Let's NOT Pretend

It’s good to be back in Abilene! After growing up here and working here for several years back in the previous century, we left for 28 years. But the mysterious vacuum that is Abilene has sucked us back in, sucked us back home. Many things have changed; many have not…and that is what we are about at Connecting Caring Communities. The name of our non-profit is our “elevator speech:” “We are working to connect people in caring communities across the city.” Or as I like to say, “We are trying to live out Jesus’ prayer: Your kingdom come, your will be done here in Abilene as it is in heaven.” In order for God’s Kingdom to come here we need to all step up and not pretend that we’ve figured it out. We need to get beyond pretending. As one of my favorite theologians, Jackson Browne, pointed out while I was a student at Abilene High: Everyone I’ve ever known has wished me well Anyway that’s how it seems, it’s hard to tell Maybe people only ask how you’re doing ‘Cause that’s easier than letting on how little they could care But when you know that you’ve got a real friend somewhere Suddenly all the others are so much easier to bear… [Jackson Browne, “The Late Show”]

These were profound words to a gawky kid at AHS [Angst High School!] who desperately wanted to fit in and be liked by someone other than my mom. And in the years since Jackson first sang to me, I have found a real friend. In fact, I have many real friends, but my realest friend is Jesus who gives us the key to caring community: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” [John 15:12-13]. It is my prayer that I will love as my friend Jesus has loved me.

Jesus loves me in spite of me, not because of me. He chooses to love me even though I’m a mess. He loves me because it is his nature to love. He loves us all whether we recognize it or not. He is love. Love acts. Love accepts. Love lives in community. And love does not pretend. Love is messy. Bring on the mess! As Mike Yaconelli writes,       There is no room for pretending in the spiritual life. Unfortunately, in many religious circles, there exists an unwritten rule. Pretend. Act like God is in control when you don’t believe he is. Give the impression everything is okay in your life when it’s not. Pretend you believe when you doubt; hide your imperfections; maintain the image of a perfect marriage with healthy and well-adjusted children when your family is like any other normal dysfunctional family. And whatever you do, don’t admit you sin. … Pretending is the grease of modern nonrelationships. Pretending perpetuates the illusion of relationships by connecting us on the basis of who we aren’t. People who pretend have pretend relationships. But being real is a synonym for messy spirituality, because when we are real, our messiness is there for everyone to see.

CCC is a mess because it is about relationships—honest relationships based on love for neighbors. Honest relationships between normal dysfunctional families. It is a glorious mess—come on in!