For most of us, if you have grown up in church, or have been in church for any length of time, you own a pole. A ten-foot pole. Get your mind out of the gutter. These poles, while they are not danced upon, they are danced around. They represent our own insecurities, but are displayed as Holiness Trophies. Instead of dollar bills, we receive false admiration. And some of us really know how to make it rain.
It would almost be better for us if we were dancing upon them. At least we wouldn’t be hiding behind some facade that we created. At least what we are about would be all out there. Literally. After all, one thing the Lord does not like is a lukewarm Christian. He would rather us be totally committed to one or the other. But if we are brutally honest with ourselves, we are all a bunch of lukewarm tap water.
These poles. Man, we decorate them well. We make them shiny and sparkly and glittery. They appear new and uncomplicated. They show no flaw or wear and tear. But the problem is, they have no integrity.
Integrity has 2 definitions:
1: The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
2: The state of being whole and undivided.
Interesting. Our poles may be vertical, but that doesn’t make them upright.
These fancy accessories will only last so long. Pretty soon, things will start falling off. Yes we can keep it up by re-gluing and bubble-gumming things together but we will eventually get very tired of that.
At some point, we will have this awful revelation that the person people love and adore is not actually the real you. That is a terrible feeling.
When I met Bubba. We, as a Sunday school class, had been praying for him for months. My Sunday school teacher was also his boss. We had been asked to pray for this guy who had received Christ on a picnic bench at work. Bubba was terrified of church. Not of the building, but the people. Not of Christ, but of Christians.
When you are raised in a small farming town, the name Bubba is common. Bubbas in general had a certain look. Big, red neck, country, burly….
The day we met The Bubba was really cool. It was the first time we had seen our prayers come to fruition. He walked in and my mouth dropped. This could not be Bubba.
About 6 ft, 150 pounds soaking wet, pink and purple highlighted hair, both ears pierced, a tongue ring and Jenco Jeans. What the world? That was the quietest that room has ever been.
This was not the Bubba we were expecting. Not the Bubba that we had already stereotyped in our minds.
Suddenly every assumption or preconceived opinion was changed. Not gone, but changed. It now went from big country farmer boy to …punk. Hands down. Punk.
Our ten foot poles may have even grew a few more inches that morning.
We greeted him with our church words: “Good morning, so glad you made it”. But we all knew already that Bubba would not be getting a lunch invitation from any of us.
Our ten-foot-poles were armed and ready. Shiny and sparkly.
Ten-foot-poles work 2 ways. From both ends.
We use them to mask our true selves. Holding people at a distance so that they cannot get too close. Getting too close may expose what “must not” be exposed.
We also use them to make sure the person on the other side thinks highly of us. But more importantly, not as “good” as us. We are more privileged and we are going to make sure they know/think it. Even if we aren’t.
We don’t even realize that as we meet people, go to work, or go to church, we are already tidying up our poles and getting them ready for viewing. We walk around with them so much, we don’t even notice that we are lugging around a big, heavy, 10-foot pole.
We as a body HAVE to drop the poles. If our true desire is to be disciples, then we have to be open and real and AUTHENTIC with people. How are we to ever help people or bring people to the kingdom if they think we are flawless? Worst part is, most of the time, the only one we are fooling is ourselves. As if everyone else is stupid. I wonder how many times someone has wanted to say to us “Um excuse me, something fell off your pole there”.
That doesn’t mean we have to stand up in front of the congregation and say “good morning, i have an announcement to make…” and proceed to spill our deepest darkest secrets. It means we learn to accept our past and our paths and be willing to use them when God presents us with an opportunity to further His kingdom. After all, its BECAUSE of our past and our paths that He is using us. Its BECAUSE of our past and our paths that we are able to grow.
Why was Bubba so deathly afraid of coming to church? Because of the judgement, ridicule, and stones that might be thrown at him because of his past. I don’t blame him one bit. Not anymore that is.
Being authentic can be risky. Leaving the poles where they belong is hard. They are our protection. Our “paycheck” per say. But in truth, they are our bondage. We chain ourselves to them, expecting eternal rewards, but they only last for the night.
In the words of Christopher Walken in Catch Me If You Can, “Sometimes it’s easier to live the lie”…
Maybe so…until we experience the freedom of living the truth.
“…Until we experience the freedom of
living the truth”…
As we were able to spend more time with Bubba and build a relationship with him, we slowly started lowering our poles. Fancy accessories started to fall off and we didn’t care.
We learned of the chain of events that led him to where he was. We gained enormous respect for him. Because even though he had some terrible experiences, he still landed in the same spot we did. Just took a different route.
We may not have gotten the Porn Star sticker off his truck window right away, but he wasn’t afraid of church people anymore. Why? Because as he showed us the True him, we were able to start showing the True Us.
It took an “outsider” to show church people how to love like Jesus.
We did learn, though. And it was not easy.
But shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t we be showing people that church is for the broken? Not the perfect. And that no one will ever be “fixed”. Why have we made church so scary? Why have we made the cover charge so high?
If we are to be true, authentic Disciples of Christ, we have to show our authenticity. We are not made from a template, or a cookie cutter. We are all very unique in our paths.
And just like how nobody knows what you have been through that got you where you are, let’s learn to love people where they are right now, because we have no clue what they, too have been through that put them here. But they landed here, in our paths. Divinely.
We have opportunities to be Jesus.
Not to teach them how to decorate and dance around poles.
Free cover charge at church this week. Spread the word.
Owner paid The Price a long time ago.