Sermon for April 22, 2018
It can be easy to fool ourselves into thinking that, in order to really see one another, interact with others on a genuine, non superficial level, it would take too much effort. Add in the sense of fear and risk involved in possibly being the only one stepping from behind their persona and we can become comfortable in being a total fabrication for much of our lives. We think this persona we have developed over the years protects us- it doesn’t.
In reality, the effort lies in keeping people at arm’s length. Effort is expended in building a wall between yourself and others, in maintaining the persona, the mask, we present to the world. The true risk is not in the supposed vulnerability of being “real” but in the potential to totally forget who you really are, while losing the ability to see others also.
When we realize these things, not just acknowledge them intellectually but really feel them, we begin to see that we have somehow gotten ourselves turned around. The moments when we are real with ourselves, and each other, become less frequent, and even more disturbing, less recognizable- who is the real me? The real you? The lines become blurred until you’re not really even sure what is real and what is made up.
Of course, I could write books upon books on this subject. In a counseling setting, this is both a useful, yet dangerous, road to explore because it’s simplicity, and complexity, tempt one to either assume it’s a concept to be merely understood, or get lost in its mazes as if it has a life of its own beyond who we are, a type of idol that has power over us.
So, rather than get lost in concepts, I want to use a simple experience that we can experiment with during the week ahead.
I had the pleasure of bringing my kids to visit their Grandmom last week. My son, who is 10 months old, was in my arms, and his Grandmom casually said something to the effect of how lucky he is to have such love and care and attention. Indeed she was so right, and yet, it immediately struck me how sad it was that she was right. I felt a sadness in the fact that we are so protected with one another in our daily lives that seeing genuine openness and affection strikes us as a rare and valuable thing.
We look at so many people in our daily lives, but how many do we see? What would happen if we saw the eyes of our children, our parents, ourselves, our loved ones, in the eyes of strangers we interact with everyday rather than the eyes of a “stranger”? Our existence would be transformed if we did this on even the smallest scale.
This is why love is the cornerstone of the teachings of Christ. It is why the “golden rule” is a way of being and not merely a teaching to be understood. It is so easy to fool ourselves into believing we ‘get it’ and go about living our lives. I challenge you to be still, be silent, and consider what these things mean for you in your everyday life.
I want you to do two things in the week to come- First, be aware. Second, find a teaching of Christ that matches what you become aware of. With regard to the awareness, first just pay attention to the effort it takes you to have a persona that you present to people. Notice the times when you hold back a part of yourself, when you might feel hesitation or fear when you could have been open. Is there a time when you literally need alone time because you get tired of ‘being yourself’, your public self? Then, choose some simple ways to let your guard down. Start small. If it feels like an effort to be yourself at first, does it change? What barriers do you notice when ‘trying to be yourself’?
Once you become aware of some of the feelings you go through as you experience the living teachings of Christ, find a written teaching that symbolizes some of the things you became aware of. Connecting your own intimate experiences with the words Christ gave to us will give you a connection to Jesus that can be hard to find with the pace of our lives.
This sermon is about experience. Leave the words here and take a spiritual quest of your own throughout this week. If you want to share some of the things you find, for your own benefit and that of others, you can comment below, email me, or join our Facebook group and comment and share there. I pray the experience deepens your relationship with Christ and expands to benefit those around you.