We blend in nicely with our communities. Fear of friendly fire makes us hyper-aware, defenses raised, survival mode on. Or maybe it’s not fear, maybe its comfort that keeps us from showing our face, sticking our neck out, making ourselves really known. Either way, we all disguise our individuality, deciding to be like the rest of the mass so we can belong.
If we never let our identity really show, is it really fair to call it belonging?
It works both ways: we can never claim ownership or place or voice in a community when we are constantly keeping ourselves from being known, keeping the camouflage in place, blending in.
To know them, and to be known by them: this is the essence of a passionate community, a gathered group willing to suffer and feel and burn with each other, with unity. If the church can’t be this gathering of people, don’t know who can.
But this kind of sharing of life is what we are made for. You and I were psychologically, spirituality, and biologically designed to belong… but not to blend in. Never confuse the two.
Show Up Wounded
So, what would happen if we took off our camouflage? What would happen if you let yourself be known, let your light shine? What would happen? What if we began sharing our flesh and blood hopes and dreams? What if instead of staying home when we are too wounded to keep up appearances we went ahead and showed up honestly? What if we stopped trying to hide it? What would your life, your friendships, your church look like if everyone was allowed to shine with all their brilliance and shadows?
I think a community like that would be brave.
My deepest fears make me a coward. When I am terrified of hurt, I will take the safe roads… even if those roads hurt other people. I am too scarred to be found out. That kind of fear binds me with chains unbreakable. Leaning into my fears like that creates a sense of shame at who I am. I begin to think, “because of my wounds, my brokenness, I am not acceptable.” Thoughts like that have a way of not only trapping us in our fear of failure, but also leading us to believe there is nothing good about us. When I decide that I have nothing good to offer to people, I will try even harder to blend in, not be found out as lacking. I will never do anything but go through the motions.
So what if I took a brave step, and began to show my self in little bits and pieces? What would happen of the community didn’t reject me, didn’t turn me into a project, didn’t shy away from the bloody parts of life? What would happen if the community celebrated the good things I bring to the table, empowered me to be whole, to lean in to my passions?
A community like that would be brave, and would dream brave dreams.
But it starts with you and I showing up wounded, taking off the concealer, not blending in to the common identity. Embracing individuality with all it’s greatness and flaws.
And They’ll Know we are Christians by our Love
We were crafted by God to be unique. We were also made to be free of the chains of shame. Our sinful natures and the broken world have twisted this, leading us to think that faith communities work best when we go with the flow, blend in, never risk. It’s all a lie. We are further damaging a wounded and broken community when we choose to hide. When I remain physically preset but on the edges, blending in, watching, I am refusing to engage with the people of God, refusing to show them grace for fear that I will get hurt.
I get the fear. I have it deep in my core. We shrink away from judgment and condemnation. However, if we are going to take Jesus seriously, we have to believe when he tells us that we are not condemned by him. Indeed, we are embraced, touched, and accepted by Jesus. If that is true for you and for I, then we need to be brave for the sake of others in the community.
You may not be ready to show your wounds and your gifts, but what if I take the first step? Would you be encouraged to step out too? I can be brave for you, even if it further wounds me. That is an example of the sacrificial love Jesus showed to us; this is how I can love like Jesus does. And when someone else begins to show their identity, I will protect them and celebrate them… just as Jesus does with me.
This is how we can begin to transform these congregations of people into communities of love. We take those risks, begin showing who we are, begin owning and giving our self to the community. Be a shelter for people who are beginning to take off their camouflage. Protect the vulnerable. Strengthen the week. Celebrate the uniqueness of people. Make room for others to show up and do what they are good at. Be brave with me.
This is how change starts. This is how we begin to chase the dreams of a better christian faith. This is how we learn to belong to each other as the family of God. It’s going to be risky. It’s going to be a hard thing to start. It’s going to make us face our fears.
But it’s worth it.
You and I could be so glorious.
Be brave with me.