Sunday, June 21, 2009

To Be or Not To Be

"I hate all your show and pretense - the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living." Amos 5:21-24

WHOA...does it feel like I'm getting my wrist slapped or what?

The Sunday Christian living between two and walk. One I learned early the other is still on shaky ground. The writing is easy, the living is hard. Words flow. Life fails. The desire to do comes face to face with the longing to be. The cards are dealt. Emotions often play the trump card.

How easy it is to convince myself that playing the game is right and best. It certainly is easier...being all things to all people...dressing the part and doing the expected. Giving in. Pretending to follow suit even when all the cards in my hand wear a different design. Not wrong, just contrary.

The famous words of Shakespeare resound in my ear:
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts..."

It takes courage to resist the expected script and improvise. It takes great strength to be real. The cast of players that fill church pews often all play the same role. Dressed to impress in perfection's finest, the masquerade parades through practiced, pious scenes, well rehearsed and well delivered. Masks hide heartache, unforgiveness and pain. Cast in a role as a child star, I've played my part well.

Hypocrisy has it's own shade of insincerity. Lacking real conviction, like a chameleon, moods and environments blend colours easily. How foolish. How draining. Keeping up appearances is exhausting. Transparency, on the other hand, allows God Himself to shine through.

I may not always be a delightful bright. God paints treasures in darkness. A variety of shades and hues have been hidden. I may not be the family 'pink', but I can let my colour speak of individuality in who God created me to be.

Outwardly my life, like those described above, may appear like everyone else, while inwardly a battle rages. Visibly I look the part, but my attire conceals a hurting, searching heart that is unresponsive and wasting away.

This religious apparel comes in many shades, shapes and sizes. It's a hypocritical covering that needs to be addressed and undressed. It's so easy for others to assume my spiritual depth, and therefore have my heart go unnoticed, when I carry the right Bible, lead two Women's Bible studies, hold a diploma from a Bible school, write a daily devotional and speak at different Ladies events.

For me, writing has been my colour of camouflage choice and my place of safety. Growing up in a Christian home, I learned very early the 'right' answers and had no problem articulating the expected words and responses, but they often came from an empty heart. My ritual religiosity kept me from searching the depth of my being to discover the girl inside. Tired of the war within, the Lord has been encouraging me to expose and discover the Joy within, and the finding is priceless. God is awaking this atrophied adventurer from her comfort-fit Christianity and calling me to be all He created me to be. New colours and shades are going to be part of my wardrobe as He dresses me in all He has planned for me.

Do you know what still breaks my heart though? Hearing wonderful Christ-following friends of mine say that they could never walk into certain churches again or feel comfortable visiting because of the performance and exclusiveness found there. I know we could find fault with the generalization of such a statement, but how my heart aches that the overall reaction has not been acceptance and love. To feel like an outcast among fellow believers is so unbearably sad.

God is calling for a flood of justice and a mighty river of righteous living. He desires we empty ourselves of the deluge of performance and receive the downpour of authenticity. Without this purging He doesn't even accept, notice or hear our worship.

I wish I could find the following song on You Tube, the melody is captivating, but I've had to settle for the lyrics alone. Read them slowly. Let Him speak into your heart. May my life not obscure the view of any seeking heart. It's time to throw off costumes and masks and walk in freedom.

He was a friend to sinners
He was a gentle man
Beautiful, humble master plan
His voice could pierce the darkness
Quiet an angry sea
I hear Him saying follow me
I look in your eyes and I tell you these things
But somehow I know that it’s hard to believe

Could you believe if I really was like Him
If I lived all the words that I said
If for a change I would kneel down before you
And serve you instead
Could you believe

He was the Lamb of mercy
Undying hope of men
Waiting for love to come again
He is the light of heaven
Radiant Prince of peace
I Hear him saying, “Follow Me”
I look in your eyes and I tell you these things
But somehow I know that it’s hard to believe

Could you believe if I carried my own cross
If I saw that the children were fed
If for a moment I held my opinion
And quietly led Could you believe

I am meant to be a pure reflection of the truth
So above it all I pray that I will not obscure the view

Could you believe if I stood here transparent
And through me you could see his eyes
Could you believe if you saw right inside me
and there was no disguise
Could you believe if I was really like him
If I lived all the words that I said
If it was clear that I held in my heart
What I know in my head
Could you believe, could you believe
Looking at me, could you believe
Could you believe?

I just have to add that our church was devoid of pretense this morning. We hosted a Father's Day Barbecue and Car Show. We served a free lunch to well over a thousand people. Through some eyes today our congregation could have looked quite "wordly". The band's music could have been frowned upon. The casual dress could have been criticized. One man who had received an invitation to this event questioned, "Are you allowed to do that? I didn't think you Christians had this much fun." Have we turned heaven into a prison of rules? The Lord says, "I hate all your show and pretense..." Our guest speaker, NASCAR driver Randy MacDonald, shared his testimony with passion through tears. It's obvious God is Lord of his life as we didn't have to look through layers of deception to see Jesus.

Who wants to join me in stripping off all false disguise and simply being? Let's not make it so difficult for others to see Christ through our layer's of costuming.

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Kathy S. said...

Lots to ponder here! You expressed this so beautifully. I need to re read it...

You are very gifted, Joy.

Heather said...

Thanks Joy for this word. It comes at the right time as I am struggling with how to write my testimony talk for She Speaks... how transparent. How much is too much, how do I glorify God through it all.

I want God to be seen, not me. I want to be transparent, so that His work in me is what is highlighted. To serve and not be served.

I served last week at VBS. Poured myself out. I have come into this week, sick, exhausted, but relieved in a way. Not because it is done, but because I know that I did well. I left all I had out on the field.

Thank you for the reminder to stop the stained glass masquerade. I wish I had the back ground tape for that so that I could use it for church this Sunday as special music... as I am on this week. Maybe it will have to be one in August.

thank you again for this post and for sharing your heart with us.
Love you