I’m a pretty good performer. I’ve been doing it since I was young. Whether in church, at school or at work, I figured out my parts. Growing up a pastor’s daughter, I had a “stage” pretty early. While my parents never made me feel I had to act a certain way because of my “pk” (pastor’s kid) status, I knew people watched me. Some pk’s resent this. But I rather enjoyed the attention. I learned how to act in front of the adults. I knew how to dress, how to smile, and how to speak. I was a “good” girl. And it made me feel valuable.
I learned to act at school too. When I failed the “coolness” test early, I learned how to hide my pain. I didn’t let them know how the rejection affected me, crying my tears in my private bedroom instead. I was quiet, but I could somehow get up on the stage for a talk or a school play and shine brightly. I may not have been cool, but I was smart. I could achieve. I would prove myself worthwhile – somehow.
When I got to high school, I had a chance for a new start. A new state, a new school, a new me. I was determined not to repeat my past social failures. So I worked hard to learn to act like everyone else. I listened to the music they did. I watched what they did. I dressed like they did. I learned that too “good” was not cool. So I developed more parts to act – one for parents, teachers, and my church “audience,” and others for my peers. I knew if I could just get this right, then I’d be accepted.
Then the working world came along. That called for still more new parts. It wasn’t just about my peers anymore – now I had to make my mark on the world. I had to be responsible. A leader. The top. So I worked hard, and I did well. I enjoyed the praise that comes with achieving. But when God came more into my work picture, some of that changed. My paradigm of what was important in life changed. And so instead of achieving for the world, now I wanted to achieve for God. It was a good choice – but one that required even more performing than before. Now I not only had to be good at what I did, but I also had to be good at who I was. I needed to be spiritual, kind, selfless, mature, and well… pretty much perfect. I mean, why would God want anything less?
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But admittedly, sometimes I got tired of performing my spiritual parts. Then I’d just want a break from all this God stuff. After all, all this performing He wanted me to do was hard work! I got tired of being so “good.” But this time it wasn’t as much about my peers as myself. I wanted to know I was real inside…. I wanted to let out the pain, rebellion, and “badness” that always needed to be stuffed down under that “got it all together” front. Yet I feared what people would think if I did let it out. So I kept those outlets private. I mean, if it was private, it wasn’t really real, right? “Real” is what you let others see…. Still I envied my friends who got to live “normal” lives with their relationships and fun. I was tired of being alone. Tired of having to “be” __________ to whoever. I felt like people liked me for what I did, not who I was. I mean, who was I anyways? To be honest, it was hard for even me to know.
Stealthfully, subconsciously, the idea that I was valued for these parts I performed started to seep into my image of God as well. And since I knew He could see my inside parts as well, I knew I was failing. Sure I knew God loved me. He has to love everyone. But how could He really like me? Was God the boss I could never please? I determined that if this was Christianity, it just wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t live up to it. I was miserable with it. And I wanted out. But on the other hand, I realized that I hated myself without God as well. I knew that life was empty. So I was stuck. Was there anything that “worked?” Fortunately, in my frustration and desperation, I said, “Okay, God, if You don’t want me to ditch this and leave, I need to know who You really are.” And thus, finally, I started a journey toward being “real.” Because as I was to find out, I couldn’t know who I really was until I learned who He really is.
I can’t say this has been an easy journey. It hasn’t been easy to let God break down the walls that hold in things like bitter, broken insecurity. But in order for me to know Him and His love, He has to have access behind the stage. It’s hard not to resist some – when playing the parts seems more necessary and achievable than the messy alternative. Real forgiveness and grace can seem so… foreign and “too good to be true.” But where I’ve let Him chip holes into my façade, I’ve seen glimpses of freedom shining through – glimpses of a God I don’t have to perform for. A God who can make scattered parts into a whole.[/box_holder]