Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pimple Theology

There was a timespan when I was in high school that I had acne. Bad acne. "Not wanting to get out of bed and go to school" bad acne. "Feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and extremely ugly" bad acne. "Praying to the dear Lord above that my face would clear up at least a little bit for school picture day" bad acne. Now granted, I know there were folks at HCHS whose complexion may have been worse than mine, but as far as I was concerned, there were days during my adolescence where I felt like the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" would have destroyed me in a beauty contest. (If you are under 40 years of age you will have to google that one) I remember a few occasions where some pretty hurtful things were said about me because of the less than clear surface of my skin. Yes, 30 years later I still remember what was said. I remember who said it. I remember where it was said. In my mind I can go back to the mid-80's just like it was yesterday. You know what else I remember? I remember wanting to be anyone else other than me. I would have traded places with so many people if I had been given the chance. And you know what else? It wasn't the richer kids that I wanted to trade places with or the more athletic kids that I wanted to trade places with or the smarter kids that I wanted to trade places, I wanted to trade places with the kids who didn't have to go through a whole tube of Clearasil in a day. I wanted to trade places with the kids who didn't have to daily dread facing the world with red splotches all over their face. I wanted to trade places with the kids who didn't feel out of place because of stupid pimples on their face. I hated it. I hated it. I hated it. I felt ugly, unacceptable, and unloveable. I seriously felt like a leper. Repulsive. Grotesque. Almost monster-ish. You may think that I am over blowing this a bit. Let me tell you, I'm being very conservative with my words here. Just ask anyone else who walked in the same Chuck Taylors that I did. They will tell you some of the same things. They will tell you there were days that they too wished they could be anyone other than the one they were.

Now 3 decades later my complexion is much clearer, but alas my hair is much grayer. (I'm not sure if that's an even trade or not) I will tell you what else has changed since my teenage years.....I don't want to change places in life with anybody. Seriously. There is not one person who I would trade lives with even if I could. Sure there are richer, more successful, more talented, more "everything" people out there but I don't want their life....I want mine....The one God has laid out for me.....With the people God has sent to me. Now I would be lying if I didn't say that I might would like to live the lives of some other people for a day or two, but to completely change lives altogether? No thanks. I will keep the one I have. You know why I feel that way? Because I now like being me. The me that's not perfect. The me that still says things I shouldn't say. The me that sometimes thinks things I shouldn't think. The me that every now and then makes some really bone-headed and stupid decisions. The me who I've become because of the experiences that 45 years of living life have brought me. You know why else I like me? Because God has blessed me with an abundance of people who seem to like me in spite of me being me. They are the unconditional people who encircle me. They are the people who love me as I am which gives me permission to do the same. 

As one of my buddies says about himself, I have been a "pew baby" pretty much my entire life. In other words, there have not been many Sundays during my earthly existence where I have not been in a worship service somewhere. I have learned many, many things in 45 years worth of Sundays in church. I would not hesitate to say that most of those things that I learned were very positive and have helped to influence who I am as an adult today. That being said, if "most" of those things were positive, that would leave a little room for a few things that were not so positive. It has always interested me that in some (probably most) churches/fellowships there are certain unspoken rules. You know, rules that aren't posted anywhere on the pages of the tracts in the foyer or in some special box in the weekly bulletin. I am satisfied that even though I haven't visited them all, that most all religious tribes have their own set of unspoken rules, and in fact, many of the same rules cross denominational lines and are found in a host of different religious bodies. In other words, I guess as seasoned followers of Christ we all have our own "sacred cows" that we are ultra passionate about. 

One of those sacred slabs of beef is seemingly the expectation from the religious folk that all desired church goers have to have their lives in tip-top shape before they can cross the holy threshold of the front door of a house of worship. In other words, you have to have it all together before you can come worship with people who appear to have it all together. To my shame, in my preaching past, I'm sure there have been times where, in all sincerity, I have made folks feel such an amount of shame about the sin in their lives that they felt they wouldn't be welcome in any worship service until they and God were on better terms. I'm sure that I, and other preachers/elders/deacons/leaders/teachers/members, assisted people in falsely believing that God expected them to completely clean up their language, their thoughts, their past, their heart, their mind, their decision making, their theology, their "everything that had anything unGodly about it" before they would be allowed to fellowship with the righteous of this world. In essence, we have told them or at the very least lead them to believe that we want them to become somebody else before they can worship with us. We want them to remove all the worldly-pimples of their lives before they sit on a pew/chair beside of us. Then, once all their baggage has been tossed to the side, all their problems solved, all their addictions cured, all their mistakes corrected....then and only then will they be made to feel that they belong amongst those of us who have completely and totally left sin behind. As if.....

The Bible that I read says that the Savior that I serve didn't have such an attitude about the general population of this world. Jesus didn't expect people to change overnight things that had been engrained over many years. Jesus didn't expect people to completely straighten up and fly right the moment they decided to take a shot at following the true Messiah. Jesus wanted people to just show up and give it a try.....pimples and all. I mean think about it. If most of us could have changed our lives without Jesus we would have done so a long time ago, thus not needing Jesus to begin with. So therefore, it's time we get the horse back before the cart. Let's let Jesus lead. Let's just invite folks to come to worship, warts, pimples and all. Let's tell them to "come as they are" and truly mean it. Not necessarily come to church in pajamas "come as you are" but come to church with all your baggage, problems and mistakes "come as you are". Let's invite people to come to worship "as they are" and then let the love of Jesus and his followers begin to impact them for a permanent, positive life-alteration. Slowly, but steadily. Perhaps at a snails pace but at a positive pace nonetheless. Let's let Jesus work on 'em, us love on 'em, and God save 'em. If you don't feel comfortable putting "Pimps, Prostitutes, and Pushers WELCOME HERE" on your church sign, you better check to see if Jesus is even welcome there. I can assure you....if the pimps, prostitutes, and pushers aren't welcome there, then Jesus won't be either. 

1 comment:

  1. Well, this is me:

    Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

    1 Timothy 1:15 This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.