we have not fallen? How can we assist them if they look to be standing? In order for us to properly be the church as God has established us, we need to show our needs and we must notice the needs of others. Until then, we will be attending a masquerade ball and not a wedding feast.
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Father God, help me to watch with eyes that are blessed by you for those who are hurting around me. Help me to ask the questions that allow someone to share their vulnerability. Help me take the time to be present and to listen to their answers--not just their words but their demeanor. Give me the courage to live a life vulnerable, to allow others to see that I am a broken vessel put back together miraculously through the blood of Jesus. I want to let go of the mask. I don't want to be stuck in a masquerade ball trying to determine what is real and what is false. I want to come to the wedding table and be clothed in robes of righteousness. Help me to live a life that reflects you for your glory alone. Amen.
Loni is hosting In Other Words this week. Come and see what others are writing about the Casting Crown lyrics.