Friday, August 29, 2008

Are we Happy Plastic People under Shiny Plastic Steeples?

I just led a group talk, in my Cell group, that dealt with the issue of us as Christians not pretending we are fine when we are not. Not being honest with ourselves about how we are feeling and not being honest with God about how we are feeling.

For the first of these points I was challenged by a song by Casting Crowns called 'Stained Glass Masquerade'. The lyrics to which are as follows:

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small
Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they’ll soon discover
That I don’t belong
So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them


Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who’s been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who’s traded
In the altar for a stage
The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart
But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be
Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay

Chorus x2

Well if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade
Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small


Now I love this song and Casting Crowns lyrics in general because of the absolute gut wrenching honesty in which they are written. I know several people who's view of the church is of judgemental hypocritical people who don't live in reality. They feel that were they to go to church and reveal to people how they lived their lives they would be judged, looked down on and generally feel pretty out of place. Now I am sure, to the shame of the Christian church, there are churches like that. However in my 19 years of being a Christian I have never truly seen that played out. There are hints of it and individual people who may have that attitude but on the whole the people I know are in the most part warm and friendly to anyone who steps through the doors.

So firstly we have a perception problem in the church but that is not the focus of what I want to say. Where I want to focus is the fact that sometimes I, as a Christian, can stand in church and feel that no one else around me could possibly be as sinful as me and that if they knew what I was really like they would be utterly shocked and ashamed of me. I see good, smiling, super spiritual Christians with their evangelical Sunday smiles and their lovely super families. This is what it seems like when you feel spiritually low and stuck in some deep dark hole.

However the pressure is there to not feel like that. We are spirit filled evangelicals that are saved, have a hope in eternity and are filled with the Joy of the Lord. Now all that may be true but is set against the reality of living in a fallen world. With being a Christian God never promises an easy life that you can sail through without problems arising. In fact sometimes becoming a Christian makes your life way harder. So why do we feel the pressure to conform to this view of how a Christian should appear.

I am not sure there is a specific answer to that. There are many and varied reasons for us wearing masks that hide our true feelings. I think one of the biggest reasons is Trust. We have this deep fear that if anyone was to see us as we truly are then no one would love us. So the degree to which we wear our mask and reveal ourselves depends on the level of trust we have in that particular situation and in the people in question. But my argument is that if you can't reveal your true self to the body of Christ then who can you reveal it to. The Body of Christ, the Church, should be the number one place you can be as real and honest about who you are without the fear of rejection and judgement. We are all on the road of Sanctification, that is God changing us from the inside out to be more like Christ. We are all sinners, imperfect, flawed individuals with no right to put ourselves above anyone else on some moral high ground. Humility, Love and Grace should be the hallmarks of the people who call themselves Christians. None of us meets Gods perfect standard.

So that kind of looks at the first point of the issue of us as Christians not pretending we are fine when we are not. How about why we are not honest with ourselves about how we are feeling. Well that is even more complex an issue and I don't pretend to have the answers. Again it can come down to having this notion that Christians should feel and be a certain way. This unwritten set of rules that states we should feel full of Joy and happy clappy all the time. We are afraid that to admit we feel crap, depressed, sad, angry, resentful, jealous is to somehow say we can't be Christians if we feel that way or that we shouldn't feel those things. Sure some things we feel and some attitudes we have will need repenting of, but that doesn't mean we must suppress and hide from those things. It is so dangerous to deny what you are feeling regardless of the right or wrong of it. Admit it then do whatever is required of you. If what your attitude is sinful then repent and bring it to God. If you are deeply wounded and hurt then bring it to God. He will not turn you away!

Lastly why hide from God when He knows exactly what is gong on anyway? Shame and fear can stop us coming to God and being absolutely honest, can He handle us, He'll be angry and punish me etc... However I suggest that comes from not knowing Gods nature as revealed in scripture. There is no point in hiding so be courageous and tell God exactly how you are feeling and what is going on in your life and heart. He will never stop loving you, never reject you, never turn you away. He may require repentance, he may bring the consequences of our actions and choices to bear upon us and those around us. But I reiterate, He never stops Loving You with a greater Love than you can possibly grasp.

So lastly I ponder what would Gods Church look like if everyone dropped their 'Stained Glass Masquerade'? If we engaged with each other and the people around us. If we stopped pretending and said 'I'm broken!' I think the response would be 'Yes, me too!' The Church then may not be the organised, sanitised place it can be today. It would be messy, people are messy but I bet it would be somewhere outsiders would feel welcome, loved and not judged. A church that would be growing and a force for Good in a world that so desperately needs Christ's Love, saving power, Mercy and Grace. What a place that would be, it starts with you and me!

1 comment:

Sam said...

Cool blog dude.

Yeah I think one of the coolest things that came out of the Mike Gugglielmucci fiasco was the fact that we got to see what these guys were like off the stage. Normally Mike and the people around him are triumphally proclaiming Christ and 'taking on the world' in His power, but it was actually quite refreshing to see grace at work in the midst of real suffering.

Good post. I may give Casting Crowns a second chance :)