Murk and Luminescence
“Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
My children can be bad dinner guests. Masters of the kicked shin and flicked pea. I’ve perfected my sharp whisper. “Don’t show them what you’re really like.”
What are you really like? Freud said the truth of a person is held in tension. One part of us is a murky stew of unacceptable urges and feelings. The other part is the system of subconscious strategies we use to hold the murk at bay. When the tension holds, we present the world and the mirror the best face possible. To make it happen we deny, repress and project the parts of ourselves we can’t accept. It’s exhausting.
But God sees straight into your heart. God sees the awful, cringeworthy parts. And She does not say, “What’s wrong with you?” Instead God says, “I know what you have been through. I know what forces bent you. And I see the luster through the murk.” There is brightness set before God like a plate of jewels each time your light fills His eyes.
Your problems are going to be your problems for the rest of your life. Not your debt or other passing vexations, but the problem of yourself.
You’re exposed. Why not reckon with your depth? Imagine the entirety of your complex self laid out before the One who made you so that Her love can save you.
You won’t become perfect. Or perfectly bland. You won’t lose your grit, your funk, your edge. The risen Christ had nail holes in his hands. After God loves you into wholeness you’ll still be yourself. Let it happen. God already sees you. Now let him save you. Then go out and show them who you really are.
Make me brave O Lord. Then make me whole.
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Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.