It is our natural instinct to place ourselves in the most favorable light possible, believing that first impressions, like fingerprints, need to be left with discretion . . . as each can come back at some point to haunt us. So to varying degrees, we take care to present ourselves as the persona we imagine best approximates the way we want to be seen. We know it’s not the whole truth – but it’s often the only truth we’re willing to tell . . . because who could possibly accept us if the whole truth about us were ever known?
We hide in plain sight. It makes no difference whether you’re the buttoned up type blending in with the work-a-day world of normal behavior, or the tatted up bohemian non-conformist conspicuously wearing your contempt for normalcy – chances are, you’re still incognito . . . while the real you stays tucked in behind your carefully maintained veneer, lest anyone look too closely. In this way, shame is a lingering vestige of the fall, constantly reminding us that vulnerability comes at a cost.
Now, here’s a little glimpse into how my mind works – when I read 1st Corinthians 1:27 “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise . . .” – I often associate it with Zacchaeus up a tree for a better look at Jesus (Luke 19:1-5). I do this, not because I think Zacchaeus was particularly foolish, rather it’s because, for that brief moment, Zacchaeus forgot his shame and allowed himself to appear foolish . . . so that in his foolishness, conventional wisdom might be shamed. We would do well to remember, it was the name of Zacchaeus that Jesus speaks, for his willingness to risk a little foolishness, in the midst of this nameless crowd.
More often than not it is desperation that causes us to shamelessly play the fool. And if you look careful enough, you’ll discover that the Gospels are full of desperate characters, looking for their moment with Jesus. I wrote about this type of desperation, a few years back — Being Desperate. But do we really have to wait until we feel desperate before playing the fool? What is desperation after all, but an awareness of a need that has reached crisis proportions, allowing us to remove all of the social filters that hide our natural response to need?
But isn’t being in crisis just the realization that our need has become so great and unmanageable that it requires a different response? So what if we began with a different response – conceding our great need upfront? Is it not the confession of our Christian faith that apart from the ever pursuing love and mercies of God that we would be totally lost without hope . . . or are we so foolish as to believe that we’re beyond that now?
Following Jesus can’t be done while still posturing and pretending you’ve got it all worked out – because the way of Jesus is a humble path . . . which is why the humble of heart are never afraid of seeming foolish. So if you ever find yourself up a tree, acting conspicuously vulnerable and foolish, chances are you’ve got the best vantage point for seeing what God has next for you.
“I surrender to the mountains
I surrender to the sea
I surrender to the one who calls my name
I surrender to my lover and to my enemy
I surrender to the face that holds no shame”