I get a frightening amount of spiritual fodder from the offbeat comic strip "Pearls Before Swine". The title is taken from this admonition from Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. The exact phrase is found in the King James Version.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. (Matthew 7:6, KJV)
And if you have ever been rended you know that is not fun. The inspiration for the comic strip title comes from the cynical character Rat who believes he is smarter than everyone else. So he gets frustrated when he casts his "pearls" of wisdom before the not so smart character Pig. A recent strip featured Rat correcting the noble and thoughtful character Goat. Goat notes that "he likes a particular politician and he seems like a normal guy". Rat quickly corrects him and notes that there are no normal people. He tells his friend to read his "Rat Maxim No. 9" which states:
There are only two kinds of people. Abnormal people and people you don't yet know well enough.
I laughed and thought of my friend Bruce McNicol. He is a man who is very much full of grace and love yet he says a very similar thing.
"There are no together people. Just people with whiter teeth."
His point is that we all tend to put up "appearances" that make us look better to a watching world. But we really don't have it together. Sadly, there are few places that this performance dance is truer than in the church. That is the point that my friend Bruce and his merry men and women at Truefaced try to communicate to tired and frustrated churchgoers. No one has their act together. All of us need to trust God and others with what is true about us. We need to drop the masks and let trusted others know that we need them. There is no shame in needing community to get through this journey. We all do. If you have somehow missed my plea to read either Truefaced (read chapter one here) or Bo's Cafe (the novel based on those truths) then I will ask you again. If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired in your faith then these books are for you. Read them. Don't make me turn and rend you.
The following statement will make the leaders at Truefaced very proud. Bruce McNicol and the comic strip character Rat are exactly right. We are all abnormal (sinners) and none of us have it together in our own power. The part that Bruce gets a little better is the grace and redemption of Jesus. Bruce is also much better looking.
Jesus excoriated the "religious" hypocrites who were all about appearance and self-efforting righteousness.
"What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too." (Matthew 23, NLT)
The anger of Christ was not that the inside was filthy but that they refused to acknowledge that truth while putting on a self-righteous display of piety. Here is what I am figuring out. I can't clean the inside alone. I need to trust others to help me shine light in dark areas.
For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. (Ephesians 5, NLT)
I need to allow the Holy Spirit into every room. I need a community to encourage and walk with me. I need other believers in my life.
So here is my reality. I am abnormal. I don't have it together. I am prone to go into hiddenness and shame. But I have Jesus. I have some really good friends who love me in spite of all of the junk that is true about me. And I have never been more alive and free as I live out my journey in grace.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.