Thursday, December 13, 2007

One Flew Over the Cocooner's Nest!

Within the context of a church community, the cocooner is defined by me as someone who is very rich in their knowledge of God's word and yet very lacking in building meaningful friendships and fellowship with others. At the very core their heart, the cocooner is having trouble overcoming fear- a fear that leads them to lack greatly in having trust for others.

Such was the case in my own time of cocooning. After becoming a Christian in 1993, I spent the first 10 years of my faith cocooning. During that time, I had the right image. I was actively involved in church ministries. At that time, people would have thought that they knew me pretty well. Yet, they didn't really know me at all.

In the words wisely spoken by a young girl in my youth group four years ago, "Chad, I believe that you legitimately care about all of us as students, but at the same time I believe you are trying to take attention away from dealing with something that day and night for a long time has been eating away at you." I had never been so SLAMMED in all my life when those words were spoken to me. I went home that night and I cried the hardest I have ever cried because I knew that what was spoken was indeed very true.

Life experience had taught me to cocoon. Growing up, I lived in a home that I describe as being "together, yet broken." My dad was known to have fits of rage at least once a week sometimes more. Seeing his fits of rage, I saw the one thing I feared I would someday become and vowed to God that if I ever acted that way towards my own wife and kids that I would have the sense to go out back and shoot myself. When my dad would have his fits of rage mom, me, and my siblings would all be accused of only wanting him in our lives so we could take advantage of him. My mom stayed with him over the years trusting that things would get better, yet as time passed they got worst and any remorse that my dad felt started to disappear more as time passed.

This made it difficult for me to have friends. My relationship with my Father was strained. I knew that if friends were around me enough- they would notice how he was and would likely bail on me. My dad was very untrusting and it was obvious to anyone who would get close. Thus, dealing with me meant dealing with my dad. Amidst the struggles with my Father what was birthed in me was a feeling of insecurity- never being good enough. All I wanted was to make my Father proud. I focused so much time on trying to do that and yet it rarely seemed to make any progress at all. I could never have friends over. I could never get to know anyone with out my dad meddling and messing it up and thus the friend bailing on me. Eventually, a friend came along that would not bail on me. Danny helped me tremendously through the situation in ways that I never thought anyone would.

Often times we use the cliche "Earthly relationships will let you down, but your relationship with God will never let you down." While such a statement is indeed true, God intends for us to have meaningful friendships here on earth- and those friendships are a vital part of our spiritual growth. While I have had more (so-called) friends who have let me down than those who have proven true, the despair of those many who have let me down is far outdone by those few who stuck with me through thick and thin.

Long story short, I cocooned because I was afriad of getting hurt further. If my relationship with my Father had let me down, then how could I trust friendships with anyone else. For years I wrestled with the words my dad spoke with me when I was 17 "You're nothing, you've never been anything, and you'll never mount to anything." Though I realized even then that he spoke out of his own anger and bitterness and did not really me- the effects of those words would lead me to cocoon that much more.

Needless to say I cocooned out of fear and insecurity. As I got involved in church minsitries I started using the cliche "relationships on earth will let you down, but your relationship with God will never let you down" as a crutch to limit so myself so that I would never have any friendships that would delve beneath the surface of who I was.

In order to justify my cocooning, I built an image around myself of having a sincere faith. I convinced myself that my faith was sincere until I found out the true meaning of the word. As my pastor at the Presbyterian Church in Charlotte explained that sincere comes from two Egyptians words which put together literally translate without wax. In ancient Egypt some of the potterymakers were clumsy like myself and as they were making they would drop the pottery and it would crack. Rather than waste the inventory which they had invested in and start all over with unbroken pottery they waxed over the cracks in the broken pottery and sold it as if it had never been broken. In the same way, not wanting to waste the investment we have made in constructing our false sense of self- we wax over our cracks so that people will buy into us-though in reality they are not buying into the real us.

Whether or not a person is cocooning is not necessarily measured by the number of friends they have, but rather by the depth of their friendships. While some cocooners by choice have very few friends, there are those who have a lot of friends. Yet they cocoon by hiding way who they truly are and limiting those friendships so that they want grow any deeper. How about you? Are you a person who has shied away from having many friendships because you lack trust? Or are you the person that has a lot of friends yet they do not really know you because you are selling yourself as being unbroken, when in reality your heart is shattered in many pieces?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

White-washed tombs- the result of an image-obsessed culture

One of the greatest travesties we face in America today is we have become an image-obsessed culture. While there is nothing inherently wrong about wanting to portray a good image, the desire of most hearts has turned towards the image more than towards the substance of people's hearts. And in so doing, we have neglected to truly appreciate and thus shine forth the beauty that God instilled within each of us at the very core of our heart and soul.

Take Hollywood for example, where we see how celebrities spend millions.....and millions of dollars improving their image. These are people who we look up to- they are our idols and our icons and we daydream of them and yet when we look into the lives they lead, we find little evidence of what's in their hearts. Hollywood is just a small picture of what America has become. An image obsessed culture that has abandoned the practice of looking intently at the beauty of one's heart and soul.

Today, more than ever before, we have forgotten the fact that each of us is created in the image of God and have therefore neglected to see the beauty underneath the surface that exists in us all. The diversity of our appearances is all evidence of God's beautiful artwork in creating each of us. And yet we look in the mirror and let even our own appearances be the very basis of what makes us feel beautiful,lovely, handsome, good-looking, hot etc.

In truth, it's all just a great big illusion- an insecurity that has taken us hostage. When the basis of our security is the image we bear in our outer appearance, the substance at the very core of our heart and soul is found lacking. How sad it is that we more than ever in America have become an image-obsessed culture that is dominated by whitewashed tombs?

Matthew 23:27b "You are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead man's bones and everything unclean."