Fake

Polished Perfect

“Whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones…”  -Matthew 23:27

As silly as it sounds, every time I paint my nails I’m reminded of the horrific events that took place in the spring of 2012.  One of my best friends left her apartment, checked into a hotel and consumed an entire bottle of 500mg Extra-Strength Excedrin, another of Tylenol and a 2-liter energy drink.  When we found her, she was hardly responsive and her skin had green undertones.  As tears were falling from her face faster than her sleeves could catch them, my other friend, Cara, called an ambulance.

I couldn’t even function.  I just sat there in silence at the foot of the bed, blankly starring at my gorgeous friend’s near lifeless body.  As I picked up her hand, I noticed her fingernail polish was chipped.  Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed a bottle of polish and tried my best to paint her nails.  Looking back on this, we all laugh at how stupid I was to paint her nails in such a time of absolute crisis.  I still kick myself for doing something that was so entirely irrelevant to the situation.

You will be relieved to know and I am thrilled to report that after three days in the ICU, my friend survived and was released without any stomach or liver damage.  God is sovereign.  She is an incredible woman and has a jaw-dropping testimony nothing short of an amazing miracle.

As I was thinking back on all this the other day, I realized that I’ve been painting my nails in the midst of crisis for as long as I can remember.  My coping mechanisms have always been to hold everything together.  Be perfect.  Or at least act and appear to be put together.  Maybe, if I looked whole on the outside, something would transform on the inside to match.  The more I struggled internally, the more I tightened the mask strings.  But inside, beneath the image was always a little girl—and she was completely falling apart.

Image: An imitation of a person or thing; a representation, likeness, impression or conception of oneself; an illusion.

I learned at a young age that the world doesn’t care about how the girl in the pictures really feels.  I quickly learned to have a positive outlook, stuff my emotions, and fight for a flawless reflection.  But this was never a lasting identity, it was only an image.  The more pain, loneliness, rejection and insecurity I felt; the more I strived to paint an inaccurate picture of a girl who had it all together.

Beneath the facade I had no idea who I was or where my value was found.  I fought my hardest to maintain an image that had absolutely no relationship with reality.  But the outside couldn’t fix what was happening inside.

We live in a world that applauds, endorses, and super glues on the masks.  Our world worships images.  We’ve learned by example to push the limits and see how far we will go to maintain the image we want others to see.  We want people to view us superficially so they won’t look past the masks, or God forbid, stick around long enough to see how we really are.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  -1 Samuel 16:7

Thankfully, God doesn’t buy into “fake”.  He isn’t fooled by facades, intimidated by masks, or takes us at our word when we say that we’re “doing great!”  He sees past the act and speaks to our hearts.  He sees us falling apart and breathes life into us.  Like the woman with the alabaster jar, sitting at Jesus’ feet in the midst of her filth, mess, insecurity and pain.  This kind of vulnerability pulls on His heart strings.  He faithfully seeks us out to break off the things that hold us back, threatening to hold us captive.

“All of us then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces.” –2 Corinthians 3:18

This kind of matchless beauty is so raw and undone it scares those who are still in chains.  This reckless transparency with messy hair, mascara running, bent knees and a heart of flesh cannot be fabricated.  It’s as real as they come.  This absolute humility is so authentic it makes others uncomfortable.  But it’s the imperfect that the Lord chooses to use.  Our weakness allows Him to be our perfect strength.

He sees us. Fighting to be faithful, wrestling through motherhood, trying to parent perfectly, in yesterday’s topknot, with dried spit-up down our shirts. He begs us to leave the dishes and climb over the dirty piles of laundry. He beckons us to come away with Him. To sit at his feet. To rest in Him. To just be His daughter.

When your need for approval is fulfilled by what you do, how you parent, or imperfect people, you will always be left desiring more.  I encourage you; Run to the One whose perfection isn’t painted on with brushes, designed by the fashion elite, studied in Ivy League classes, or worn as couture. He is simply perfect so we won’t have to be.  He is the answer to our imperfection.  The sooner we take off our masks and come face to face with who we’ve become, the sooner He can intervene and make us who we were born to be.  It’s still a daily struggle to be real,  but I’m learning how to walk in freedom of who He has created me to be.

His absolute security beckons me to be renewed.  He loves me just as I am.  Broken, hurting, confused, crumbling; real.  And He desires to make me whole and lacking nothing.

So, which is more important to you—your outward persona or your inward well being?  Don’t paint your nails while dying—it’s senseless.

“He said to me… ‘My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” –2 Corinthians 12:9-10

PAUPER CHRISTIAN

Fired Hired Sign

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.   Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Ghandi

Growing up, my mom always taught me not to use the word ‘hate’.  She would caution, “hate is such a strong, harsh, and unforgiving word…”  Bumper-to-bumper traffic, windshield wipers on overdrive, music off, with both hands on the steering wheel; ten-and-two.  Every thing inside me cringes at the thought of having to drive through Dallas in a storm.  And with all that it implies, I can honestly say that I hate driving in the rain.

A few weeks ago, while turning onto a residential street in Dallas, my reaction time was put to the test.  He came out of nowhere, in the middle of down-pour, and in front of my car…brake-check…they worked.  I missed him by what seemed like inches. I felt absolutely terrible.  As I rolled down my window to make sure he was okay, a very startled, elderly homeless man smiled and waved. He was carrying a bundle of clothes, and was wearing a tattered, white t-shirt. Ironically enough, the back of his shirt read, “Living The Dream.”  Who in their right mind would give a homeless man such a thing.  Was this some mean, practical joke?

I couldn’t help but think to myself: What an incredible visual aid. To some, this is what Christians must look like when we don’t walk in the authority and freedom we’ve been given.  Their picture of Jesus is nothing more than a Pauper Christian.

We sit in our cardboard boxes built of competition, depression, and shallow legalism.  We aimlessly walk around without a home, with grocery carts full of trash, in pauper clothing.  Carrying bitterness, ruining relationships, swimming in debt, cheating our neighbors, and drowning in emotional poverty. The world looks at us like we’re a practical joke. Why would they want our lives? What about a homeless man on the street looks appealing?  We promote Jesus like He’s the fix-all, end-all, solution-to-all.  We say one thing, but represent another.  Surely, we didn’t start out this way.  How did we get here? Why is our fruit so different from Christ’s?

I dare say that the problem isn’t God; it’s us.  Somehow, we’ve lost sight of who we are in Christ, forgotten His irreplaceable Love, neglected our place on earth, and abandoned our role in society.

And we aren’t fooling anyone.  You see, our generation is unlike any other. This generation doesn’t give into fake.  We struggle selling something that we won’t buy ourselves. We spend over 23% of our time interacting on “social” media. We want to be real.  To sum it up, our generation is relational.  Sure, you could say that we’ve lost our edge.  Ruined our reputation. Tainted the church. We’re more often the excuse instead of the example. The list goes on and on about how ‘Christians” have misrepresented Christ.

The good news is that Jesus can still get to hearts without our help.  And, I believe that there is a remnant arising. It’s not too late.  There is hope!  There is an army that yearns to represent Jesus Christ in every aspect of their lives: At home, amongst friends, in the workplace, and to strangers.  We desperately desire that everything about our life mirrors Christ for every thing that He is.  We want to walk in all that Christ has bought and made provision for.  We want to be like Him.  We desire to make His Name great in the earth.

When we keep our eyes on Christ, we can abide in unconditional Love, stand in freedom, and walk in authority.   So run to Jesus.  Throw off your pauper clothes. Rise above your present circumstances.  Stop wallowing in self-pity.  Love lives within you.  Look to Him for validation.  You were built to win.  You have a direct- line to Joy.  You were made to prosper.  Declare your freedom.  Change your perspective.  You were destined to reign.  You were made in His image. Your Daddy is King.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'” John 13:35, Matt 28:18-20