One week ago, my son celebrated his 4th birthday. Yes, I’m still pinching myself a bit over the fact that my baby is 4 years old!
We had a birthday party and he wanted a round cake with orange and blue icing. I’m no cake-maker, but I was pleased with the way it turned out. Even though this cake isn’t perfect it looks pretty decent, right?
But all those layers, and all that icing were hiding something. My cake had a secret.
That bottom layer? It really looked like this:
That bottom layer was broken. It was in pieces.
And it reminded me of something important–we’re all hiding brokenness of some sort.
It is so easy to fall into the comparison trap. It’s easy to look at Suzy-Put-Together and think I wish I could be as perfect as her. But sometimes we forget that we only see what Suzy-Put-Together shows us. When we peruse facebook, when we read blogs, when we see someone at church…we’re seeing the highlights.
We’re seeing what they want us to see.
Before you start wishing you could be perfect like Suzy-Put-Together, remember there is probably a broken layer there somewhere. Because we are all broken people. We’re all sinners. Not one of us is perfect. But it can be easy to get down on ourselves when we’re constantly bombarded with images of perfection.
And it’s a vicious cycle. Because the more we hide, the more we feel like we need to hide. Until we’re left with only a shell of authentic fellowship. We’re left with people who can’t even repent, because that would mean admitting they’ve fallen short, that they’re weak, flawed, and imperfect. And we can’t do that. (<–Tweet this!)
We’re left with people who are scared, intimidated, and feel unworthy of both Christ’s salvation and His church, because they can’t measure up to the level of perfection that we’ve created.
We’re left with divorce, pornography, addiction, and all manner of sins and bondage within the church, because we aren’t allowed to talk about those things. We aren’t allowed to admit our brokenness.
Judgment and rejection are swift punishment for breaking the unwritten rule.
And so we have the “stained-glass masquerade” as Mark Hall from Casting Crowns so eloquently put it. (If you haven’t heard the song, you can listen to it here.)
Here is a snippet:
Is there anyone that fails? Is there anyone that falls?
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small?
Cause when I take a look around everybody seems so strong.
I know they’ll soon discover that I don’t belong
The words make me sad. I want to offer acceptance and comfort to this imaginary person, but I know she’s not so imaginary. She’s you and me.
So what do we do about it? How can we break the cycle?
1. Be open and authentic and vulnerable. I’m not talking about airing all our dirty laundry, but there is benefit for everyone when we open up and admit our mistakes. When we can admit our failures and work on them together in community, it’s a beautiful thing. And it’s an encouragement to others who are struggling as well. God’s word calls us in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 to walk with one another.
2. Be accepting. We shouldn’t condone sin. But we should love one another to listen with an open heart and be willing to love one another enough to help them through their struggles, instead of merely offering judgment. Later in the song, the singer speculates:
But would it set me free, if I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person that you imagine me to be
Would your arms be open or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus be enough to make you stay
We need to work harder at living out the love of Jesus. We need to make church and fellowships be a safe place where people can be helped up and not pushed down further.