The projection of perfection is the umbrella under which we suburbanites live. When I began learning how to research a culture during my doctoral studies, one of the first things we talked about was the difference between an insider and an outsider. There are both pros and cons to looking in on a culture from the outside inward. Also, there are both pros and cons to studying a culture from the inside (as an insider). I have done extensive study in the area of suburban culture. But, I am both limited by and blessed through my view as an insider of the culture.
At some moments I can see things others can’t and then at other moments I seem to be blind to truths that jump to the attention of others. One of the biggest characteristics of suburbia is the facade of perfection. There is a social pressure to project the image of perfection in all areas of life. We project the image of perfect parenting by all the activities in which our children participate – and how many stickers for those activities we can put on the back of our SUVs. We project the image of professional success by the long hours and busyness we advertise during everyday, normal conversations. Have you ever noticed how often someone tells you about how many hours they work or how late they come home? We’ve correlated the amount of time we work with an appearance of success.
It has become very evident to me that I inherently try to project an image of perfection as well. Sounds hypocritical doesn’t it? Well, it is what it is… My natural inclination is to hide the specific struggles that I am experiencing. I have really noticed this in my preaching. Just today I taught on “Journeying Through Struggles” from 1 Peter 4:12-19 and it was so difficult to be authentic. It was so incredibly uncomfortable to even reference the struggles I have walked through over the years. I did some, but I could feel myself pulling back… not wanting to go too deep. Some of my motives are very healthy – I want the scriptures to be front-and-center at all times. I don’t want to justify the issue away by this reason alone. Other times, I regret to say, I am just incredibly uncomfortable letting people see that I don’t have everything all together. Who am I really fooling? It is such a sinful inclination for me to be this prideful.
Growing in authenticity as a suburban pastor is one of the ways God is stretching me right now. This is the area where he is growing me personally and growing me as a pastor and teacher. He is teaching me to find that zone where I can make much of him through being completely honest about me. The gospel begins to radically transform individuals and families when they come to a point of honesty, authenticity, and transparency with Jesus. I have been called by God to lead people to this place of authenticity. The manner in which I will be able to lead them there is not by words alone but by my example.
What are some ways that you can be more authentic and honest with those around you? Where are some areas of your life where God might want you to lower the facade and allow some other people in to journey with you? Not one of us is perfect, you know…..