I have two memories of childhood nightmares that are deeply imbedded in my psyche. The first was a dream that involved a Wild Western setting, Superman, the Bat-mobile, and chasing bandits. This may seem exhilarating but for my eagerly active imagination it was overwhelming. The second nightmare was a classic recurring dream. The premise was that in my dreams I would be in the grocery store, church, or at the park and would be fully clothed one moment - completely and terrifyingly naked the next moment. Don't laugh - it was terrifying (okay, you can laugh a little - I'm the same person that as a 9 year-old streaked through my house when left alone).
There's a deeply-rooted part of myself that fears being seen and known fully. When we enter into relationships with others in community then we are opening ourselves up to the joy of being known and accepted or potentially rejected. From my early childhood nightmares I developed ways of coping with this fear by "performing," for others. For me, it is far easier to project an external posture of joy and grandiosity than to openly sit and be real with others. I can walk into rooms and light it up, be the center of the party, all while hiding how I really feel. This hit a peak for me my Junior year of college when a mentor called it out in me. Since then I've gone through a journey of continually letting vulnerability, transparency, honesty, and confession be my leading steps.
Community calls us into sharing the real. Sharing the genuine, honest, transparent, confessionary parts of ourselves. In the community of the kingdom of God we are called to bring those things to the table. Sometimes this invitation is hard. Relationships, fear, wounds, and baggage make us not always desire to step into the work of reconciliation with others. However, everyone's name is already written on the table. The kingdom says are all welcomed. We are called, in community, to be salt and light. We are instructed to shine, cast out darkness, and bring out the best in others.
The fear of being fully known is what holds me back the most from this. On my bad days, I still feel like that naked and scared little kid in the grocery store that dominated my childhood nightmares.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16
The beauty of community is that we don't do this alone. Through confession, prayer, fasting, vulnerability, and honesty we get to come sit at the table and do the hard yet beautiful work of reconciliation together.
The cool thing about God is that he heals the broken parts of ourselves that we give over to God. When I started this journey a couple years ago I had parts of myself I didn't like very much and covered that up by over-compensating with the good parts of myself. Ultimately, this has been a journey of self-acceptance and learning that I like myself and accept myself because I am first and foremost loved and accepted by God.
Follow up questions for reflection: Who knows you fully? What are the hardest parts of community for you? What are the things that you would like to hide from but are better faced alongside loving family (biological or not)?