This life of wholly giving ourselves to the way God made us and to what He’s made us for really messes with us sometimes. There’s just no way to give thoroughly without also being seen thoroughly. And we get real worried about that. Therefore, much of our energy goes toward maintaining an image of how we think we should be seen based upon the constructs of culture, teaching, peers, and history.
Stepping outside those lines often takes us out into the deep water where we cannot ensure our safe image. So, we don’t go. We conform our actions and contain our yearnings. Jesus’ offer for us to live “freely” and “lightly” becomes a layer on top of the already-in-place structure. No wonder we have trouble living those words. They can’t penetrate all the layers we’re maintaining! If we are to live “freely and lightly” then the structure must be dismantled. That’s what God does when we go with Him out into the deep. He overwhelms so that we see beyond the structure we’ve made and can enter into His vastness which holds possibilities of being that, frankly, blows our minds!
All of this births hilarity…that deep cheerfulness and confidence which says, “Yes! There is opposition. Yes! I won’t do it perfectly. Yes! Others don’t quite see what I see, but that’s ok. I know who I am, and I know to Whom I belong! I am a child brought to life from dirt, animated by God’s very breath. Impossible is the place I come from!” This boundless playing field allows us to face the storms of “What if I fail? What if I don’t do it right? I’m not good enough” rather than suppress them. The limitless richness of Jesus’ love allows us to name and enter our fears, anxieties, and rebellions rather than ignoring them or shutting them away. That’s when we begin to experience true, glad confidence.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it this way: “Hilaritus – ‘cheerfulness’—which is found in a really great and free intellectual (or other) achievement, is the opposite of a somewhat tortured and strained manufacture instead of creativity in the open air.”* Oh, how often we settle for something manufactured rather than original, the sometimes hard to find creativity of giving our true selves, warts and all.
So, when someone says to us, “I want to come where you are. I want to know what you know about God,” we can step forward with ease, freedom, and confidence, not worried about ourselves because of all those journeys to the deep. Instead of fear, we will know genuine gladness for the opportunity to go back out again, only this time, taking someone with us.
ACTION: What is your “safe image”, the one you try to maintain that keeps life in control for you? If you were to draw a picture of who you really are, what would it look like? How do you feel about the possibility of living beyond your image and into the vastness of God’s love? Who can you give your true self to this week? What will that be like?
*My paraphrase of Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, page 229.