A Life Built on Image

I am currently preaching through a series titled “Brokenness.”  I wanted to cover topics that would resonate with our human condition as frail, weak people.  I thought it would be a good Lent series, deep and reflective.  So, I have talked about God’s grace in the midst of financial difficulties, emotional despair, and most recently social rejection.  After worship service, someone was talking to me about honesty.  They indicated to me that they appreciate my transparency in front of the church.  It is interesting because I oftentimes feel guarded in the pulpit.  I responded to this person that people sometimes get nervous when the pastor is an open book.  “No,” she explained.  “That is what is encouraging to us.  You are a real person.  When you share from your weakness, it lifts me up.”  I appreciated the comments; however, I still feel somewhat guarded.

Yet, in reality, I think this is true for most people.  We walk through life guarded even with people whom we would consider close.  A close friend asks us how we are doing and we respond, “Good.”  Maybe in a moment of sheer desperation we might say, “It has been tough lately.”  However, even in these moments, we don’t really let someone in.  We share around the fringes.  We open up just enough to be courteous yet remain guarded so as to feel safe.  We rarely say, “Life sucks right now.”  Those deep struggles of insecurity and weakness are kept locked away lest someone think less of us.  Honestly, this protective mentality probably occurs frequently in marriages.  We want to appear strong and put together, even with those who love us the most.

What is it that prompts us to present an image towards other?  What compels us to be embarrassed of our frailty?  What keeps that guilt and shame alive only to gradually eat away our soul?

I imagine there are many reasons.  It is risky to be vulnerable.  If people see our struggles they might reject us or scorn us.  The possibility of such a reaction even amongst close friends is not worth the vulnerability.  So, we remain shielded.  Or, it might be that we thrive on the image.  We like to feel put together in front of people.  We strut a perfect life, sadly enjoying the esteem it brings.  Eventually, it catches up to us because we honestly know the truth about ourselves.  Sometimes, the image is misdirection for some deep struggle we are having in our life.  We know what is truly in our mind.  Horrified that someone will find out, we project perfection in that very area to avoid being discovered.  In other cases, we can simply blame conditioning.  We are told from an early age to put our best foot forward.  Rarely does a person go to their boss and say “I am really faking this part of my job.”  Uncertainty over what that person might say causes us to shake our heads and keep up the facade.

There are many reasonable reasons we keep an image up to people.  Yet, the sad reality is that this disconnection drains our life of joy.  Pretending takes a lot of work.  It is exhausting.  Even being guarded takes discipline so as to not slip as to how we are really doing.  Henry Thoreau stated, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”  This is sad but true.  It is the end result of a life spent building an image.

Jesus understood this.  He desired freedom in people.  This is why he intentionally pointed out the very issue that people were running from and brought it to the surface.  Whether it was the woman looking for love in a sexual relationship, a man finding security in financial stability, or the religious leaders looking for validation by bossing others around, Jesus put his finger on it and said “let’s get honest.”  He wasn’t trying to be cruel.  He did not get kicks out of shaming people.  Rather, he knew that true joy could only be found by tearing down the image and living honestly before God and other people.  Yeah, we know it is true.  Living it is another story.

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One thought on “A Life Built on Image

  1. Wow! What an article! Pastor, I don’t know how many times I’ve thought and said to others (and heard others say) “Pastor is so real, he expresses his faults to us! He is not Holier than thou!” It is so reassuring to me (and others I know). You are so much more relative.
    I love it that Jesus said “lets be honest”. I never thought about it the way you just presented it but its so much clearer to me now. I myself lived most of my life in self denial. I truly believe I tried to be good to others but I was self destructive in nature and my behavior not only affected me but spilled over onto others. But I tried to hide this and took offense when others pointed out my faults and the reasons for my grief and continual problems. I felt I was being attacked. I now know that they came at me with love. And it was hard to accept. I just couldn’t.
    This is where God let me fall and fall I did. I was in control. When I arrived at a very very dark place I had a choice to make. “How did I get here?” “Was this my fault?” “Do I own this?” “Can I face this?” This is where God spoke to my heart. He told me I must accept what I have done and I must own this and I must face this. He said “lets be honest”.
    At that time I did begin to be honest with God and myself and others. I prayed to God for forgiveness for my transgressions and the strength to overcome my weaknesses. I laid it at the feet of Jesus and asked Him to help me, “please help me”. And help me he did! My life has been transformed. I needed to get honest with myself and The Lord. The only way I could be honest with God was to get honest with myself. And the only way to get honest with myself was to get honest with God! For me it’s like a “Catch 22” I surely wasn’t fooling The Lord (only myself) but I needed to be honest with Him to be truly honest with myself.
    On March 29th I will have two years of being clean and sober. I do not boast. It is not of me. I praise God for this. For it is He that has Graced me. It is he who forgives me.
    I have learned from this that I am frail and I am weak without Him. That His will is the path I must try and follow. That I must be honest with myself. I have learned that I must turn to Brothers and Sisters in times of brokenness as well as God. I must also help others. I must be Honest. I don’t flaunt my failures but now I sort of wear them on my sleeve. I am Human and I am Broken but I can be made whole again by the Grace of God and His Sacfice of his Son Jesus Christ. Amen

    Like

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