“Eleanor Rigby…Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for”
I can’t recall who it was, but I once head a preacher say that the most important thing that we have is our identity. And I think he was right. Through all we go through and everything that we face our identity, what we know and/or believe about ourselves, is the foundation of who we are. And because of that, when our identity is attacked or changes or shifts so do we. It’s as if Christ knew what He was talking about when He warned us of the dangers of a house built on the sand instead of solid ground.
It’s our identity, who we are or are not, that shapes all of us. It shapes the people we call our friends. The people we love. The places we go. The things we do. It shapes all of us. It’s what makes us, us.
Every preacher has that thing that they say over and over. Some have a few, but almost all have at least one. When I was living in Oregon my pastor would say almost each time he stepped behind the pulpit, well…he always used a table. He would always at some point beckon us to ‘take off the mask.’ And he would do this because he knew, as we all do if we are honest, that we all, like Eleanor Rigby, keep a face in a jar by the door. Though we may believe we do it for different reasons, but we all do it for the same one. We do it to avoid the pain that comes without it. So many of us become chameleons so that we will be accepted by those people that we want acceptance from. We want to be someone other than who we are because, as the people who know ourselves best, we know just how broken and sinful we are. And we believe that if people knew, they dare not love us.
We keep this face near the door so that each time we open it for guests or walk outside, it is close at hand. We change our face and change our skin. We do what we can because deep down we believe that we’re not good enough, or that we’re not lovable, or not beautiful. We put on this mask in hopes that maybe by wearing it we can become more that we are, we can be accepted and loved. But when we do this we end up getting the opposite. When we do this we can write off what people don’t like about us, because we know it’s not who we really are. But when people love us we are not able to accept that either, for when our head hits the pillow at night and our mask is placed back in its jar we know that the person that is loved isn’t us either. The thing that we do to become loved is the very thing which keeps us from it.
In our desire to become #authentic we become anything but. We frame our pictures just right, cropping out the mess. We post a quote about being strong while watering our pillows each night, or worse still…refusing to be honest with ourselves. So where can we go, what can we do. When we see ourselves as unlovable what do we do then..?
While living in Ireland a few years back I had an old Living Bible translation. I normally use the ESV now, but from time to time I still pick up that old bible and thumb through it’s worn out pages. Tonight was one of those times. I opened it up and turned to Ephesians 1. It’s the place I go more than any other in Scripture. I believe that more than any other place it speaks to us who we are. I opened it up and read. In doing so I was drawn again to verses four through eight.
“Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before him covered with his love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!
Now all praise to God for his wonderful kindness to us and His favor that He has poured out upon us because we belong to his dearly loved Son. So overflowing is his kindness toward us that he took away all our sins through the blood of his Son, by whom we are saved; and he has showered down upon us the richness of his grace—for how well He understands us and knows what is best for us at all times.”
This is who we are, if we are found in Christ. We are chosen. We are Holy. We are without fault. We are covered in His love. We are adopted into the family of God. We are saved. We are showered with grace. And all this because, as it says, God wanted to do this. We are what God says about us, not what anyone else says, not even us. How hard it is for me to honestly believe this more often than not. I often feel the pain of people not loving me. I often times feel alone, I feel like people keep my at arms length. Because of this I so often believe that God does the same. I look back on people who I poured out myself to and remember the sting of them walking away, or just not walking close. And I let my heart believe that it’s only a matter of time before God does the same, though I would never believe that He would do that to anyone else.
It comes so easy for me to believe the gospel for everyone else around me, but I so often find myself believing that I become the acceptation. I see how broken and sinful I am, and I believe the lie that I must be better to be loved. I wish that I was the only one who believed this, but I know it’s something that most of us wrestle with. I recently had someone that I cared deeply for walk out of my life. In doing so I was told that, ‘I have a lot of problems, and you couldn’t really want me and my problems.’ Though I trust that God put people in our lives and takes them out for our good. I did want the person in my life, problems and all.
In saying this I think of how often I say the same to God, I remind Him of all my problems and think He couldn’t want me if they come in tow. I feel the weight of my baggage and my burdens and think that God must want someone better. But as Pilgrim in Bunyan’s work, we must all come to the cross to feel our burdens roll off. But I have come to see that this isn’t something that happens once. Each day we acquire new baggage, new burdens, new broken places.
So what do we do with them..? We can let these things become our identity. We can keep a face in a jar by the door. Or we can become people who are truly honest with ourselves, with others, and with God about how broken we are. And in doing so we can break the jars which hold our mask and allow our burdens to once more roll down Calvary’s hill, and in doing so we can let Christ tell us who we are. We can let Him tell us our identity, we can let Him be it.