Thursday, July 1, 2010

Everybody says just be yourself. . .

Most of what I’ve watched on TV over the last three decades has slipped from my memory, but I do remember one particular interview I once watched in which a baby faced, socially awkward, teenage boy confessed in anguish, “Everybody just says be yourself, but when I am, nobody likes me.” I don’t remember the context of the show, or even why this individual had been chosen to be interviewed, but that line has haunted me through the years. Who of us hasn’t thought something similar? Who of us hasn’t watched others engage in all sorts of destructive behavior because of similar fears? I’m not just talking about teenagers. In reality, there are a lot of thirteen year old souls running around in grown up bodies – people terrified that if people knew who they really were, no one would love them.

In the now classic film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn plays one such tortured adult, New York playgirl Holly Golightly. Like many people, Holly has learned to mask her fears with a happy face and a stiff arm. She’s friendly with everyone but intimate with no one. As the plot of the movie unfolds, Holly develops a relationship with her neighbor Paul, who falls in love with her. In the last scene of the movie, Paul confesses his love for Holly. So afraid of love, Holly simply lashes out, she accuses Paul of trying to cage her with his love. She declares that she can’t belong to anyone. Frustrated, Paul pulls over, steps out in the rain, and prepares to leave, but pauses long enough to speak the truth into Holly’s broken heart. “You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? You’re chicken; you’ve got no guts. You call yourself a free spirit, a ‘wild thing,’ and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well, baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas or in the east by Somali-land. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.”

Some of us, like Holly, are so afraid that we can’t be loved we simply don’t give others the chance. Or like the young seventh grader, convinced no one could like us for who we are, we attempt to be anyone but ourselves. But the wonderful promise of scripture is that God loves you just as you are. Not because you’ve got it together, not because you’re perfect, not even because you’re good at loving him back. No, God loves you because that is who he is. “God is love” 1 John 4:16 assures us. And doesn’t that take the pressure off? Regardless of what the world thinks, I am loved. So there’s no need to worry if you are an insecure thirteen or an insecure 93 – God loves you just as you are.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear - 1 John 4:18a

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