singing onstage before a live audience
getting a pedicure
wearing a clown suit to the next Wild at Heart retreat
having my personal journals read aloud at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention
yodeling on Oprah in a tutu
There are certain things that simply strike fear into our hearts when we given them even a passing thought. The fear is gut level. It has nothing to do with what is rational. It is primal.
You have your list, and I have mine.
Just to make sure you are tracking with me, jot a few down. Begin your list. “You could never pay me to…” fill in the blank. Wear your pajamas to church. Roller blade in a Speedo through the mall. Grow a neck beard. C’mon. Fess up. You have your list.
We like to think of ourselves as above this stuff. We are free from the opinions of others. We are secure. We are no slaves to fashion. We find our identity in Christ.
That is, unless we are asked to do several of the things on our “list.” In the next ten minutes. Can you sense the fear leap up? “There’s no way. I’m not gonna do it.”
This fear runs deep in the human race. It is ancient. Genesis 3:10 stuff, the fear of exposure. It is far more powerful than we like to admit. It is the origin of every fig leaf and fashion trend. It’s what gives power to culture, by the way. And peer pressure. We long to be praised. We dread exposure.
I’m convinced that until we have a healthy appreciation of how deep this actually runs in us, we won’t have a true grasp on our motives. I long to be esteemed. I have an allergy to being laughed at.
Now yes, we might point to pop culture or some group and say, “That has no power over me. I don’t care what they think.” That may be true. You won’t get gages in your ears. Or you won’t wear a tie. But you have a group that you do care what they think. Very much. (The irony, of course, of the “rebels” in every generation, the punkers or grunges or goths is that while they give the finger to society they carefully dress and speak and act to impress the one group they do care about. They desperately want to fit in.)
We flatter ourselves. But the truth is, we know exactly what our particular group esteems, what they consider utterly distasteful, and we play to the crowd. Or at least, do our best not to stand out. (University professors typically do not wear cammo to commencements). The same fear drives us.
This is no cause for shame. But it does beg a little humility, and honesty. Our fig leaf is not quite as noble as we assume. It cracks me up how much I think about this, while pretending not to think about it. I am about to order a pair of shoes on line. I know what I like. I also know what my peers would think was cool, and, more importantly, what would invite quite a bit of grief. Can you guess which shoes I am not going to buy?