Jesus’ freedom from public opinion and the nagging concern of what others might think enabled him to live with honesty and spontaneity. There could be no facade, no mask, no pretense, no sham, no playing of roles. For the Nazarene Carpenter, to have integrity meant to be genuine, to communicate authentically, to resonate with his feelings.
The injunction of Paul to “put on Christ” explicitly means not to conform to the spirit of this passing age. With utter single-mindedness and purity of heart, Jesus sought only to please his Father.
~ Brennen Manning (Reflections for Ragamuffins)
Although I have been reading his words almost yearly since 2002, early this morning they were as resounding and fresh as if Manning was speaking them to me for the first time. I had to sit back and reflect anew what ‘putting on Christ’ looks like for me. In this ‘present, evil age,’ how much does the opinion of others alter my actions or reactions? Which roles do I play and where do I feel pressed to play them? When do I wear a mask or throw up facades rather than communicate authentically? I wonder, can I honestly confess that with utter single-mindedness, I seek to please my Father in my words and actions?
Thomas Merton stated that “there is in all things…a hidden wholeness,” (Thomas Merton Reader). But in this world where fear reigns, fear of our darkness being exposed, we have a tendency to live divided lives, hiding our true identities from each other…and that is where the masks and roles begin to evolve. Even as young children we begin to learn to shield ourselves by being one way at home and perhaps being someone else at school or church (for instance, being a class clown at school, but quiet at home).
Parker Palmer, Quaker educator, writer and speaker, once wrote, My knowledge of the divided life comes first from personal experience: I yearn to be whole, but dividedness often seems the easier choice. A “still, small voice” speaks the truth about me, my work, or the world. I hear it and yet act as if I did not…I commit myself to a project that I do not really believe in. I keep silent on an issue I should address or actively break faith with one of my own convictions. I deny my inner darkness, giving it more power over me, or I project it onto other people, creating “enemies” where none exist…We end up living divided lives, far removed from the truth we hold within…, (A Hidden Wholeness). Thus, develops the need to put on masks, role-play, throw up a facade because the proverbial they may not approve of my authentic self, the one made in God’s image.
I firmly believe that I live my most God-honoring life when I am living fully as He created me, yet, when I am brutally honest with myself before the face of God, I am also painfully aware of the price I have paid in the past for the times I chose to be an undivided self, living what I believe on the outside as well as the inside. It isn’t always popular; in fact, like Luther, (no, NOT comparing myself to Luther!), it is quite the UNpopular thing to go against the flow of your friend group, church group, denomination group, etc. The blow back can be tornadic.
The process of becoming less authentic can be insidiously gradual or made in one giant leap, in a moment of choice when darkness is reasoned as more attractive than light, and being loved (or liked) is more vital than being an image bearer of Christ…or simply, the pain of rejection isn’t worth whatever the gain seemed to be when the journey toward an undivided life began.
I promise you, it is. I have walked both roads, and will until I die, in all likelihood. While there is disappointment, pain, and often rejection when we choose to live a life that is genuine and pleasing to the Father, true to who He created us to be, the freedom of soul and spirit that comes with an undivided heart and life is worth whatever the cost…
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)
Freedom to be who you are in Him…undivided in heart and soul.