I’ve been struggling lately, as usual.
I am always amazed when I meet new friends who are Christians, and their first responses to me are always (I mean, always) things like “Wow, your honesty is so refreshing!” or “Goodness, you tell it like it is, don’t you?” It is clear that what they are saying is not intended to be a compliment; they do not like that “side” of me (if there is such thing – I am pretty much exactly the same person no matter who I am around). This is something that I do not understand, and I would like to take a moment to ponder it.
When, as Christians, were we ever called to pretend like everything is perfect when it isn’t? When were we ever called to “fellowship” over just how sinful the rest of the world is while we relish in the glory of our salvation? When we were called to point out exactly what is wrong with everyone else? We weren’t, folks, and it isn’t doing us any favors to act like that’s what life is about.
For my entire life, whenever I have moved (which has been many, many times) and I have met new friends, guess who has never given me the time of day? Christians. Christians are the one group of people who I should absolutely always fit in with perfectly, because we believe in the same God and our priorities are similar and we understand what things could be like after life is over. We are brothers and sisters, all saved by the same dude. We are people who have admitted our brokenness before God and asked Him to rescue us. And when we’ve fallen again and again since that point, He has rescued us again and again. Why don’t I have anything in common with these people when what we have in common is the only thing on earth that matters?
This fact, that I have basically nothing in common with any other Christian people even though we technically have everything in common, is a Christian disease I like to call “The Fakies.” We are rescued by God for our entire lives, yet we somehow forget that He is currently mending us and rescuing us again. We are fake because we are afraid of others seeing our brokenness.
And the big one: why is it that the people who accept me in my broken imperfection, and have been my undying, lifelong friends, who care about me the most and comment on my Facebook posts the most (read: give me validation) and love me unconditionally are so often those who do not believe the same basic things that I believe? These people and I disagree on the absolute most fundamental meanings of life, and yet they are always there for me, supporting me, and they genuinely like me, while so many who have literally been commanded by God to be my family are the ones who turn their backs on my friendship? This makes no sense to me. Why would I choose to spend time with people who dislike my basic personality just because our faith is common when I could choose to spend time with people who genuinely like me and don’t “mind” what my “religion” is?
No wonder, when I have finally found a church who openly professes to be waging a war on shallow Christianity, I am still so very cautious about who I am in front of those people. I make sure I say just the right words, and my prayers are just right, and I don’t speak about “inappropriate” topics, and I keep my mouth shut when (in my opinion) things need to be said, and I basically turn myself into an uninteresting blob of non-specific and neutral personality traits. I don’t make friends that way. But it doesn’t matter, because when I try to be myself – my broken, needs-fixing, constantly falling, thankful-for-grace self – I am given these looks of “geez, she’s difficult to be around.” I am having a nearly impossible time making friends there because I can’t figure out who I am supposed to be in order to get them to “like” me. I’m so afraid that they’ll dislike me, like so many have before, that I can’t bring myself to do anything that might sway them one way or the other, which is resulting in, as mentioned earlier, an uninteresting blob of non-specific personality traits that no one wants to befriend.
I’m am in the latter half of my 20s. I have one college degree and am working on my second one. I’m about to be a mom. I am a grown-up in just about every way. Should this really still be a problem? Caring about whether or not people like me? Seriously?
I ache for open, honest closeness with fellow Christians. I need to speak about my faith to people. I need to fellowship and admit my mistakes. I need help learning forgiveness and unconditional love and forgiveness and forgiveness and forgiveness!! I need people who will not turn their backs on me when they realize that I am not perfect.
How many people have been totally turned off from church because Christians didn’t love them? Thank God that my salvation has meant enough to me that I still want to seek Him after the experiences I’ve had with other Christians. (It really has been that bad sometimes!)
So here it is: I don’t have “The Fakies.” I refuse to suffer from an unnecessary disease because of my faith. I refuse to be a Christian leader who pretends she is perfect. So here’s the kind of friend I am:
I will never pretend like things are fine when they are not. It doesn’t solve anything.
I will never understand why Christ saved me. I will never understand how He could love me that much. I will always do the absolute best I can to love you the same way He loves me. This is not because you deserve to be loved. Whether or not you deserve it is not a factor. I will love you because He loves you, and I don’t need a better reason than that.
I will not be the person who “loves” you but doesn’t “like” you. That is a ridiculous excuse to behave poorly to someone and completely invalid. It is not a real thing. When you love someone, you also like them. I may not approve of your decisions, but I still love you, and I still like you.
I will pray for you. I will listen for hours to how much your life sucks even if it looks to me like your life is the one I’ve always dreamed of having.
I will never say anything about you to someone else that I wouldn’t tell you. I won’t point out your weaknesses to other people. I won’t constantly bring up the times you’ve hurt my feelings.
And I do not expect you to return these behaviors to me, because that’s what unconditional love is. It is without condition.
I will not be perfect in these promises. I will mess up a lot, because I am sinful. I will be humble. When I am wrong, I will admit it, and I will genuinely take responsibility for my actions. I will ask for your forgiveness.
This impossible way of loving people is what Christ has commanded us to do for our Christian brothers and sisters. We are to be real to each other. I will always be real to you. His grace is the reason we can ever love unconditionally!
II Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.