Pieces that have offered wisdom in a crisis, a kick in the butt during a funk, or spoken with elegant grace during a chapter marked more by discouragement than discernment. God has used the following piece to do all that and more since I ran across it about ten years ago now.
I have come back to it often during the past decade, and I've read it over and over during this past year of prayer, assessment, doubt, honesty-seeking, and waiting. And so today I pass it onto you.
This "back-door" article was written by Mike Yaconelli, co-founder of Youth Specialities and a magazine originally called The Wittenburg Door and now just called The Door. After Mike's words speak to you, then I'd encourage you to read more about him at www.wittenburgdoor.com/archies/yaconelli/htm ... or pick up one or the other or both of my two favorite books by him, Dangerous Wonder and Messy Spirituality.
Proving once again that truth ages well, I believe that Yac's words really connect with "who I am," "how I think," and "what I wrestle with" as a man, a husband, a father, and as the lead pastor-teacher at 2nd Street Community Church in Newberg, OR.
by Mike Yaconelli
1996, The Door (formerly The Wittenburg Door)
"When people look at us, what do they see? Not us. We are all secrets to ourselves. Mysteries to each other. "We are all perceptions," said William James – conclusions based on partial knowledge, reflections, pieces, impressions, opinions, but not ourselves.
The me who is reflected in this column is not me. The you who is reflected in your response to this column is not you. We are all edited selves – "Reader's Digest" versions of our real selves.
These huge gaps in our knowing one another allow us to form opinions, which are always incomplete, and always inaccurate. These fabrications of our selves became the matrix of our relationships with others that leave only impressions of our real selves, and paralyze our ability to fully know each other. And by the time we weave our way through the tangle of others' misconceptions, we are so exhausted that we surrender to the self others think we are – which is, of course, the self we are not.
We are a mystery to ourselves, but we are not lost in the dark. We know where to look to unravel this mystery, except for the great obstacle – pain. Because the pain of knowing who we are is so great, we spend a lifetime running from ourselves. We have become experts in dodging, avoiding, hiding, pretending, covering, running, protecting, eluding, escaping, averting, evading the real us. The "Great Escape" from ourselves is the way most of us have chosen to live our lives, Christian or not, because it is the way of less pain.
That is why the "Good News" of the Gospel is so painful. Jesus wants to do much more than forgive our sins; He wants to capture our real self – and for us to face who we are. For not only is our real self … full of sin, flaws and brokenness – but it is also full of hope.
To see who we are meant to be, who we are capable of being if we will stop running and start looking, is what conversion is all about. Knowing ourselves is not a warm fuzzy; it is a frightening encounter with the tension of ourselves – who we are and who we are meant to be.
When we are truly "by ourselves" and "with our self" – we begin to see what we have kept out of sight … what we have worked so hard to hide. We see our hopes and our fears. We see the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. We see the unedited, the unretouched, the unfixed – the "genuine self." And when we have seen our "genuine self", when we have really seen ourselves, that we then begin to see Jesus Christ for who He really is – our Savior.
The daily battleground of our lives and the struggle of our faith, is the facing of self and the knowing of self that results in surrender of our self to Jesus. Surrender is not a mindless recognition of the truth, a wrestling of our will with His, or a humiliating admission of reality. Instead, surrender is embracing the truth of ourselves which allows us to find help and hope in the person of Jesus Christ.
Surrender is the battle of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 when he said that "many of the things he didn't want to do he kept finding himself doing, and the very things he wanted to do, he never seemed to pull off." And surrender is the battle of Mike Yaconelli each and every day. Am I willing, each day, to come face-to-face with a self who wants to keep playing hide-and-seek, acknowledge my reluctance to admit who my hiding self is, and bring that shy, rebellious self into the light of Jesus, who patiently shows me the self I was meant to be?
Do you see battles in the Church today? Ultimately, it is not abortion, it is not pornography, and it is not homosexuality. It is reality. It is honesty.
We are afraid to be ourselves, to let ourselves be known, to come out of hiding. What the world is longing to see in the Church is not moral purity, as much as moral reality. The world wants [and needs] to see a Church that is made up of people who are not afraid of their blemishes, because they believe that their blemishes only point to the unblemished character of Jesus Christ.
What we don't understand is that when people look at the Church and see only impostors, they conclude that Jesus is an impostor. But when they see followers of Jesus Christ who are real, they can then begin to see a Jesus who is real. The Church does not need to fabricate holiness. It needs to seek holiness. And holiness is not so much a place where we arrive, as it is a place to where we are going.
The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of the whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for them. The Church points to Christ – not to us."
The Yac has spoken. Godspeed.