For years my friends have asked how they can possibly be friends with me. My response is always the same, you’re the weird ones and I’m the normal in your life. This conversation always comes up when we discuss television shows and movies. They love fantasy and whatever genre super heroes fit in. Some love movies like Bad Moms. Most love sci-fi and one friend is all things Mulder and Scully. I just don’t get it.
As a young girl my earliest memories are of watching shows like Rescue 911 with William Shatner, COPS, and Unsolved Mysteries with John Walsh (I’m sorry Dennis Farina, you cannot bring the seriousness John Walsh ever brought). While some can’t imagine letting their kids watch such shows, this was the life I grew up in– cop family. This was our reality. It was like being able to watch my dad behind the scenes.These series’ seemingly juxtapose the other type of television entertainment I loved: TGIF sitcoms, I Love Lucy, Bewitched, and Dennis the Menace. What connects these two types of shows is the development of character. In the reality cop shows, I was given a briefing of the person’s character, what to expect when encountered, what they were doing, what types of lives they come from, etc. I got to physically watch their behaviors define their character. I got to see these people at their worst. The second type of show develops characters in ways I began to fall in love with them and care for them. I saw the good and the bad. I saw their “okay.” I saw the full character. I anticipated their next antics, sympathize with their feelings, etc. In a sermon series I’m listening to right now, the pastor described it perfectly– I’m a character person. I am drawn into the character of people.
As a young girl I learned the art of studying people. I can usually discern what type of person is in front of me and quite possibly pick apart that person’s insecurities. Insecurities are where we are most vulnerable and overcompensate to cover. If our insecurities are known, we can be deeply hurt. We don’t want others to have that access. Thus we behave in certain ways to keep up the charade of hiding what we perceive will hurt us most. Those behaviors give way to what we are truly hiding–and that’s what I’m most interested in: what’s hiding beneath the surface.
I am pretty sure I was taught this art of reading people’s insecurities from my father. He was a man who walked the walk of his talk. He did his best to hold himself upright to the standards of the law and the God he knew. When most fathers came home at night and shut off from their jobs, my dad didn’t. His gun belt may not have been fastened around his hips physically, but his cop first mentality never left his character. He was always a cop first then a husband and father. In some ways, that may sound terrible, and don’t get me wrong, I’ve complained about that fact many times. But now, as an adult woman raising my own children, I am grateful for it.
I am able to see people for who they are even if they refuse or simply cannot. This does come with challenges, like, me being judgmental. I admit I struggle with judging mothers in my same life stage. I admit I struggle with being overly charismatic to those that are so entirely lost and I will take on their issues as my own. Complications arise from both extremes and I struggle making deep friendships. I also struggle with drawing a line while helping others. Those things, I know about myself. About my character. I am deeply compassionate but come off as authoritative, commanding, and controlling because I want what’s best for the everyone. (Enneagram 1 and Myers Briggs INTJ)
Something else I know because of experience is that Jesus sees others for who they are and yet exudes compassion and love in a life changing way. One popular example of where Jesus sees so deeply and intimately is when he encounters the woman at the well. This is a popular Bible story. It’s one in which those in Christian circles would probably gloss over and try to recall what they’ve learned about this passage. But we are told God’s Word is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). We are told God’s Word is sharper than any double edged sword, which means the Bible isn’t just a one and done reading. We must set ourselves in a mental and spiritual position to let His word penetrate and mold and change us.
This story begins when Jesus learns the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms happening and trying to pose this competition between Jesus’ baptisms and John the Baptist’s baptisms. Jesus wasn’t actually doing the baptizing, it was his disciples for the record. Anyway his disciples head into town to get something to eat and Jesus decides to stop and sit at a well in Samaria. He was tired from his trip that started in Judea and needed to rest on his way to Galilee.
While this may seem insignificant, it actually was radical and stood out as very different in this culture. Men were rarely if ever seen at the wells. That was a place women gathered. So first of all Jesus is seemingly in a weird place resting. Then this woman comes up to the well. Jesus says, (in my own words) “Hey while you’re at it, drawing your own water from this well, would you get me some water, too?”
Her immediate response is, “Uh you’re a Jew. Why are you talking to me? You people don’t associate with Samaritans like me.”
Jesus responds, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
John 4:11-18 (Msg)
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!” He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.” “I have no husband,” she said.
“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
How do I type out that screeching halt sound? Insert that here. Jesus got jokes? Jesus just called out this woman’s insecurities. He saw behind her outward behavior/responses, and called out her deepest insecurities or deepest issues. She’s a whore. Oh wait, the kinder term is harlot. Or is it? Anyway this woman has had five husbands and is living with a new man and not married to him. Jesus called her out, but doesn’t just leave it like that. Doesn’t just point out her flaws. Instead he says,
(John 4:23-24 Msg)
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
You notice how he takes the time to point out the behaviors she uses to hide her insecurities and then provides instruction following? He says, yes this is who you are right now, but you must be real, raw, honest, with yourself. We must acknowledge who we are and take that to our worship of the Holy One. We must take our whole selves, flaws and all, because that is our very being. Our true selves. Jesus is seeking our true selves, flaws and all.
As Jesus and the woman are talking the disciples come back mouths gaping. Couldn’t believe he would be talking to that kind of woman. They didn’t speak, but their faces were in what I assume disgust and horror. The woman left at seeing them arrive but she forgot her water pot–the whole reason she came to the well in the first place.
Back at her village she tells of her encounter with this man: “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” This man who knows me inside and out. Powerful. He knows our whole character.
Jesus is a character person.
Jesus cares about our character.
Jesus wants you to worship Him with our whole being– flaws, bad things, everything. Because that is who we really are.
Maybe we should care about our own character a little bit more. Maybe our behaviors are telling others and have been telling others for years just how broken you are and you’ve pushed them away. Maybe if we lived in raw authenticity with Jesus and others, we’d find freedom and healing from our insecurities. Maybe we should care about our character more than our bank accounts, a perfectly clean house, the busy schedules we set up for ourselves and children. Maybe we should take time to figure out what our priorities in this life really are and cultivate what really matters.
Living the life I say I believe: I am a character person. I no longer want to fill my life with people or things that are just surfacey. I don’t want to focus on external behaviors and how’s-the-weather- type of conversations. I want to know the hearts and souls that are inside people. I want to minister to that. I want to get rid of the facades. My friend Mary over at Trusty Chucks has written two powerfully relevant posts about this and I agree whole-heartedly. I want to do life with what she refers to as “Pit People” and I also know I want to do life with people who will love my whole family to the cross, in her post “Burning Down“. I’ve been on this journey of seeking who I really am and living the life I say I believe for the last four years now. It’s not coincidence life has gotten harder these last four years. These hardships, though, allowed my roots of faith roots to sink in deep. I’ve experienced loss in many forms. Loss of who I thought people were. Loss of actual heart beating life inside me. Loss of sleep. Loss of friendships. Loss of expectations. Hurt. Deep hurts that are still in the process of being healed. Throughout it all, though, I want people to remember me for living the life I say I believe, in the good and in the bad. I don’t want to be a twig. I want to be that tree that refuses to snap.