I had a few minutes before I needed to leave the house for an appointment, and picked up the Home Life magazine to help pass the time. The cover promos included the question “Are you a walking contradiction?”
Intrigued, I turned to the referenced article and found a confessional little essay entitled “Stripping the Veneer”. The young mother who wrote the article did so from her own experience, and also with many references to a book I have not read (but plan to do so) entitled “Living Deeply In A Surface Society” by Timothy Willard and Jacon Locy (Zondervan).
The first paragraph grabbed me: “My life is a walking contradiction. My inward dialogue sounds like this: ‘I’m a follower of Christ who has experienced His redemptive touch. I’m (gasp) self-seeking and superficial.‘”
The paragraph grabbed me because I have had so many similar dialogues–where my promised life in Christ seems so contradictory to the life I live or the thoughts I have, and I ask myself how this can be. (I take some comfort in Paul’s similar struggle expressed in Romans 7–but am still pained by my inconsistency). The thrust of the article, and apparently the book it references, is that one of the ways we try to deal with that contradiction is to apply a thin coat of spirituality over a core that is anything but spiritual.
My experience convicts me that this is a particular pitfall for those of us in public ministry, where the weight of congregational expectations is added to our own inclinations to cover up our faults and flaws. Am I the only one who has left the car after an “intense dialogue” with my wife and then walked into the church full of smiles and good cheer for the people greeting me in the halls? We have become expert at the veneer of Christlikeness.
I do not suggest that we victimize others with our negative emotions, or unload all our faults and failures to everyone we meet–or necessarily to anyone else. Consideration for others is a virtue, and being pleasant and positive is an expression of kindness that we can practice regardless of how we feel. But the article reminded me how important it is to strip off the veneers and be authentic, first with ourselves, then to those we can trust to accept us and pray for us in our weakness, and to some extent with others around us. Jesus said that the world will know we are His by the love we have for each other–and surely that love means accepting each other as we are and not as we pretend to be. And that begins with knowing ourselves as we really are, and allowing the master Carpenter to peel away the pretense and allow the authentic, flawed but redeemed self to shine through. Rather than be a walking contradiction, we can be a walking confession of our need and Christ’s great provision.