Weekly Update: “Squishy People”

tumblr_inline_o6nyy1g9mv1qb9fa2_400Good afternoon, dear friends!  I write to you from the lovely U-P, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where I’m attending the Central Conference Annual Meeting.  It’s a beautiful sunny day, with the sun shining through the trees and the breeze blowing sweetly, bringing the scent of pine to my nose.  I’ve spent the last day and a half learning about how God is moving in the lives of the people in our conference.  What an encouraging thing, to know that He is alive and active in our churches!

One of the speakers mentioned something last night that has stuck with me through hours of reports, testimonies, and videos.  A small analogy that has spun around and around in my head and made me smile with its simplicity and yet profoundness.  It all begins with strawberries…

You’ve had the experience before, I’m sure.   You head to the store to buy your weekly load of produce, dairy, meat, and cereal.  If you’re like me, you head to the produce aisle first, as it’s your favorite place in the grocery store.  All those fruits and vegetables—some exotic, so fresh and colorful and fragrant!  I could spend hours in those aisles filled with the fruit of the trees and vines, envisioning how I would prepare wonderful meals with each one, smelling them, rolling them over in my hands, discovering the strangely exotic ones like star fruit or the hairy-looking rambutan, or the crazy-looking Buddha’s hand fruit, or the green-tomato look of the tomatillos.  After finding some wonderful apples and oranges, you notice that the strawberries are on sale.  What luck!  There they are—packed in their little clear plastic boxes, looking plump and red and lovely.  As quickly as you can say, “Strawberry Shortcake”, you grab a couple boxes and add them to your cart, with dreams of munching on plump strawberries floating through your brain the rest of the grocery trip.

As soon as you get home and unload all the groceries, you get to work on preparing those wonderful-looking strawberries for your dessert after supper.  But after you pull out the top three or four berries—perfect in their appearance—you notice something disheartening.  All of the berries on the bottom are squishy, with imperfections in them, or over-ripe or under-ripe, or even riddled with dings and bruises and gauges.  You were presented with what looked like a box of perfect strawberries.  But really, underneath the surface, it was just a box of squishy and ruined fruit.

Wow.  How many times have I presented myself to the world as a box of “perfect, ripe, beautiful strawberries”, but underneath the surface, I’m really just a box of “squishy, ruined fruit”?  I think we all struggle with that sometimes—we want to appear “more together” than we are, “more put together” than our lives really are.  Instead of showing our true, broken, honest selves to each other, we instead show just the “pretty” parts—worrying that if someone saw all of the “squishy” parts of us, they wouldn’t want us, they wouldn’t accept us, they wouldn’t understand us, they wouldn’t love us.  We hide our true selves, our hurt and our pain.  We push to the back our broken hearts, our struggles with sin, our questions and faithlessness.  We go to church on Sunday morning and display our “beautiful, ripe, lovely fruit”, and hope that no one notices the “squishy fruit” of our lives hidden just beneath the surface.  What would they do if our true selves showed through?

But my friends, that’s not what Christ calls us to be, that’s not what Christ calls us to do.  In this wonderful family of God, we are called to be transparent, to be open, to show who we really, truly are.  We are called to stand with open hearts and hands before God and each other and say, “This is the true me.  I am broken.  I am worn.  I am sinful.  I am bruised.  I am in need of healing.  And yet, God has given me grace.  And yet, God loves me.  And yet, God calls me His child.”  When we stand open, our “squishy parts” exposed, others who have “squishy parts” will be encouraged.  Others who need to experience God’s love and grace will be compelled to call on Him.  Others who are broken will be reminded that in Christ, they are made whole.  But this can only happen if we show not just our “pretty, shiny, beautiful” parts, but ALL of our parts—“squishy” and all…

In Luke, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  (Luke 5:31)

You know your heart.  You know you’re not perfect.  God knows it too.  And He still loves you.  He calls you to follow Him, imperfect parts and all.  So, let’s stop trying to be our version of “perfect”, and let’s start being imperfect followers of God.  Only then will He use us to bless other “imperfect” people…

You are such a blessing to me,

Pastor Kristen